It’s not easy trying to pack on the muscle you want. It means working out when you barely have the time, avoiding injuries, and maintaining focus and intensity when you’d rather take it easy.
Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown’s secret for doing it: Never relax. It’s how he went from sixth-round draft pick to six-time Pro Bowler, and he doesn’t slow down in the off-season.
“You don’t build yourself up and come into the season and drop off,” Brown, 30, says. No, you train hard all year round. Follow Brown’s advice and you’ll find a way, too.
1) Master the basics.
Brown focused his off-season training on three key body parts: “my glutes, my shoulders, and my core.” Each plays a key role in helping the body generate speed. Brown does 3- to 5-rep sets of bench presses once a week, and he squats all the time-although not the way you might think. “For the most part, I squatted lighter weight, a lot of reps, did a lot of endurance training,” he says. “Aim for 20 reps a set.” That will improve your squat technique and rev your heart rate more than you’d expect.
2) Crush your core.
A strong core cushions your ribs against the blows that come from defensive players. Brown knows that well, which is why he’ll do 1,000 reps of ab movements daily. But that doesn’t mean hours of situps. Brown does a variety of ab movements, like V-ups, hanging leg lifts, oblique situps, and plank shoulder-taps. “Don’t worry about what they are,” he says. “Just mix it up, get it in.”
3) Baby your shoulders.
Brown’s go-to shoulder routine isn’t about size or a badass military press; it’s about joint-bulletproofing and endurance. “We call it 5-5-5’s,” he says. Grab a pair of light dumbbells, stand up, and then do 5 reps of lateral raises, raising the weights straight out to your sides. Next, bend at the waist and do 5 reps of “Y” raises, keeping your elbows straight and raising the weights in front of you, thumbs pointing up. Finish with 5 “T” raises, staying bent over and raising the weights out to your sides. “Do 3 to 4 sets,” Brown says. “Just go nonstop.”
4) Stretch your legs.
Bad news: To move all over the field like AB, you’ve got to just run. (Worse news: You’ll also have to run to pass our NFL conditioning test below.) The best receiver in football won’t shrug off a 5-mile run every few days. “I’ll go running for distance consistently,” he says. “That stuff keeps me healthy.”