Each player needs to be in peak condition year-round to fend off incoming rookies and upstart backups—and battle the beastly maulers staring them down from across the line of scrimmage.
Football players get bigger, stronger, and faster every season, which means the best of the best have to work even harder to stay on top. These players all know what it means to spend a ton of time in the gym.
Prepare for the gridiron as Men’s Fitnessbrings you the fittest players in the league.
Watt is one of the few unstoppable forces of nature in the NFL—the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is an absolute animal on the football field. At 6’5” and 289 pounds, his cat-like agility makes him nearly impossible to block, and he can maul offensive linemen with ease—also, let's not forget the man knows how to bang out box jumps. Watt released a signature training shoe ahead of the 2016 season, establishing him as one of the biggest sports stars in the United States.
Murray emerged as a premier NFL running back in 2014, with a monstrous 1,845 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys. But instead of staying with Big D in 2015, the free agent opted to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. After one up-and-down year with Philly, the former AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year was traded to the Tennessee Titans. Now Murray is looking to make the most of his carries with the Titans—especially with all the time he spends in the weight room.
No, that’s not a tight end playing quarterback—it’s Carolina Panthers Pro Bowler Cam Newton. Standing 6’5” and weighing 245 pounds, Newton is a nightmare to tackle and a physical force behind center. The 2015 NFL MVP proved that he is one of the best players in the league by taking his team to Super Bowl 50. Even though that game ended with a loss to the Denver Broncos, Newton is ready to make another run at a title. Even in his college days at Auburn, Newton looked like a deity among men—and he continues to be one of the fittest players in the league.
If a stray pass comes down to a jump ball, more often than not, Graham will snag the pigskin through his freakish athletic ability. One of the reasons for his incredible motor? The Seahawks tight end incorporates unique exercises, like this partner-resisted towel row, into his offseason regimen.
With the possible exception of J.J. Watt, Suh is arguably the most dominant defensive lineman in the NFL. The 6’4”, 320-pound Miami Dolphin glides to the quarterback with ease, thanks to his superhuman strength and expert footwork. His favorite exercise? "I love squats," he told us.
The defensive tackle routinely gives it his all on ‘D,’ as evidenced by his four-straight Pro Bowl selections from 2012–2015. McCoy, who earned a record-setting seven-year, $98 million contract extension from the Bucs, utilizes kickboxing training in the offseason to stay in top shape.
With a persona befitting a reality TV show and a work ethic on par with some of the best players in the league, the only thing bigger than the “Gronk” persona is, well, Gronk himself. The mammoth of a Patriots tight end devours huge quantities of lean protein (tuna and chicken) and mounds of vegetables (broccoli and carrots) to fuel his body, and builds on a lifetime spent battling with his four brothers for athletic supremacy.
Browner fought hard to make it to the NFL, due in no small part to his advanced training regimen. One of the most physical defensive backs in the league—at 6’4”, 221 pounds, he's bigger than some receivers—the defensive back for the Seattle Seahawks employs medicine ball tosses, box jumps and dumbbell chest presses as part of his workout.
Carolina Panthers standout linebacker Luke Kuechly is a revered defensive force with the rare ability to defend against fast passes and smashmouth runs. Kuechly’s workout routine packs a punch, with exercises like the hang clean and machine row—and his nutrition includes a lot of protein, clean foods, protein shakes, and vegetables.
The Pro Bowler endured a trying time during the 2014 NFL season after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But Berry battled through the illness, inspiring his teammates and other cancer patients when he was declared cancer-free. As soon as he was cleared to resume football activities, he was back in the weight room, preparing for a physical season by pumping out sets of the clean-and-jerk and rows. Berry made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year.
Sure, he might be smaller than other cornerback at 5'10" and 188 pounds, but the San Diego Chargers star is emerging as a top player in the league. During the 2015 season he went head-to-head with players like Golden Tate, Antonio Brown, and Demaryius Thomas and shut them down. Here's how Verrett gets in shape—check out this in-depth workout video.
New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall is a walking highlight reel, thanks to his hardcore offseason workout. The 6’4”, 230-pound Pro Bowler utilizes everything from squats to sled pushes—plus tons of mobility exercises—to help maintain his status as a juggernaut on offense.
The key to consistency for the Arizona Cardinals’ eight-time Pro Bowler has been his extreme lower-body workout routine. Fitzgerald hasn’t missed more than two games in any season his first 12 years in the league, and has already established himself as a Hall of Fame talent in the NFL.
The 6’3”, 252-pound Oakland Raiders linebacker has emerged as one of the best young players in the league. His combination of power, speed, strength, and agility makes him one of the most athletic defensive players in the NFL—and he should lead the Raiders D for years to come.
Here comes the boom—as in the Seattle Seahawks' “Legion of Boom” field marshal, safety Kam Chancellor. The 6’3”, 232-pound Pro Bowler is a physical force in the Seahawks’ secondary, and often spends his Sundays laying out would-be receivers and running backs who dare to cross his path. In his college days playing for Virginia Tech, Chancellor switched from quarterback to safety by devouring huge meals and working to develop the speed and ferocity of a top-tier defender.
At his billed height and weight of 6’3” and 255 pounds, Matthews possesses raw footspeed and enormous strength that make him a notorious defensive enforcer for the Green Bay Packers. The Pro Bowler says there's definitely a "method to my madness," from "always having a chip on my shoulder" to utilizing an epic total-body workout.
At 6’4”, 315 pounds, the 2011 first-round draft pick has turned out to be a key player for the New York Jets defensive line. The Jets didn't want to lose Wilkerson’s fearsome talent in free agency, so they swooped in with a five-year deal worth over $80 million ahead of training camp during the 2016 offseason.
Offensive linemen are often derided as big dudes who just maul people all day. But the road-graders in the modern NFL are essentially giant-slayers who can do ballet, and nowhere is that more apparent than Staley, a Pro Bowl offensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers. At the NFL Combine, Staley clocked a 4.80-second 40-yard-dash and racked up 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. Staley was also a former TE during his freshman year at Central Michigan University—he set high school records in the 200m dash—but switched to offensive line his sophomore season in college, packing on 50 more pounds before getting picked in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
The Texas A&M product won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2011, so it's no surprise he took home the Super Bowl MVP for the Denver Broncos after the team defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. At 6’3” and 245 pounds, Miller can catch anyone in the NFL.