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10 Things I Learned from the Houston Texans
Abstract: I don't usually talk about fitness on my blog but I post a summary of 10 things I learned from the Houston Texans' player fitness guide. I know talking about fitness is insufferable. I am sorry.

Player Fitness Guide

I'm hardly a fitness or exercise freak and I eat pizza like there is no tomorrow. However, I'm trying to get into better shape, so was looking for books on Amazon. One of the comments on a review (don't ask why I was reading that) linked to: The Houston Texans Players Manual for Strength and Conditioning. (Local Mirror of File)

I love this guide for a couple reasons. It's one of the only fitness guide that has "skin in the game". There are more books/reading material/bullshit out there about fitness and health than probably any other topic. Most health and fitness authors own a gym or pratice, but usually they want to sell you something (a book, an idea, a shoe, etc). This is completely free. Also, you don't win football games by having out-of-shape players, so this is literally the definition of "skin in the game". Second, it's written at the level of an average player. There is a little science in there but in general, it's easy and quick to read. The advice is solid and simple.

Ten Takeaways

Since I've read the guide, I figured I'd share 10 interesting things from it that you may or may not find interesting, ordered by my thoughts around their novelty:

  • When doing reps, start with the HEAVIEST weight first. Usually, when working out, you do something like 90-100-110lbs, for example. The argument is, "if you can finish with 110 lbs, then you could have started with it and probably even more". So a good workout will start by doing the highest and work your way down.
  • Warm-ups should make you breathe a little harder and sweat at room temperature. The fitness guide recom mends to warmup: run with hurdles, since it stretches your legs and gets the heart beating. Maybe burpees are a good substitute if you can't run hurdles?
  • Drink a ton of water. In fact, every time you have a thought like "I need more energy" or "I want to cheat somehow", just drink water. You're not drinking enough.
  • Keep your protein intake around 15% and carbs around 60%. This advice is probably more specific to NFL players who are playing football for a living and need energy but it's worth noting that the highest performing athletes aren't doing crazy high protein diets.
  • For NFL players, they emphasize the "shrug" to protect player necks and backs. Here's a video of a guy doing it. I'm sure we could all benefit from better muscles and protection of our neck and spine.
  • Run fast. Like, actually go out there and try to sprint. Apparently, even NFL players avoid doing this and they run for a living.
  • Vitamins are a waste of time if your diet is good. In fact, if you're thinking about eating a vitamin, just drink some water and eat a fruit.
  • They recommend players do weight exercises in the following order: Neck, Hips and Legs, Midsection, Torso, and Arms. I imagine this is probably to discourage the guys who spend years just doing bench presses and to get them to focus on other things that actually benefit their health. Probably in general, a good heuristic, though.
  • Starvation diets are a bad idea and a bad way to lose weight since your body will just start storing more away.
  • Anyone that tries to sell you a magic diet, pill, shoe, hat, nutrition plan is full of shit. There is no easy path. Deal with it.

Near Maximal Strength

This is an exact quote from the guide that I thought was good (page 60).

Near maximum strength levels can be maintained if:

  1. You are fortunate enough to avoid serious injury.
  2. You are willing to train hard in spite of minor bumps and bruises.
  3. If you are injured you train those areas of the body that are unaffected.
  4. You enthusiastically perform meaningful, intense, and productive exercise every workout.
  5. You work hard to regain any loss in strength (due to injury, summer camp, etc.).
  6. You keep accurate records to prevent sub-maximal efforts.
  7. You develop consistent and sound eating habits for the entire season.
  8. You must avoid alcohol abuse.
  9. You get the necessary amount of sleep and rest to insure full recovery by game day.
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