QB’s Can’t Gain Weight? Bullshit.



Adam Schefter works for ESPN and is an NFL reporter who gets all the “insider” information. The above tweet is talking about the top three quarterbacks that will be going into the NFL draft this year. These stats are gleaned from the NFL Combine, which allows the NFL personnel to evaluate the talent coming from collegiate sports to the NFL. It’s a lot of mental and physical testing to try and project how well these athletes will do in professional football, yet it is often incomplete because physical stature and prowess do not always make the best football player, though it helps.

I was listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio this morning, and they were talking with various experts on the size of these quarterbacks, particularly Manziel and Bridgewater. The important stats for quarterbacks, from an anthropometry perspective, are height, weight, and hand size. The hand thing is apparently a good projector of success (i.e. it’s easier to hold onto a football in adverse weather), but let’s ignore that. Height is also very important — seeing over the large lineman to throw a pass is important — but we’ll ignore that too. How much a guy weighs and fills out his frame is important because football is a rough, collision-based sport, and frail guys will not have durability. Especially when there are mastodons who weigh anywhere from 250 to 350 pounds wanting to crush your soul.

The experts point out that two of the above quarterbacks weigh 207 and 214. As a “lifting and athletic population”, we know that these guys aren’t heavy. Yet we also know that it’s actually kind of simple to add mass on to a guy, especially when their frame has room to fill out (as both of those quarterbacks do).

What I find baffling is how difficult the experts think gaining weight is. And I’m not even just talking about gaining weight for the sake of gaining it, like in Starting Strength-style linear progression. I’m talking about putting a focus on retaining athleticism, agility, and speed yet increasing lean body mass. Most rookie mini-camps don’t start until the end of May. Training camp starts in July. The season actually starts in September. How long was your linear progression? I got some pretty solid fucking progress in 8 weeks by moving my three-sets-of-five from 325 to 445 while increasing my body weight from 195 to 215 (in 2009).

If the experts think it’s difficult to put five, ten, or even fifteen pounds on a guy in three to six months, then either the strength and conditioning is really shitty, there’s no athlete compliance, or they don’t even try. I’m no expert in the realm of NFL strength and conditioning, and maybe we should get John Welbourn’s thoughts, but it sounds pretty stupid to see a 21 year old’s body and think that it can’t be improved. I’ve done it over and over with athletes, so why can’t they?

Shameless plug, but this diet style would help an athlete build quality mass and aid recovery.

Shameless plug, but this diet style would help an athlete build quality mass and aid recovery.

Edit: I forgot to mention what I would do for a guy that needed to retain athleticism but increase size. I’d have him lift three days a week in conjunction with his agility, speed, and/or skill sessions. He’d squat, press, row, and do pulling movements that wouldn’t interfere much with his other training (i.e. stuff like power cleans, RDL’s, and lighter deadlifts instead of trying to push his deadlift up). A quarterback would be doing weighted pull-ups and chin-ups, possibly some barbell pullovers. I’d throw a Paleo for Lifters diet at him, which would be a quality, clean diet of meat, potatoes, fruits, veggies, and good fats with a little bit of protein powder in quantities that would help him grow. It wouldn’t be all that hard for kids that are described as “not very thick” or having a “slight build”.

ESPN/Football Poppycock

I was listening to the “Mike and Mike” show on ESPN radio this morning and heard something that made my ears bleed. Jenn Brown was giving her report on the Thursday night match-up between #16 Florida State and N.C. State. FSU quarterback Christian Ponder has had some issues with his elbow yet has practiced this week. He told reporters that his injury was a “blessing in disguise” and is “starting to use my core more” when throwing (1). He fucking said “core”.

The term “core” has been demonized and written about plenty of times, and I won’t add too much to it here. It just sounds so…puny (I was going to write a similar word with different consonants, but you get the idea). Saying the word conjures up images of “personal trainers” having their clients do silly shit around the gym to make them sweaty and sometimes sore. More importantly, I don’t like “core” because the way it is said and perceived is lacking from an anatomical standpoint. Proponents of the term would cite the stability needed in the abdominals and back muscles to transfer force and move the body. That definition neglects the hips, which is the area of the body that is most important for acceleration (in the physics sense; in this case referring to a person’s change in velocity). We already know that barbell training is the best way to strengthen the hips (and subsequently the “core”), but I’m more concerned with the seeming misunderstanding of what is important for movement and acceleration.

In QB Ponder’s defense, he does mention his hips in improving his mechanics. What he’s saying is, “The elbow injury has forced me to use my hips in my throwing motion properly, and thus improves my ability to throw the football. Previously I wasn’t using my hips and primarily used my arm, and this is what caused the injury.” As referenced above, his actual first sentence was, “I’m starting to use my core more, which is something I got away from this year.” I don’t expect anybody to care what the term “core” does or doesn’t mean, but I have a problem with how it is perceived. It’s perceived to be abdominal related, and that means this is going to be the primary method of strengthening or improving the area:

Google image 'core' and this is the first fitness related image

Exercises like the squat, press, and deadlift not only strengthen the hips, but also the muscles that attach to the hips from the anterior and posterior. A quarterback will benefit from utilizing hip strength in a throwing motion — that’s why “setting the feet” is so important to football; it allows the quarterback to properly apply force to the ground to move and rotate his legs, hips, torso, and then arm to have a solid throw. This is also why it’s a horrible idea for a quarterback to roll right and throw to the left — there’s not power behind his throw (and the resulting vector the football makes as it travels at an angle across the field allows the defense to react and move towards the ball, but that’s a different point entirely).

You can look at any athletic movement and see how it’s completely dependent on the hips. Look at the picture below of a juke. This juke is quite exaggerated, yet it shows that in order to move to the right, the player has to apply force to the left. When an athlete moves fast, they only have one foot on the ground, so that one foot has to not only apply enough force to move the entire body in the desired direction, but often having to overcome the body’s own momentum (since they are changing directions) as well as any other exterior forces (in this case, other players — gravity is implied while we’re on Earth). In this particular picture, this ball carrier is probably* in the midst of moving left. A bland analysis would say he’s abducting his hip, but anyone who’s played a sport knows that’s stupid — stand up straight and move your left leg out away from your mid-line while keeping you knee straight. Is this how you juke? No. There is plantar flexion (ankle), knee flexion, and hip extension occurring to move laterally and forward. All of those muscles are worked through a full range of motion (with the exception of the plantar flexion muscles, but stay on track here) during a back squat. There’s a lot going on in a juke, but the point is that the abs are not the core of the movement.

A standard ops juke.

It’s interesting to analyze movement, but you don’t have to focus on it while you watch football this weekend. Just know that the foundation for athletic movement comes from strengthening the major joints through a full range of motion, and this is best achieved through barbell training. Once there is a foundation of strength** you apply that strength into the movements and activities associated with a sport. That last part is the “conditioning” part of “strength and conditioning”. I just wish silly personal training rhetoric would stay out of it.

*I say probably because technically we don’t know what’s going on the photo. He could be spinning, or in a stutter step to move to the left, or spinning around after making a catch. Let’s just assume he’s juking to his right.
**Admittedly, the “foundation of strength” is arbitrary. I’d say it’s relative to age and skill level, but that is also another discussion.

Football and Steroids — Do You Care?

Sorry Brent, we’re gonna talk about football again. Roger Gooddell, the commissioner of the NFL, and the team owners want to increase the regular season from 16 games to 18. This would be a good thing because they’d eliminate the worthless pre-season games, but then the owners want more games (because they want to match or increase their revenue). Some of the players realize the problem here:

“I would vote to eliminate two preseason games and then keep it at a 16-game season because the longer you’re out there playing, the more your body breaks down,” Chicago Bears tight end Desmond Clark said. “When you get into December, you’re like walking zombies. You can’t feel your joints.”

The players are TURNING INTO ZOMBIES! OMG!!!1111@!@!11!224ehjr09fujdlvkn

NFL players have resorted to eating BRAINS and the NFL wants to increase the season? I always knew there would be a zombie outbreak, and now I know the source of its inception. (GASP)…Is this a dream? I’m gonna need a kick. But…how can you kick me without any gravity?

All right, the point is that the only thing left to seal the deal on the 18 game season is playing nice with the player’s union. Let’s just assume this will happen, much like we have to assume the whole “death, taxes, and Brent Kim will be shrugging” thing. NFL players get injured enough as it is in the 16 games they already have. A quick search yielded this bit of research about injuries in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association. Regardless if it’s good research or not (I only skimmed it), we know intuitively that players are more likely to be injured in a game, on turf, if they are veteran players, if they are fatigued, and if they have a pre-existing injury. Injuries can remove a player from participating in practice and games, or it can be a less severe injury that the player has to deal with depending on their position.

The point is that football players are injured enough, and now the work load is going to be increased to a point that will be more difficult to handle, genetic freak or not. It’s obvious that pre-season games don’t garner the same physical effort or intensity as real games, and the real games are where guys are more likely to get hurt. Owners don’t realize that this will be debilitating to their investments (the players), and players will find a way to survive: steroids or other drug enhancement.

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I Like Mark Felix

I founds Mark Felix’s YouTube channel on accident and the video that caught my attention was a “rehab deadlift” at 340kg. The info said, “Should be back up to 400kg next month.” Good god. My interest was piqued.

Felix, as he likes to be called, is one bad mofo. He’s 6’4″, around 300 pounds, has 21.5″ arms, and 31″ thighs. The former bodybuilder began competing in strongman in 2003 at 37 years old and is a regular entrant for the World’s Strongest Man competition. He also is a two time World Champion in the Rolling Thunder competition with a one handed lift of 301 pounds on the fat, rotating handle. That’s 26 pounds more than the second highest ever.

I don’t know much about Felix aside from the fact that he’s a large, strong behemoth who was born in Grenada and now lives in the UK. He seems to be a really cool guy; he’s married with kids and is always smiling or giving a thumbs up at the end of his videos.

This is probably my favorite video of Felix. He’s training his grip, and he picks the implements up and stands there kind of awkwardly. What he does next made me laugh.

Over the last two days I watched all of Felix’s videos. His brute strength and power is amazing and he trains with intensity in everything he does. These qualities have helped him come in 4th in the World Strongest Man competition (2006, 7th place in 2007), win the aforementioned Rolling Thunder competition twice (2008, ’09), as well as place in the top three of various other strength competitions such as World Strongest Man Super Series, Europe’s Strongest Man, All-American Strongman Challenge, Britain’s Strongest man, IFSA British Championships, England’s Strongest Man, etc.

To appreciate his shear gargantuan size, watch the following atlas stone video. You’ll notice he routinely competes in a kilt (and was excited about a new kilt arriving in the mail on his Twitter page).

Felix only puts out one kind of effort when training: MAXIMAL. Two videos in particular display this very well. The first video consists of strongman training — barrel tossing in particular. Felix makes short work of tossing 10 kegs over a height of about 10 to 12 feet. The second video pits Felix against another super heavyweight Highland Games competitor in the pole push. No, perverts, it isn’t a “no homo” situation — it’s kind of like sumo wrestling, but instead of pushing the opponent, the hold and push against the same caber. Felix and his nemesis battle it out for an entire minute. It’s exhausting to watch.

Mark Felix is still going strong at the age of 44. He sets a good example by training hard, being massive, and being a nice guy. I hope that he has many more competitive years ahead of him. You can read more about his training and diet here.

Scottish Heavy Athletics

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get some of your friends and just go throw heavy stuff? Wouldn’t it be even better if there were drums, bugles, and bagpipes playing in the background and women dancing on a stage nearby? And wouldn’t it be complete if you tossed a telephone pole on your way to enjoy a cold Guinness?

There is such a place, my friends. It’s called Scottish Heavy Athletics, better known as Highland Games. I recently completed my second Highland Games at the Texas Scottish Festival, and I’m looking to make this my summer/fall sport.

The Highland Games contest up to nine different events
* 56# weight over bar
* 22-26# Braemar Stone throw (like a stationary shot put but with a big rock)
* 16-22# Open Stone (like a shot put, including an approach to the toe board)
* 20# sheaf toss (a bag of rope or straw thrown over a bar via pitchfork)
* 56# weight for distance (thrown with a discus-type approach)
* 28# weight for distance (same but with a lighter implement)
* 22# Scottish Hammer throw (similar to Olympic hammer but wound around over the head and around the body with feet remaining stationary)
* 17# hammer (same but with a lighter implement)
* caber toss (16-20′, 100-200+ pounds)

Dan John throwing a heavy weight for distance

Some of the events make some sense from a combat perspective (I guess you could throw a rock or launch a hammer at someone who wasn’t too far away). And I guess the sheaf reminds one of throwing hay to the top of the barn (if one has done such things). But most of the events feel like the creation of a couple blacksmiths who fell into a barrel of mead.

Throwing the #22 Braemar Stone

Games are held throughout the country, usually beginning in the spring and running through fall. The pros are behemoths (and so are most of the amateurs), but don’t let that keep you away. Everyone in HG is cool, and they’re happy to welcome new people to their sport.

If you haven’t done it before, there’s not much you need to change. Just find a group to throw with and go from there. If the bug bites, then you can start worrying about specific training, buying/making implements, etc. I trained for this just like I do for judo. Instead of conditioning, I just substituted more throwing and event practice.

The great Shannon Hartnett, 10 time World Highland Games Champion

If you’re not signed up for something this summer, get your kilt together and do one of these. You’ll meet a good group of athletes and participate in something that’s somewhat off the wall. NASGAweb.com has listings, athlete data, and a discussion forum that addresses preparation and training. Get on it. You’ll thank me later.

Edit: I had to include this video because the timing of the throw and the music is pretty cool.

If you haven’t realized it already, Highland Games is a very 70sBig-friendly sport. I am 5’10 215 in the picture (I’m the guy holding the beer and the trophy), and I was the lightest guy by 25 pounds. My friend, Aaron (red beard, front row), is 280 and was maybe the fourth biggest guy there.

A fine group of lads. (L-R) Joseph, Gant, Harold, James, Aaron, Luke, Rob, Kyle