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Off-Season STRENGTH Training for Grid-Iron Warriors

By Brian Klepacki, MS, CSCS

Owner and Head Coach of Optimax Performance Training, LLC.
St. Petersburg Florida

American Football Game Action PhotoThe 2015-2016 NFL season is upon us and if you haven’t locked in your fantasy team yet time is almost up to get those rosters locked in. If you’re like me you love sports, especially football. I don’t care too much about the politics and all the nonsense that occurs off the field EXCEPT what happens in the weight room.

As a Strength Coach I love training athletes. I love everything about their training and how dedicated they are to taking their performance to the next level.

Sure they make a TON of money playing a game but I’ve seen first-hand how hard they work all year long. And you think spending an hour on the elliptical twice a week is hard?

You have no idea how hard these players train so before you start bashing professional athletes and how they are overpaid and lazy keep reading.

I have coached NFL players in the weight room and it’s impressive. These guys are STRONG and not just physically. They have mental toughness that is stupid crazy. They often laugh at and charge towards a challenge.

It’s what got them into the pros to begin with. The stuff that these guys go through is what sets them apart from everyone else.

American Football isn’t just about brute strength; it requires power, speed, agility, quickness and so on. However strength is a HUGE part of the player that can never be neglected when in the off-season.

There’s a saying amongst players, “HIT or BE HIT”. That pretty much sums up their mentality and rightfully so. Either you are the one hunting or you will be hunted. It’s a game of who’s better and these guys train with that in mind. If that’s not motivation then I don’t know what is.

Certain athletes are given incredible skills that might not have required a lifetime of intense training around the clock while some had to work a little harder just to make the bench.

Regardless of who worked hard or not I think it’s safe to say that any player in the NFL has and will continue to train harder than you and me. To me that’s an encouragement in itself.

I will never play in the NFL or any other professional sport for that matter but what I can do is continue to strive towards excellence and greatness just as they do.

Thanks to social media and the associated press we are able to get a glimpse into the training of athletes from all over the world. Videos and articles are pumped out almost daily showcasing an athlete off the field and what they do away from playing the game.

Most of what they do outside their game is train. It does make sense that they need to train so much for their job.

Think about it this way, they have a series of weekly consecutive presentations that they need to prepare for and if they fail to deliver a good product, they won’t make the cut or worse be fired from their job. Someone is always gunning for their job so they need to always be on their A-game.

How many hours a week do you work, 25, 50, 70 hours? Well I’d put my money on them working more than the national average and I guarantee their work is a little more physically demanding than ours.

Last season, JJ Watt, the Houston Texans defensive end, became the first player in NFL history to record 20+ quarterback sacks in a season two years in a row. By the way, it wasn’t from sitting around during his off-season.

Judging by a little snippet of his pre-season training regime he won’t be slowing down any time soon. Watt tweeted a picture of himself squatting a colossal amount of weight, which looked like roughly 585 pounds.

But to be clear, Watt stated in his tweet that it’s “NotAMaxOutRep,” suggesting that he performed multiple reps and/or sets at this weight. This deserves a #beastmode shoutout.

To shed more tackles and aggressively push defenders back upon the point of contact, NFL All-Pro running back Steven Jackson has been repeatedly seen manhandling a Prowler Sled Drive as an integral part of his off-season strongman training.

Reggie Bush of the Dolphins was also seen pushing the sled back and forth to get him even stronger than before! Bush fully believes in agility work and spent a good amount of his off-season freshening up and improving the quickness and precision of his footwork. Hopefully it’ll pay off and bring some wins to Miami (good luck on that one).

As a Strength Coach we apply the S.A.I.D. principle; ‘Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands’. In other words, if a defensive lineman needs to get stronger on his attack of the offensive line, he needs to train that particular movement pattern.

Doing a million pull-ups won’t benefit this ‘demand’ like a sled-push would. Players train specifically and intentionally to be the best in their playing position.

Strength / Power players (O&D line mostly) would follow an early off-season program similar to this in order to start relaying that solid foundation of strength:

Monday:

Power Clean: 3×3 @ 60-70% max
Back Squats: 3×12-15 @60-70% max
Lunges: 3×12-15 each leg
Romanian Deadlifts: 3×12-15
Rear Delt Raises: 3×12-15
Technique Drills: 10-15 minutes
Sprints: 5×5 yards
Bounding: 3×10 yards
“M” Drill: 1×3
Standing Long Jump: 1×5

Tuesday:

Push Jerk 3×3 @ 60-70%
Bench Press 3×12-15 @ 60-70%
Floor Press 3×12-15 @ 60-70% max of Bench Press
Bent-Over Rows 3×12-15
Standing Military Press – 3×12-15

Football is a game of athleticism and it’s definitely not just about brute strength. It takes total body conditioning to get in peak physical condition and NFL QB Tim Tebow’s metabolic conditioning circuit is no joke.

He might not go down as one of the league’s all-time passing leaders but there is one thing (really two) that he will always be remembered by, and that’s his hard work in the gym, (the second being his faith).

Here is an improvised version of a program that he followed this recent off-season:

Rapid Response Drills:

Perform several quick feet drills over a distance of 15 yards per variation

Vertical Set Circuit:

Using a barbell, perform a Clean High Pull, RDL, Low Row, Back Squat and Push Press

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Sled Drives:

Stay low and push the sled for 20+ yards.

Explosive Bosu Push-Up:

Adds an upper-body power element to the circuit. Perform a normal push-up but on a Bosu ball. In the upward movement of the rep, explode off the ball and lift the Bosu ball off the floor.

Sledgehammer Tire Pull:

Using the sledgehammer allows you to stay tall and maintain proper body position when pulling the tire

Lateral Quick Feet Ladder Drill:

Improves footwork while in a fatigued state

Drop and Sprint Bag Drill:

Adds a position-specific movement to the circuit

And that’s just a conditioning circuit! Now here is a small sample of a strength workout that should be done immediately after the conditioning:

Incline Rotating Press:

Strengthens the chest, shoulders and triceps; rotate palms inward as you lower the dumbbells to the chest

Batwing Dumbbell Row:

Lying face down on incline bench with dumbbells, pull the dumbbells up while retracting the shoulder blades, hold for one count, and then lower the dumbbells to start position

Lumberjack Press:

With one end of a barbell resting on the floor pinned between two unmovable objects (like a corner of a wall), grasp the other end of the barbell with one hand, and then press the barbell out and in front of the body

If you think you are training hard think again. Take a few butt whooping lessons from the pros and you’ll be more than happy to be sitting on the couch Sunday afternoon watching those freaks destroy each other while you recover from only one of their workouts. With that said, GO BUCS!

Powerlifting Monster JP Carroll Interview

Interview with Powerlifting Monster JP Carroll
Interviewed by Critical Bench Reporter Ben Tatar

JP CARROLL is instantly making headlines in the World of Powerlifting. He has squatted 1,025 lbs. RAW and he is also on the hunt for a 600 plus RAW bench press.

He is also one of the most massive competitive powerlifters in the world. Let’s step into the journey and into the life of one of the biggest giants and one of the greatest warriors in the weight lifting game, JP the Viking Carroll!!

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1) Critical Bench: JP, how did you get started in powerlifting?

JP: I have been an athlete all my life, played hockey in HS and semi-pro football after HS.  When I quit playing semi-pro I still continued to work out and I sort of just fell into the sport.  I competed in my first powerlifting meet in March of 2013.

2) Critical Bench: What training method do you follow?

JP: I follow the Lilliebridge training method

Editors note: To learn more about the Lilliebridge training method please visit:

http://www.powerliftingtowin.com/lilliebridge-method/

3) Critical Bench: What are your thoughts in regards to training with team Lilliebridge?

JP: Hands down the best raw power lifting team in the world. A great group of guys and girls with a mission of becoming the strongest in our weight divisions. All held together by the best powerlifting coach in the world Ernie Sr.

4) Critical Bench: Where do you train?

JP: Barbell Central the strongest raw gym in the US.

5) Critical Bench: Tell us the members of team Lilliebridge and what they mean to you.

JP: That’s a lengthy list but our intimate circle would be Ernie Sr, Ernie Jr, Eric Lilliebridge, Tom Kallas, Tom Finn Jr., Jon Jursich,  Mike Lucia, Jason Colley, Sergio Luna, Dan Bell, Matt Clausen, Tony Chirico, Javier Garcia and there is a whole list of girls and other guys I’m sure who are going to get mad when I didn’t mention them …oops sorry guys.

6) Critical Bench: What does Team Lilliebridge look for in other members?

JP: That’s all in the head of the mastermind coach Ernie Lilliebridge Sr.

7) Critical Bench:  Everyone, check out Team Lillie and see if you have what it takes to be part of the team and take your strength to places you never knew it could go! Moving on…JP, you train in the gym on leg day for 6 hours. What are you doing for all that time? 6 hours? Wow!

JP: We have a lot of people on the team , we also squat and dead on same day so between people getting wrapped changing bar weights etc. it can be time consuming . It pays off on meet days we are very used to the long hours in those conditions.

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8) Critical Bench: I bet. On top of that, you have 3 kids. How do you make time for powerlifting while being a father?

JP: I only go to the gym 1 day during the week so I can have time for them. I am also lucky to train at a gym where I can bring the kids with so on Saturdays and Sundays all the kids hang out together.

9) Critical Bench: You’re 6’1 and 400lbs. That’s super massive and larger than life. How does your family feel about you being one of the most massive and dedicated powerlifters out there?

JP: With a son on his high school football team he loves it! He’s always bragging on his old man…. My daughter loves it! She wants to follow in my footsteps, so watch out woman’s pl world!!! And my wife holds down the fort while I go play Mr big time powerlifter. Also pays the bills even the food bill, lol. I couldn’t do it with out her!!

10) Critical Bench: JP, what are your 10 tips for a bigger squat and a bigger bench? Give us your 10 tips for each.

JP: I am sooo not the guy for Tips. I am strong but technically sloppy. I am working on cleaning that up though.

11) Critical Bench: OKAY, then tell us what do you think is the biggest mistake that you see other lifters make?

JP: Testing their maxes way too often, also chasing a number (which I’ve been guilty of) and not letting the strength develop over time.

12) Critical Bench: What does your power eating plan consist of to be one of the thickest powerlifters in the world today?

JP: Honestly nutrition is my downfall. I’d say my diet is set up 50/50.  Half of my meals are the good stuff pizza , burgers, ice cream. The other half would be chicken, beef, rice black beans veggies etc.

13) Critical Bench: So far during your powerlifting journey list us a powerful moment, crazy moment, favorite moment and a moment that changed you the most.

JP: My most powerful moment was going head to head with Eric Lilliebridge and squatting 1025 raw.  A crazy moment  would be basically any time I watch Tom Finn Jr. bench press, the guy will bench 600 at 220!  A favorite moment honestly would be the day Ernie Sr. asked if wanted to become part of team Lilliebridge. A moment that changed me? When coach pulled 763… I believe with a fully detached pec. He is the epitome of tough!

14)  Critical Bench: Those moments are all super extreme! Do you have any funny gym stories you would like to share with us today?

JP: We have a lot of funny stories outside the gym, but when the weight hits that bar we are all business.

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15) Critical Bench: Are you going to remember your powerlifting journey?

JP: Just getting started so that’s hard to answer.

16) Critical Bench: Uh oh! This monster is just getting started! We have a super freak beast for a long time to come it seems! So, JP what do people usually say to you being one of the most massive powerlifters? How do guys respond? What about girls? What about kids?

JP: I pretty much stand out like a sore thumb, I feel like I get the freak show whispers and finger points. But most people are pretty cool. Chicks? Well I could use some more of those, can’t we all?! lol!

17) Critical Bench: JP, you will have to teach them how to use their flexibility to shorten the stroke so they can unleash their wild inner beasts like you do! What are your future goals?

JP: Love to get 1,003 squat in the record books and bench 600 raw.  Fighting for both of those as we speak.

18) Critical Bench: What is your message for the powerlifting world?

JP: HARD WORK PAYS OFF. I’m in no way, shape or form genetically gifted. Well, my calves are but that’s it.  You put in the work and your numbers WILL go up.

19) Critical Bench: What would you like to see change in power lifting?

JP: More women. We have ladies on our team that are AMAZING!! I’d love to see more woman out there chalked up kicking ass!

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20) Critical Bench: What are your comments to someone who wants to get stronger but is intimidated by your size or strength?

JP: Get in the chalk box.  You gotta mess up a few times and learn some lessons from the iron to get better.

In closing is there anything you would like to say or anyone who you would like to thank?

JP: Ernie Jr. for always being there as a partner and friend . Ernie Sr. for EVERYTHING HE DOES. Jason Colley for keeping me healthy and honestly everyone on the whole team contributes at least something that has made me better and for that I thank everyone.

Anthony Catanzaro Interview

 

Interview with Natural Bodybuilding Champion and Actor, the Superman of Fitness, Anthony Catanzaro

By Ben Tatar

1) Anthony you are known as having one of the greatest physiques in the fitness world. How did you do it? What makes Anthony different than others who are ripped or big but who aren’t necessarily in the ideal condition?

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Anthony Catanzaro: I’ve always looked at my physique as the people’s physique. Not the most ripped, or the biggest arms or crazy vascularity. I created my body in what I thought every man would want and admire, and what every woman would drool over.

In my mind I thought of my body as a work of art as a vision of excellence. So when people ask me how I did it of course they know my story of never using steroids or any other enhancement drugs.

I just followed a strict and basic diet and trained very basic and old school, but what did it was my visualization of how I wanted to look. No supplement in the world can do that for you. The body is the student and the mind is the master.

2) You have been ripped for many years.  How do you stay in prime condition today? Do you do everything similar to what you did 10 or 20 years ago or do you do everything different?

Anthony Catanzaro: I still continue to train and diet the very same way I always have. I don’t believe in the latest craze diets like macro diet which to this day I laugh at or a very low carb diet or caveman diet or liquid diet or whatever diet for that matter.

The best diet is a balanced diet and that my friends come straight out of my mouth. Training is the same as well.  The human body has not changed much in the last 100,000 years. So, building muscle back then is the same as now.

How? Break down the muscle fibers so they grow back bigger and stronger. How? By lifting, pushing and pulling more resistance than what the muscles are used to it’s as simple as that.

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Editor’s note: Anthony has been at the top of the fitness world for years.

Read his first interview here: http://www.criticalbench.com/Anthony-Catanzaro.htm

3) You come from a big family of 6. What do they think of all the success you have had and the national headlines that you have made?

Anthony Catanzaro: My family is very proud of me and my accomplishments. I’m happy and blessed to have a family who admires me, a wife who loves me and fans who support me.

I think what sets me apart from all the other guys is my heart and my love to genuinely help others. I’m very honest and sincere in what I love and that is to inspire the world to be the best they can be and overcome anything in their path!

4) You have been on many TV shows and made all types of television appearances. What 5 have been your favorite and why? 

In the last 10 years I’ve appeared in shows and TV such as:

Janet Russell Show

Rachael Ray

DR. OZ SHOW

Ford Commercial

Anderson Live

Wendy Williams

Bayou Billionaires -CMT

SlendertoneUSA (co-host)

Tony C’s Pure Power Workouts!

Energym Flexx Bar infomercial (show host)

Game Killers (MTV)

CNBC “The Big Idea”/ Donny Deutsch

“Energym Turbo Charger” home gym (Show Host)

The “Bean Flex 10” home gym (infomercial)

Super Cut Ab Dome (commercial co-host)

Mr. Romance (Oxygen TV

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My favorite 5 would be:

1) Game Killers MTV. This is where I played an egotistical, over macho, over confident steroid narcissist. I still crack up when I see it. I blew the directors minds when I went on the casting and started cursing all of them out as that was the characters personality.

2) Ford Commercial: This was one of the funniest commercials I’ve done when all I had to do was just come out and pose which I love to do.

3) Rachael Ray: This was a fun show as I came out and surprised Rachael from the audience. She was so shy, she ran behind the counter like a little school girl then I started posing with the stage director with our shirts off. It was so funny!

4) Bayou Billionaires –CMT: This was a great show filmed down south in Louisiana. I was hired to whip this billionaire farmer into shape.

5) CNBC “The Big Idea”/ Donny Deutsch: This was a funny talk show where I came out and spoke about how famous my abs were. I like this video because I felt I looked the best I ever looked in my life. Also I was able to just sit back and be myself.

Bonus

Anderson Live: This was when I popped out of a cake for Betty White on her 93rd birthday. It was a great time and to come out of the cake with Betty’s arms wide open it was very sincere and sweet.

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5) You have been a bodybuilding champion and you also have done plenty of magazine and cover shoots. What do you like best the competing end or mainstream fitness extravaganzas?

Anthony Catanzaro: I’ve never been to any of the fitness show extravaganzas that doesn’t really interest me. I don’t consider myself a fitness guy, I consider myself a fitness savoir.

It’s not about push-ups, it’s about the push forwards. I never wanted to be like anyone. I always wanted to be one of a kind. I love to compete because when I step on stage, I’m able to show what you can do with hard work, trust, and love within your heart.

6) We know that getting ripped is all about diet. Let’s forget super obesity for a minute and talk about someone with maybe 10-25% body fat. What do they need to start doing with their diet to really cut up? For example, do you avoid large portions or even foods like wheat bread? How do you find the discipline when you have hunger cravings?

Anthony Catanzaro: Getting under 10% body fat has a lot to do with your diet. My chiropractor is always around 8% body fat. I don’t believe he works out very often, but I’ve come to learn he is allergic to gluten which means he eats no bread, pastas cookies cakes etc.

This is the reason he is 8% I’m sure if he was able to eat pizza, cake, bread etc. he would be like the average man which is around 23%. So yes, diet plays a huge role. I have a saying “If God made it use it, if man made it lose it.”

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This means do not eat anything that God didn’t already form, eat foods in their natural form nothing processed, canned or boxed

7) What’s your tips on getting huge?

Anthony Catanzaro: If we just talk about being ripped without the hardcore components, we might become heels! Getting huge muscles requires lifting more weight with more reps than our bodies are used to.

It also requires that we eat and rest to repair those torn fibers so they can grow back thicker and stronger nothing else needs to be done or said.

8) Do you have any extreme training routines that you have done that you would like to elaborate on?

Anthony Catanzaro: I keep my training old school like I said but I do believe in drop sets, supersets and giant sets not so much for the whole workout just the final sets of a body part to get as much blood into the muscle to create what I like to call “the swell.”

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9) Great tips.  What inspires you?

Anthony Catanzaro: I’m very inspired by people who are confidant in their own skin people who love themselves not in a conceited or cocky way, but in a way of respect for themselves because I truly believe that your life will unfold from how your thoughts are of yourself and your capabilities.

If you believe in yourself, then my friend that is all you will ever need because God lives in all of us and he is activated from our faith in ourselves because ultimately having faith in yourself is the same as having faith in God because God lives inside you.

10) Very profound!  How do you want to be remembered?

Anthony Catanzaro: I’m glad you asked me this question because I often think about how I would like to be remembered. Well for one, as the true voice of faith and love for what I love and want to share to the world. I want the whole world to feel what I feel from what working out has given to me.

I want to be remembered as a guy who did it naturally without drugs but with only the courage in his heart. To live forever as one of the greatest men of all time. To truly live up to my name as the “Superman of Fitness”.

Want More From Anthony Catanzaro?

Critical Bench interviewed him about 10 years ago and you can read the entire interview at the link below.

Classic Interview with Anthony Catanzaro