When FitnessRX For Men ran a feature on Mark Herzlich in the July 2012 issue, the New York Giants linebacker was coming off an injury-shortened rookie season and was forced to watch his team celebrate winning Super Bowl XLVI from the sideline.
“To be there and not play is something that will be kicking me in the butt for the rest of my career,” he said at the time. “No matter how long it takes, it will be a goal of mine to actually play in the Super Bowl.”
Things were just beginning to come together for the Boston College product in 2011 when he broke his right ankle in Week 12. He had made the 53-man roster after being signed as an undrafted free agent, due to the questions surrounding his health after surviving Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in his left leg. Herzlich had proved himself to head coach Tom Coughlin and was making his second start that night in New Orleans when he was injured.
Fast forward to the present and Herzlich, now 25 years old, is listed as one of the starters on the depth chart. In 2012, he remained healthy and played in all 16 games, but once again made only two starts. The Giants had an off year and missed the playoffs. But now they are looking to get back into the dance and will have a better defense if Herzlich is on the first team.
To get himself prepared for the normal rigors of training camp, as well as the battle for a spot with the top 11 on the defensive side of the ball, Herzlich’s training and diet plans are key. During the off-season, Herzlich trains alone five days a week with the following breakdown:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday – one hour in the gym, full-body workout with light cardio
Tuesday, Thursday – one hour in the gym, heavy cardio with light training (biceps, neck, abs, etc.)
As far as the set breakdown, Herzlich varies that from day to day and will go by how he feels upon arrival at the gym. “For example, I may do five sets of 10 reps each for my chest routine, four sets of 10 reps on back and then three sets of 10 reps for arms,” he said.
In season, Herzlich hits the weights three days a week, along with his teammates. Together, they begin their day in the gym with a weekly schedule such as:
Monday, Wednesday – full-body workout
Friday – “beach body” workout (chest, arms, shoulders)
“The bigger guys like the lineman, linebackers, tight ends, fullbacks— we’re in the weight room before taking the practice field those three days,” said Herzlich. “The skill position players like quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs are in there twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday).”
The type of training done differs from that of a bodybuilder and is geared more towards explosiveness. “It’s a lot more cardio or CrossFit-based,” Herzlich quipped. “There’s not a whole lot of isolation movements, instead more functional exercises in terms of lunge walks, running, treadmill, cleans and some bench maxes for strength.”
As far as diet is concerned, Herzlich has the luxury of a team nutritionist who labels everything in the cafeteria at the Giants’ facilities. “It’s very generic— green dot, yellow dot, red dot,” he said. “But it tells you what to stay away from and what to go towards.”
While not adhering to a strict macronutrient breakdown, Herzlich tries to eat approximately the same amount of proteins and carbs year round. He will raise the portions on both during the rigors of the football season because more calories are being burnt during daily practice and weekly games.
“The toughest part for me is to try to eat constantly throughout the day,” Herzlich said. “I bring snacks to meetings and do whatever I have to in order to keep that metabolic balance going so my insulin levels stay relatively the same. There’s no dip or rise on the hunger, so I can sustain that energy even when I get off the practice field.”
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Photos by Rich Gomez