JJ Watt uses the safety bar squat to put less emphasis on his shoulders and more on his lower body.
JJ Watt is an absolute beast on the football field, winning multiple NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The 6’5, 295 lb. defensive end for the Houston Texans has legendary strength and a never-ending motor. Watt can do 34 reps of the 225 pound bench press and has a max squat of over 700 pounds. In addition, Watt has a 61″ vertical box jump. That’s some insane strength and athleticism for a man of his size!
JJ Watt’s work ethic and talent helped propel him to the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Legs are probably the most important body part to keep strong for football since your legs are where all the power and explosion originates from. The core is also another very important muscle group and this lower body routine incorporates a lot of indirect core training.
Let’s examine Watt’s lower body strength regimen as shown in the video below:
Safety Bar Box Squats– This movement is performed the same as using the regular box squat except you will be using the Safety Squat Bar, which helps keep the bar high on the traps and forces more of the weight forward on the body. As a result, more stress is placed on the glutes and hamstring muscles. Less stress is being placed on the shoulders, elbows, and wrists so you can focus more on your legs. Often times you have to stop your squat because of that additional stress being placed on the upper body with the bar. The safety bar really ensures that this doesn’t happen.
Safety Bar Chaos Reverse Lunges– This reverse lunge places less stress on the knees because the knees cannot extend beyond the toes. Also, the safety bar puts less emphasis on the shoulders, elbows, and wrists so you can focus more on your lower body. As you can see, Watt attaches kettlebells to the bar, which helps work on more his stabilizer muscles.
Partner Assisted Dynamic Kettlebell Swings– This exercise is great for working on hip movement and for conditioning the glutes and hamstrings. It’s a great way to incorporate resistance training with cardiovascular training. Kettlebell swings are initiated with a powerful hip thrust using your glutes and hamstring muscles. These muscles, in conjunction with your lower back, are refered to as your “power zone” as they are strongly involved in virtually all lifting, running, and jumping movements, which is exactly what you use on the football field. Watt uses a partner to push the weight towards him, which helps work on more of his stabilizer muscles and provides a more powerful resistance.
Litvinov Prowler Sprints– This exercise consists of holding a kettlebell and performing 5 jumps, and then going right into a 20 yard high side prowler sprint. The kettlebell jumps are a powerful leg strengthener that helps build strong glutes and core. The prowler sled helps football players work on blocking skills while also improving their conditioning at the same time. As you can see, Watt does both exercises as a superset, really incorporating all aspects of his legs and core into one grueling exercise. He rests 40 seconds (NFL playclock length) to mimick the intense environment of an NFL game.
Watt also does an upper body routine known as “Triceps Death” (shown below). This workout has been popularized by Joe DeFranco’s gym. This workout is typically used on upper body days to finish up the workout or even as a main workout. You start off with 65% of one rep max on bench press performing 5 repetitions with a one inch thick board on your chest. Then you do another 5 repetitions with 2 boards and then 3 boards and then 4 boards for a total of 20 reps. By the time you finish that, your arms should be completely fatigued. This hits more of the triceps than the chest due to the limited range of motion with the boards. This is a great endurance workout that really taxes the triceps probably more than most other exercises. This could be why Watt has some of the biggest tricep muscles seen on a football field! Try this workout once and you’ll know exactly what I am talking about!
In terms of his diet, Watt eats upwards of 9,000 calories a day. When he first got to the NFL, he followed a lean, low-carb diet. However, his trainer recently noticed that Watt’s performance was slacking, and Watt picked up on it.
“My body was grabbing for something that wasn’t there. It was trying to fuel itself with no fuel,” said Watt in an interview with Muscle & Fitness. As a result, Watt does some epic cheat days to get more calories into his body for energy. For example, if Watt eats several chicken breasts in one meal then he wraps them in bacon, daily. He increases his fat intake, which also means doubling the portion sizes of mashed sweet potatoes, pasta, fish, and avocados.
On some days, he literally consumes 50 slices of bacon, 20 chicken breasts, and 13 whole avocados. For brunch, he eats a massive potato pancake omelet with French toast stuffed with berries and other additives. Watt is also a fan of barbecue. He enjoys smoked turkey and lean cuts of brisket without any sauce, since he’s not a fan of sauce.
“If I’m not working out, I eat the whole time I’m not working out. It’s exhausting. You have to force-feed,” he said.
Watt is one of the biggest workhorses in the NFL today. He has a legendary motor that never stops on the field. He needs every calorie that he can get to fuel his body with energy, especially since he’s such a large man. As a top athlete, he has an extremely fast metabolism and his body will use up those calories as energy quicker than most. An NFL player can burn 10,000+ calories each day of training camp. It is absolutely gut-wrenching and so demanding on the body to play at the highest level all the time. Consuming all those calories ensures that Watt can go full throttle and dominate his opponents on the field.