You are here

How J.J. Watt Dominates the NFL and Stays Freakishly Athletic

The Houston Texans star explains his superhuman training program, his beastly diet, and the release of his signature Reebok training shoe.
JJ Watt Reebok Sneaker Training / Reebok

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt knows what it takes to be an elite player.

And while it would be easy to dismiss the four-time Pro Bowler's rise to defensive dominance as the product of sheer talent, Watt himself would credit another factor: dedication to all-around fitness.

The 20 Fittest Players in the NFL >>>

When the former Wisconsin Badger trains six days per week, he doesn’t just hit the weights, but rather grinds through a range of functional workouts, including box jumps, sprinting drills, squats, and tire flipping. And those workouts have already paid dividends: Watt has personal records of 61" on the box jump and 1000 lbs for tire flips.

The big man—he's 6'5”, 289 lbs—doesn’t skimp when it comes to nutrition, either. Watt keeps a strict diet, combining clean proteins like steak and chicken with complex carbs to stay in top shape through the season. (Vegetables, though, are another story: “I hate vegetables, so I get my vegetables through a shake," he says.)

That dedication to fitness has paid big dividends: He hasn’t missed a game in five seasons in the NFL. Even in 2015, when he played with multiple torn muscles, Watt put up 17.5 sacks and helped the Houston Texans make the playoffs.

The 11 Fastest, Most Ridiculously Athletic NFL Combine Performances of All Time >>>

So where does all that motivation come from? Watt says that he is looking to maximize his potential: “If you’re not waking up trying to be the best athlete in the world," he says, "you’re not hunting greatness.”

That theme is central to the campaign that Reebok built around the Texans star for his training sneaker, the JJ I, which will be released on July 15. “It means going hard every single day, committing yourself to being the best—that’s why I hunt greatness,” Watt says.

Normally, it's the quarterbacks and basketball stars who get their own signature footwear—not defensive linemen. But Watt's been anything but ordinary throughout his career, winning three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards in his first five seasons.

He worked with Reebok for over a year to design the sneaker, which was made to reflect Watt’s training style—meaning flexibility to move from one surface to another without any issues. “I do a lot of different workouts,” Watt said at the sneaker unveiling event in New York City. “Lots of box jumping, sprinting drills, bench press stuff, weights, shuttle runs, agility drills—it goes all over.”


The JJ I marks the debut of Reebok's “Liquid Foam” technology, which to the company says gives the sneaker a “rapid reaction” to every impact. The company also used “FlexCage” technology to help with transition power through the shoe, and to add protection to the foot for jumping and pushing exercises.

“I’ve worn a ton of training shoes in the past," Watt says. "I’ve tried everything, but I’ve never found a shoe that fit exactly what I needed. I don’t want to change shoes when I work out—I want a shoe that’s good for everything.”
Watt doesn’t want the shoe to just be for people in the gym either—he’s hoping that athletes of all ages and levels will use it, which is why he pushed to keep the price below $100.

“It’s not only for football players, it’s not only for professional athletes,” Watt explained. “You can definitely wear this outside. It’s for the parents who go home after work and then go to the gym. It’s for people who are going to the gym in the morning before the office—it’s for everybody. I wanted to create something that could help anybody train in any situation.”

How Carolina Panthers Star Greg Olsen Eats, Trains, and Works His Way to Invincibility >>>

Watt is ready to take his game to an even higher level into the 2016 season and he spoke with Men’s Fitness about his daily training, his nutritional secrets, and the release of his signature training sneaker, the JJ I.

Read the interview on the next page >>>



Want more Men's Fitness?

Sign Up for our newsletters now.