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Learn How to Get Ripped Like Your NFL Career Depends on It.

By Ken “Skip” Hill

Four years ago I started working with NFL defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy. At that time he was just arriving in Denver to play under Mike Shanahan after being traded from the St. Louis Rams, where he was drafted in the first round out of Penn State. Jimmy contacted me to work with him and keep him focused during his offseason so he could continue training hard and keep his bodyweight under control. I also worked with him during the season to structure his nutrition while he traveled and to make sure he was under his playing weight every week. For those who don’t know, most linemen have to make weight every week. If they don’t make weigh in, they can be fined or they can miss out on weigh-in bonuses built into their contracts. Believe me when I say that these bonuses are the equivalent of some people’s salaries for three months — we aren’t talking chump change here. So it’s crucial that they make weight every week.

This past spring Jimmy was coming off of a knee injury, and as the last season came to a close he’d been playing less and less. His weight started to become an issue, and when the season was over we knew that getting him ready for the 2011 season would be plenty of work. When he arrived at my house, it was clear we had two main issues: His knee had a very limited range of motion, and his weight was almost 360 pounds. Nothing like a couple of minor challenges to start the year off right. We had to get to work and fast.

Jimmy

The plan for the knee was going to be a very slow and patient process. First we’d work on increasing the range of motion, and then we’d focus on the strength of the knee and its surrounding musculature. We primarily focused on very light resistance through a full range of motion with no emphasis on strength, and the weight progression was minimal. After almost eight weeks of this type of leg training, we were able to start adding resistance slowly over another eight to 10 weeks.

The approach to the nutritional plan was going to be a bit more complicated in that I needed to be sure Jimmy had the energy to weight train and to cardio and field work while having enough of a deficit in calories to cut bodyfat. We wanted to get his playing weight down to around 310 pounds. I thought we could get to 300 pounds if we needed to, but we stuck with the goal of 310. Bottom line? We had to pull about 50 pounds off of him without him losing any strength or energy. Given Jimmy’s work ethic, I had no doubt that he could handle the challenge. I just had to make sure he had a solid plan in place.

I decided to create a plan that would incorporate caloric cycling with three different phases. The first phase would be the higher calorie plan with higher carbs and a higher fat intake. The second phase would drop the carbohydrates other than a relatively small amount post-workout. The third phase entailed dropping all carbohydrates other than vegetables, and it would eliminate any added dietary fat other than what was in protein sources. We would take these three phases and come up with a sequence for each week depending on the prior week’s progress. Below are the diets we used.

Diet #1

Meal 1

  • 14 eggs but only 2 yolks
  • 3 oz. 96% lean ground beef
  • Vegetables (mushrooms, green vegetables, peppers, etc.)
  • 1 cup brown rice or 8 oz. sweet potato (uncooked weight), or 3/4 cup oatmeal and 1/2 cup blueberries

Meal 2

  • 10 oz. chicken breast (precooked weight)
  • Vegetables
  • 1 tbsp. olive or canola oil (to cook the chicken and vegetables in)
  • 1 cup brown rice or 8 oz. sweet potato uncooked weight, or 3/4 cup oatmeal and 1/2 cup blueberries

Meal 3

  • 8 oz. salmon
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • Vegetables

Train

Post Workout

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • Protein shake

Meal 5

  • 10 oz. chicken breast
  • 1 cup brown rice or 8 oz. sweet potato (uncooked weight), or 3/4 cup oatmeal and 1/2 cup blueberries
  • Vegetables

Meal 6

  • Protein shake
  • 1 oz. nuts

On non-training days simply replace the post-workout drink with a meal that’s exactly the same as meal 5.

Diet #2 (No Carbs Other Than Post Workout)

Meal 1

  • 14 eggs but only 2 yolks
  • 3 oz. 96% lean ground beef
  • Vegetables (mushrooms, green vegetables, peppers, etc.)

Meal 2

  • 10 oz. chicken breast (precooked weight)
  • Vegetables
  • 1 tbsp. olive or canola oil (to cook the chicken and vegetables in)

Meal 3

  • 8 oz. salmon
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • Vegetables

Train

Post Workout

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • Protein shake or solid protein source

Meal 5

  • 10 oz. chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • Vegetables

Meal 6

  • Protein shake
  • 1 oz. nuts

Diet #3 (No carbs and No Fat)

Meal 1

  • 14 egg whites
  • 3 oz. 96% lean ground beef
  • Vegetables (mushrooms, green vegetables, peppers, etc.)

Meal 2

  • 10 oz. chicken breast (precooked weight)
  • Vegetables

Meal 3

  • 8 oz. salmon
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • Vegetables

Train

  • Post Workout
  • Protein shake

Meal 5

  • 10 oz. chicken breast
  • Vegetables

Meal 6

  • Protein shake

On non-training days simply replace the post-workout shake with a protein drink with no fat or carbs.

Every week we would decide whether the sequence would stay the same or if it would have to be changed for continued progress. An example of a sequence would be:

  • Monday: Diet #3
  • Tuesday: Diet #2
  • Wednesday: Diet #1
  • Thursday: Diet #3
  • Friday: Diet #2
  • Saturday: Diet #1
  • Sunday: Skipload. In this sequence, Monday would be diet

The “Skipload” day (Sunday) entailed eating large amounts of processed carbohydrates that are low in fat to refill glycogen reserves and to throw off the metabolism by revving it up only to see calories taken back down the following day.

JimmyThe NFL lockout ended up giving us some extra time to get his knee healthy and get Jimmy’s weight down enough to be quick but maintain size and power. Our plan was highly successful. His knee was the healthiest it’s been in years, and his weight held consistently between 303 and 306 pounds. Even if you’re not a Giants fan, pay attention to number 73 and you’ll see him having one of the better seasons he’s had in a while. There aren’t many defensive tackles in the condition that Jimmy is in right now. Hopefully, his knee will continue to remain healthy and he will remain injury free. There’s nothing I’d like to see more than New York City during the playoffs.

The Skipper

 

Ken “Skip” Hill has spent 30 years in the trenches of bodybuilding. He owns TEAM SKIP Nutritional Consulting, where he specializes in conditioning for bodybuilders and high-level athletes. You can reach Skip through his website, TEAMSKIP.net and follow him on Twitter (@IntenseMuscle).

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