In a league that prizes youth, 32 is starting to get old in NFL years. Not too many players make it that far without either suffering a serious injury or being overshadowed by a younger, fresher set of legs. But going into his 12th season with the Arizona Cardinals, safety Adrian Wilson doesn’t just manage to hang with the younger guys—he still dominates, both on the field and in the gym.
Check out this video of Wilson benching 405 without really setting his feet or warming up >>> And if you haven’t contributed to the close to 9 million views of his 66-inch hurdle jump (which comes up to his neck) then by all means check that out here >>>
No, Adrian Wilson isn’t slowing down. He seems to be just reaching his prime. We caught up with the five-time Pro Bowler in a recent interview to talk about his training style and how much longer he thinks he can keep going.
Men’s Fitness: From the size you’ve been able to develop, it would seem that you’re probably doing more than the functional training assigned by your team’s strength coach. Are you following a hypertrophy—or bodybuilding—program outside of the team setting?
Adrian Wilson: I wouldn’t really say a bodybuilder routine, but I do train fast, like bodybuilders do. That’s what I do early on in the off-season, and then towards the minicamps and the OTAs, I go for more of a routine that is basically mass. Then when OTAs, and minicamps are done, that’s when I start trying to get everything stretched out and ready for the season.
MF: When you get back to the team, does the Cardinals strength coach ever look at you and ask you to back off?
AW: [laughs] Yeah, actually my third or fourth year in the league, I ballooned up to 235-236 (from 222), and I had report in for the last OTA, and I had walked in got on the scale, so I got fined a lot per pound overweight. I was over by about 12 pounds, so I had to get down. Even though I wasn’t fat-heavy, I had to cut down on a lot of the things I was doing.
MF: When you were that weight, did it affect your speed?
AW: I didn’t feel like it affected me any, but at the same time I have to remember the things they were asking me to do. I realized later on that it’s good to like to workout, to be in the gym all the time, but at the same time you have to really train for your position. You have to train for what you feel like you are going to need through the course of the season.
MF: Well, did you try to demonstrate to them and say, “Hey, this extra size hasn’t affected my speed, you shouldn’t be fining me for it.”
AW: Oh yeah. I mean I stated my case plenty of times, but I learned over the years to adhere to what they want, just know their guidelines so that there won’t be any problems.
MF: In the video where you bench 405 easily, it looked like the you didn’t really set your feet or arch your back at all.
AW: No, I didn’t. And it was an assigned tempo; 3-2-1. So you had to really control the weight down for three seconds, hold it there for two, and then press it back up. A lot of our workouts are like that.
MF: What’s the story behind your 66-inch hurdle in the gym? Did someone just dare you to try it?
AW: Yeah, that wasn’t something that we planned. That was just us going out and competing, it just so happened someone was taping it. But if they had a blooper reel with everyone else failing, that would’ve been something to watch right there.
MF: You’re 32 now, and it’s easier to put on weight as your body starts to slow down. Have you adjusted your training in any way over the last couple of years to accommodate for age?
AW: Yeah, I think now it’s not about seeing who is stronger than who. I think that’s where I have kind of changed, where I feel like I don’t have to prove anything to the young guys in the weight room. Over the years I’ve always tried to be the strongest guy in the gym. That was my mentality. Now is more what I need in order to be successful on Sunday.
MF: Once you have a double-digit number of NFL seasons, people start to wonder how many seasons you have left. Have you thought about it at all?
AW: No I haven’t, because my body hasn’t told me that it’s time. I haven’t felt it in my body saying, “OK I need to stop,” I will never put a number on it. I will never say, “I have two years left,” or “I five years.” I will never do that because everybody is different. So, for me to put a number on it I’d be doing myself a disservice, so I’m going play until the Cardinals don’t want me to play. If they feel like I’m not producing or I’m not playing they way they expect me to play then it’s on them. I feel like I can still go out there and still compete with the best of them.