JJ Watt is one of the most explosive and powerful human beings in the NFL. His engine is set to full throttle throughout the entirety of every game- something that sets him apart from all other players. At 6’5” 290 lbs, Watt fuels his body with nearly 10,000 calories a day to keep him ready for his grueling workouts, as well as the proper nutrition to perform at an optimum level on Sundays.
Watt is definitely a beast on the field, but he’s just as much a stud in the weight room, outworking everyone in every aspect of the workouts. Today we’ll follow along to a sample lower body workout JJ could perform for overall leg development, power, explosiveness and speed. Get your big boy pants on because this workout will test your willpower for sure!
Exercise #1: Safety Bar Squats
The safety bar allows one to place a majority of weight more directly on to the quads, hamstrings and glutes. Without having to focus on bar positioning and stabilization, the only thing you need to worry about is moving the weight up and down. Although JJ is known for throwing around nearly 700 lbs on this movement take it slow and get the form right first, then add more weight.
- Start with a shoulder-width stance in a squat rack and load up the plates on the safety bar
- Keeping the torso tight, slowly lower the weight down and pause at the bottom for a second
- Explode back up to the top and repeat
Sets and Reps: 5 x 5
Top Tip: On the last set, perform a drop set and drop weight down to about half of what you were using for the 5 reps. Grind out quickly as many reps as possible to create an intense pump and really work on muscular endurance- something Watt needs on the gridiron through lengthy defensive series.
Exercise #2: Safety Bar Reverse Lunges
A lot of the time when Watt is not bull rushing the offensive tackle or chasing down the running back, he’s able to drop back in pass coverage and cover some backs and even some crossing receivers. Back pedaling is crucial to being able to keep up with the quicker playmakers, so Watt likes to use the reverse lunge to imitate a back pedal- giving him the ability to strengthen that motion to make him quicker and faster. This movement will feel a little different than a regular walking lunge like you’re used to but give it time and you’ll feel it through your glutes and hamstrings especially.
- Un-rack the safety bar and take a shoulder-width stance away from the squat rack
- Step backwards with one leg and lunge down to where back knee touches the ground
- Explode off back leg and return to starting position and alternate legs throughout the set
Sets and Reps: 5 x 8 on each leg
Top Tip: The beauty of the reverse lunge is that the front knee will never be out of position. During regular lunges you can run the risk of knee injury when the knee is further out in front than the knee. With the safety bar, it allows you to put more stress on the glute/hamstring tie-in, which is crucial for building top line speed and agility.
Exercise #3: Box Jumps
With the strength-specific movements out of the way for this workout, it’s time to focus on what separates JJ Watt from the rest of the playing field. Many linemen are able to lift crazy amounts of weight but cannot get around and be agile like Watt. One of JJ’s signature moves is to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. With his huge stature, he’s able to throw his big paws up in the air as another way to disrupt passes and frustrate offenses. At his size, Watt has cleared 5 feet on the box jumps- enabling him to jump up higher than quarterback’s trajectory and smack down those balls. Get some taller-than-normal boxes set up and get ready to get off the ground.
- Set up a box and take on an athletic stance about 2 feet away from the base
- Using arms, hips and legs, explode up and jump to the top of the box
- Land with the knees bent lightly and stand all the way up at the top
- Jump back down and repeat
Sets and Reps: 10 x 5 explosive jumps
Top Tip: 5 reps may not seem like much but we’re going for power and explosiveness with these jumps here, so staying in a lower rep range will enable us to work the faster twitch muscle fibers. Also if available, use the soft boxes that are stackable with Velcro. This way if you fail on a rep you won’t skin up your shins or risk bruising knees.
Exercise #4: Banded Sprints
In a perfect world there is never any kind of offensive holding and there would always be flags to catch every hold in a game. This isn’t the case and Watt knows that there will be grabbing, pulling and holding on to him all game. Instead of whining for a call he won’t get, JJ proves that he is strong and fast enough to not only escape these holds but still out-run the other blockers and tackle the ball carrier or sack the quarterback. Get used to having some resistance on you by performing some banded sprints with someone holding you back.
- Have a training partner wrap a thick resistance band around your torso
- Take off sprinting and have your partner try to hold back on resistance band as much possible while following behind you
Sets and Reps: 5 x 20 yard sprints
Top Tip: To add even more resistance to this move you can add a weight vest or perform this exercise while running uphill. Keep the knees up and mimic perfect sprinting form.
There is no other JJ Watt and he’s a once-in-a-lifetime player and athlete. Those who are aspiring to improve athletic performance should give this a try and stay tuned for some other articles focusing on athletic performance and overall athletic development!