By Brian Klepacki, MS, CSCS
Owner and Head Coach of Optimax Performance Training, LLC.
St. Petersburg Florida
The 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:
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
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
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
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!
Mind Over Madness: Train for Strength Not Stupidity
Jason Klein, MS, PES, NS
Former Fitness Instructor, United States Navy
Author, Lean Body Revolution
He pretty much threw up his meal from yesterday!
My friend Brian was clearly one of those guys. A “mind over matter,” type of guy.
He was in the middle of a classic push/pull superset of incline dumbbell chest press with a close-grip cable pull down. But, way-to-heavy. No matter what it took, he was going to make it through that set.
Then came the big green monster.
I know you’ve witnessed this before. Way too much exertion for what will, in reality, translate to a rather small amount of gains. Perhaps the most common example you’ve seen are dudes pushing the weight up as fast as they possibly can and literally dropping the weight back down at twice the speed that it took them to lift it.
Talk about the worst-mistake-ever for gaining lean muscle.
See, it’s not about what you lift, it’s about how you lift. It’s also about why you lift.
Let’s talk about the big three variables that you’ll want to master if you want to gain lean, athletic muscle and lose fat.
The Big 3
#1 – True Volume:
You’ve heard volume defined as the overall amount of demand placed on a muscle. Well, chances are that you have a mis-understanding of how volume really works. In terms of increasing strength and physique, volume doesn’t mean lifting “heavy.” I want you to think of true volume as the overall amount of specific stress placed on the muscle.
The difference between volume and true volume is that true volume focuses on the quality of contraction while undergoing stress. So drop the weight if you want muscle growth, and save your joints in the process.
Real world scenario: The fitness model with more muscle definition from lifting at about 70% of his 1RM than he would from lifting at 90% of his 1RM. Talk about specific adaptation from an widely overlooked and under-utilized concept.
#2 – True Tempo:
Never forget this: Time under tension. Sure, you’ve heard this one before as well. But why, then, do you continue to push the weight up for 1 count, then drop the weight down faster than it took you to lift it?*
It is important to understand that our muscles undergo the most tension during the downward phase of the lift. So, if there is any part of exercise that you want to focus on, it is the downward phase.
What tempo is best for muscle growth?
I find that a downward phase of 3-4 counts provides a sufficient amount of tear-down for maximal re-growth.
I’ll also add, that the downward phase of the exercise stimulates the production of growth hormone. Just another reason not to miss out on almost half of your lift.
*Tempo defined: (4-0-1) 4, stands for the counts to lower the weight. 0 stands for the counts taken at the bottom of the lift. 1 stands for the counts to lift the weight up.
#3 – True Intention:
Intention is a rather new discussion, but a veteran concept.
Try this exercise:
- Set up for a push-up.
- Now, on the downward phase, squeeze your hands towards each other, like your trying to move the floor.
- On the upward phase, do the exact opposite (push outward).
- Try 10 reps with intention.
Comment below, and give me some feedback on this. I want to know what you thought and felt. Is it harder?
Ok, so now you’ve got a real-world example of what real intention looks like. Isn’t it weird that you will experience more results if you actually actively focus on contracting the muscle on the downward phase, instead of just “lift?”
Start thinking, “lower.”
Now put these three concepts together. It’s like Captain Planet. “Form your variables combined, get gains.”
Ok, pathetic analogy, but you get the process.
Now go put it into action,
Author, Lean Body Revolution
Interview with New England Patriots Cheerleader Brianna Munoz.
Interviewed by CB Reporter Ben Tatar.
Brianna Munoz has fulfilled her dream as a New England Patriots Cheerleader. She also got to go to the Super Bowl with the 2012 New England Patriot squad, something very few NFL cheerleaders ever get to do. Today Brianna is studying to be a dentist. In this exclusive interview we take an in depth look at the epic journey of being an NFL cheerleader and beyond, as Ben Tatar goes one on one with cheer leading superstar, Brianna Munoz!
CRITICAL BENCH: Brianna, welcome to Critical Bench. Tell us about yourself.
I am originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, but I currently reside in Farmington, CT where I am a student at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. I completed my undergraduate degree at Providence College with a double major in Chemistry and Biology and a minor in dance. Although I loved working as a Resident Assistant, my favorite job was working as an NFL cheerleader for the New England Patriots during the 2011-2012 season.
CRITICAL BENCH: All awesome stuff! Briana, how did you become a cheerleader for the New England Patriots? How did you feel when you became a New England Patriots Cheerleader?
Starting at the age of 2 years old, dance has always had a profound impact on my life. One of my fondest childhood memories was dancing the role of Clara in Boston Dance Company’s, The Nutcracker. I was accepted into Boston Ballet at a young age and have always been moved by using the body as instrument in depicting a story. Combining my passion for dance with my pride for New England and commitment to service, becoming a Patriots Cheerleader has always been a dream. All members of my family are devout Patriots fans, even the dogs. I found the audition dates on the internet, and I added this farfetched goal to my bucket list. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anything and went to the audition for the experience itself. I knew that just being able to learn a few routines in the field house where the Patriots players practiced would be an incredible experience.
Once I saw a line of over 200 women that wrapped through the field house and into the parking lot, I was so intimidated that I didn’t want to get out of the car! I knew they were making 3 eliminations on the day of preliminary auditions, so I just took a deep breath and thought, “I’ll probably be cut by noon, but at least I’ll get to go to the Olive Garden in Patriots Place for lunch and I can order my favorite, the Tour of Italy (which is chicken parmesan, lasagna, and fettuccini alfredo.)” Before making the first cut, the cheering coach really inspired me when she applauded all of us for making the effort of getting out of bed early on a Saturday morning to come one step closer to accomplishing our goals. After seeing the building slowly but steadily empty throughout the day as more cuts were made, it started to hit me that this farfetched dream may actually become a reality. Contrary to my expectations, I didn’t leave the field house until 8 hours later. I was overjoyed to be having the Tour of Italy as a late dinner instead of an early lunch!
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about the tryouts. What do girls have to do skill wise?
For the 2011-2012 season, the audition process to become a New England Patriots Cheerleader was seven weeks long, culminating in the selection of a 31-member squad. Preliminary auditions consisted of 3 cuts and had 3 components performed in front of a panel of ten judges; an across the floor combination, free style, and a choreographed routine. Those who made it through prelims had a one-on-one interview with the cheerleader director and advanced onto finals two weeks later. Boot camp was the last element of auditions. After public speaking and media training, learning choreography, and partaking in fitness training which included Insanity, P90X, and running the ramps at Gillette Stadium, the 2011-2012 squad was announced. Boot camp was amidst RA duty and the tech week for the Providence College Dance Company Spring Show in which I choreographed a pointe piece. I actually found out that I made the team an hour before my show, and the first event for the new squad was traveling to Aruba to make the Patriots Cheerleader Swimsuit Calendar!
CRITICAL BENCH: What was the Patriots cheerleader Calendar shoot in Aruba like for you?
Traveling with the Patriots Cheerleaders to Aruba was such an amazing experience. The week was filled with partaking in photo shoots, working promotional events, meeting with Patriots fans, practicing for a show, and filming for a reality show, “From Sideline to Shoreline.” We were so thankful to all of our sponsors and were thrilled with the final product of the Patriots Cheerleader Swimsuit Calendar.
CRITICAL BENCH: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of Patriots Cheerleader practices?
My favorite part of practice was the time spent bonding with the other women on the team. Even after the seven week audition process, I already felt as though everyone was a family. We were all very different, but similar in having goals and ambitions. My least favorite part of practice was running the ramps at Gillette Stadium!
CRITICAL BENCH: What was your favorite part about being a cheerleader?
Along with the indescribable feeling of being on the field at Gillette Stadium, my favorite part of being a Patriots Cheerleader was the many opportunities to partake in promotional work, which oftentimes consisted of meeting with business owners who sponsor the team. From visiting children at hospitals to participating in cancer walks, volunteerism was a fundamental part of being on the cheering squad. In particular, working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation was one experience that I will never forget.
CRITICAL BENCH: What went through your mind when you stepped onto the field before a big game?
Before each game, I always felt very humbled to have the opportunity to pursue one of my dreams and to share the field at Gillette Stadium with one of the best teams in the NFL.
CRITICAL BENCH: You also got to go to the Super Bowl as a Patriots Cheerleader. Something few NFL cheerleaders ever get to experience. What was it like getting to go to the Super Bowl?
It was such an honor to be a part of the CNBC #1 ranked NFL squad and to cheer for the 2011-2012 AFC Champions, the New England Patriots! I will never forget the energy and excitement at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots beat the Ravens and took the AFC title. I saved confetti from the field so that I could always remember that indescribable moment. What a season!
CRITICAL BENCH: What do you enjoy doing away from Cheerleading?
I enjoy modeling, shopping, and most of all spending time with my baby cousins, Tristan and Sam. Even at two years old, they both wore their Brady jerseys to meet the whole squad at the Patriots Cheerleader Introduction Night. I love them both so much and could sit and play with their Thomas the Train set all day!
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
I’m currently in dental school working towards my career goal of becoming a dentist.
CRITICAL BENCH: Have you always wanted to go into dentistry? If not, why did you choose that field?
Interning at the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, working in a lab through the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative Summer Research Fellowship Program at the University of Connecticut Health Center, and spending countless hours in the library have all been steps in the long journey towards pursuing a degree in dental medicine. Ever since high school, I have known that it was my vocation in life to pursue a career in the health care profession. Applying the knowledge which I have fostered throughout my academic career to help those in need feels like a moral responsibility.
Maintaining high-quality dental care is not only important to prevent oral cancer and periodontal disease, but I think preserving one’s smile can greatly affect one’s self-image and self-esteem. Upon introduction, the first thing I notice about a person is his/her smile. In reality, most of us refrain from showing our teeth out of insecurity. Even in photographs I have asked many people why they do not smile. The response to my inquiry is simply, “I don’t like my smile.” How unfortunate! In capturing happy memories these individuals look quite serious all for the sake of hiding that small gap, overbite, or mandibular crowding. As someone who has had braces for two and a half years, I know what it is like to have my bands changed once a month and to alter my eating habits in order to prevent a bracket from breaking. Even to this day, I wear my retainer every night. However, these are just small sacrifices for a copious reward, being able to smile without inhibition for the rest of my life.
CRITICAL BENCH: What was your reaction to the news of your acceptance into dental school?
During my senior year of college, I was accepted to dental school and was able to cheer the New England Patriots on to Super Bowl XLVI; needless to say, it was definitely a year that I will never forget. With a wide array of service and outreach programs, a small class size, and having the highest number of basic science hours of all dental schools, I am thrilled to now be a student in the renowned D.M.D. program at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine.
CRITICAL BENCH: How do you want to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as a science cheerleader. As a chemistry and biology double major at Providence College and now as a current student at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, I was always studying biochemistry in between cheering practices. Although I stay in to do homework and typically attend classes in my sweats and glasses without any makeup, I also loved putting on the Patriots Cheerleader uniform and representing the Kraft Organization in cheering on one of the best teams in the NFL. Breaking stereotypes was a daunting task, but all thirty-one women on the squad were committed to hard work and volunteerism, which we were reminded of each time we put on the Myra H. Kraft pin.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your messages for young girls who would like to one day be an NFL cheerleader?
With hard work and dedication, you can accomplish any task. Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams, and always remember to stay true to yourself.
CRITICAL BENCH: I have girls ask me questions like “What are the NFL cheerleaders like as human beings.” You have been around them in many environments. How would you describe them as people? List 5 things.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us what the typical game day is like from start to finish. Give us a timeline about what happens when you wake up, to being in front of the fans, to what you cheerleaders do after the game… Describe a cheerleading Sunday from start to finish!
Game days have been some of the best and longest days. I always packed my suitcase the night before because we would need to bring a variety of uniforms to accommodate rain or shine. It’s important to be prepared for any situation in order to be game day read. A few of the essential items are super glue, safety pins, multiple pairs of tights, hand warmers, feet warmers, hair supplies, and lots of healthy snacks to keep us energized throughout the day. The two items I couldn’t survive without would be my Myra Kraft pin and plenty of Sharpies. We would always have posters, swimsuit calendars, and program books to sign. The morning would start with a meeting followed by practice. Then we would get ourselves ready to meet with fans and to work pre-game promotional events. Before each game we would do a unity circle which would really motivate all of us before stepping out onto the field. The Patriots have the best fans, and they always create such a great energy on game day. After celebrating a win, we would pack our belongings and endure the post-game traffic. Having to wake up early the next morning for school or work, all of us would need a good night sleep after such a long day.
CRITICAL BENCH: How did you enjoy the autograph sessions? Do you have any stories about any interesting fans?
Working promotional events and meeting with Patriots fans was one of the most fulfilling aspects of being an NFL cheerleader. The Patriots have some of the best, most loyal fans and some of the “Super Fans” even traveled with us to Aruba to support the making of the Patriots Cheerleader Swimsuit Calendar.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your workout routine and diet. What are the keys to being in top NFL cheerleading condition? What separates the ones who make the Pats squad from those who get cut?
Since I have taken a break from cheerleading to pursue a career as a dentist, I became a certified Zumba instructor which has enabled me to continue dancing and choreographing while helping others to achieve their fitness goals.
The Patriots Cheerleaders support physical fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. Other than the athleticism that comes with dancing, we would participate in fitness training at cheering practices which included Insanity, P90X, and running the ramps at Gillette Stadium. Being a Patriots Cheerleader is a part time job but a full time commitment. The women who make the squad each year are driven, goal oriented, and determined to turn a dream into a reality.
CRITICAL BENCH: Briana, in closing is there anyone who you would like to thank?
I would like to thank my family for believing in me and for their incessant encouragement and support.
CRITICAL BENCH: Wow, Briana, what a journey you are having. We at Critical Bench are glad to see that you have had many of your dreams come true and that you’re on your way to making many more dreams become a reality. We wish you all the best.
Here is a Link to a Video from Brianna’s swimsuit calendar shoot in Aruba
Dan Long, CPT, CKMT, is a renowned fitness professional who is well-known as a Fat Loss Motivational Advisor, Life Coach and Mentor, and Founder of Kill Mode® Training Company. Working out of his facility in Tampa, Dan is a highly sought after fitness coach and mentor to professional athletes, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, military personnel, bodybuilders, and ordinary people from every walk of life. Thanks to his incredibly effective, unique style of training, Dan and his team have been featured on Fox Television Network, ABC News, The Tampa Tribune, The Tampa Bay Times, and many other radio, print, and television outlets around the country.
Dan’s latest work—Suspension Revolution—is focused on suspension exercise, which a strength training approach that uses a system of ropes and webbing to allow the user to work against his or her own body weight. And while Dan did not invent suspension exercise, by incorporating his own cutting edge techniques, he arguably has reinvented suspension exercise. Dan’s innovative, highly sought-after approach is spelled out in Suspension Revolution, which includes beginner, intermediate and advanced editions.
The beginner program takes four weeks to complete, as does the intermediate. The advanced program runs for 12 weeks. Dan says that he was drawn to suspension exercise due to recurring back pain combined with overall poor flexibility. He says he was searching for a training regimen that could really strengthen his core and he found what he was looking for in suspension exercise.
Given that Kill Mode® is Dan’s signature training program, it’s not surprise that his Kill Mode® Mindset is a central focus of Suspension Revolution. According to Dan, you activate the Kill Mode® Mindset by spending the first half of each exercise, interval, rep, mile, timed exercise, etc., more or less on ‘autopilot.’ This basically means operating at ‘normal’ speed, resistance and intensity.
When you’re half-way through, you activate the Kill Mode® Mindset by executing a mental shift that jumpstarts the flow of adrenaline. And thanks to the stream of adrenaline coursing through your veins, you finish the last half of the exercise giving everything you’ve got, dramatically increasing the intensity of your workout to points far beyond anything you’ve ever experienced in any other training situation.
But that’s not Dan’s only secret ingredient in his Suspension Revolution training program. One of the key advantages Suspension Revolution has over ordinary strength training programs is that with Dan’s program, your recruit all 600 muscles in your body. That, combined with the fact that Suspension Revolution is comprised of 190 different exercises and you’ve got an unbeatable training program that produces amazing results in half the time of ordinary routines.
The Suspension Revolution routine calls for resistance training three days a week plus two days of interval training. For the resistance training, you alternate among Workouts A, B and C. For the workouts you use the suspension straps to perform the bodyweight exercises. The two days of interval training are designed to pump up your metabolism and shred the fat off your body, showing off the lean, powerful musculature underneath.
Regardless of whether you look at the beginner, intermediate or advanced e-books, Dan does an excellent job of explaining how to perform the exercises properly, including several pictures so you can make sure you’re getting it right.
And although the exercises are fairly straightforward and not too complex, unless you have experience with suspension exercise, be sure to follow the program in order, going from beginner to intermediate to advanced. This will help acclimate your body to the exercises and steadily improve your skill, flexibility and strength.
Other than the suspension straps you won’t need to purchase any fancy or expensive equipment for the Suspension Revolution program. With the cost of gym memberships flying through the roof, that’s always welcome news. And you can use Suspension Revolution with any manufacturer’s straps because it’s not the equipment that makes Dan’s program so unique, but his unique, proven combination of movements that makes his approach so much more effective than the other suspension training programs I’ve seen.
So if you’re tired of the same old routine, have hit a plateau that you can’t seem to shake or are otherwise stuck in a training ‘rut,’ then Suspension Revolution is definitely something you should consider. When it comes to fitness, Dan is a genius whose strategies are proven to take training to levels higher than you ever thought were possible. After 20 weeks of Suspension Revolution you’ll find that your body is leaner, more powerful, with greater flexibility and coordination than ever before. Check it out for yourself—you won’t be disappointed.