We're not 100% certain about this, but Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin may be indestructible. After suffering a broken sinus as a result of a huge hit from New York Jets safety Eric Smith in Week 4 of the 2008 NFL season, Boldin returned to action just a month later (with screws in his face). A few weeks ago on Monday Night Football, there was Boldin, back on the field for the first-place Cardinals, putting his head down and going over the middle, bashing linebackers in their skulls. Maybe his toughness comes from all the work he puts into the weight room in the off-season? Just a thought, since his idea of "going light" on squats is what most of us would consider a personal max.
You hardly ever go down from first contact, even on a big hit from a safety. What's your secret to staying up after getting hit?
[Laughs] I mean, I always pride myself on not being tackled by the first guy, so I think a lot of that is want to, but it's a combination of technique and lower-body strength and power. I do a lot of squats: speed squats for explosiveness, heavy squats for strength and power, and a lot of lunges. The technique I use is same foot, same shoulder. That's how you absorb hits. When you do it that way, you'll see a difference.
How heavy do you go on speed squats?
Probably about 275 lbs for about four sets, six reps per set. And it's more for explosion work, going down quickly, pausing at the bottom for a second, and then exploding back to the top.
Do you do any high rep sets with lighter weight?
Nah. For me, 275 pounds is lighter weight when it comes to squats. When you get heavier, we go usually around 400 pounds, close to 500 pounds. My max is probably around 530 to 550 lbs.
But you don't usually do a one-rep max, right? You probably do a triple or something like that?
Yeah, on the heavy sets we'll probably do four sets of two.
You played college ball at Florida State, and now you're in Arizona, both warm places. Has staying hydrated ever been an issue?
Heat is most definitely a factor. The thing for us to make sure you don't get burned out, you have to eat healthy during the week and the day of the game. I probably eat two hours prior to going to the stadium, but I really stay hydrated. I think when you stay hydrated; it allows your body to go through what it has to go through in order to be effective for four quarters. I take natural electrolytes — about eight caps a day, and I usually mix it in with water. A lot of people drink Gatorade, things like that to stay hydrated, but Gatorade has a lot of sugar in it which isn't really good, so, I try to stay more with the natural stuff.
What's your staple pre-game meal?
It's usually like grilled chicken breast, things like that to get my protein. Playing four quarters of football, your body will break down the food that you eat really quickly. If you don't eat well that food will be broken down real fast, and you won't have any energy left in the third and fourth quarters. You have to maintain a pretty good balance of what you eat before the game.
Do you take any supplements?
Nah, I don't take supplements at all. I just try to eat healthy and get my nutrition with food.
How do you approach your overall training routine?
I try to single things out as far as getting evaluated, and see which parts of your body are weaker, if one leg is stronger than the other. If one is weaker, I'll probably hit a couple more reps on that leg, just trying to even the body out. A lot of time when you're weak in certain areas, your body overcompensates and that's when you get injured. For me it's trying to even out the total body.
How do you divide up a week's worth of workouts in the off-season?
Four days a week is usually the norm for myself as far as lifting but I condition every day. So I split it up with upper body one-day, lower body the next. I take Wednesday to re-generate. And then split it up again, upper body, lower body.
How do you get that conditioning?
Everyday is different. You don't want your body to get used to one certain thing. One day it might on the treadmill, the next day you might be outside running routes or doing different intervals so it's a variety of things. I'll do some form of cardio for about 45 minutes to an hour and if I'm lifting, I'll lift for an hour to an hour and a half.
Have you always been a strong guy? Do you remember how much you benched the first time you tried it?
The first time I benched was in high school. I didn't start lifting until the 11th grade. At that point we were doing 225 pounds per set.
Where do you train in the off-season?
I train in three different places. When I'm out here in Arizona, I train at API. Guys like Julius Peppers, Jared Allen, and Adrian Wilson work out at API in the off-season when I'm over there. When I'm in Florida, there's a gang of guys: Fred Taylor, Plaxico Burress — a lot of people go back to Florida to train for the weather.
Does having those guys around push you a little harder in the gym?
Yeah, because everybody has that mindset that you know you're coming to work, you're coming to get better. For myself, I like to work out with younger guys, guys that are in college trying to get in the NFL because I feel like those are the guys that really push. So that means you got to go even harder to make sure they don't show you up.