Some people are blessed with natural talent and they can get away with certain aspects of playing competitive sports. Take for instance, weight training and football, which normally go hand-in-hand. But there are a few select that can get it done on the gridiron even when they don’t have to in the gym.
But eventually, even those who are so gifted come to the realization that weight training is a must if you have aspirations of playing America’s Game for the long haul.
“I was a late bloomer with the weights,” says cornerback Ike Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steelers. “I really didn’t work out until my sophomore year in college.”
One would never guess that by watching the 10-year NFL veteran, but Taylor never looked back once he began hitting the barbells and dumbbells at Louisiana-Lafayette University. “When I left college, I was shredded as a turkey at 195 pounds.”
TAKING THE NEXT STEP
A fourth round pick (125th overall) at the 2003 NFL Draft, Taylor has made the Steelers look awfully smart by tabbing him earlier than expected following an impressive NFL Combine. Running a 4.18 40-yard dash will certainly get you noticed.
But success did take some time, as Taylor needed to hone his skills on the field and in the weight room. “You don’t have to be big to play corner back,” he commented. “I found that out in my first two years (in the league).”
WINNING TWO SUPER BOWL RINGS
Playing mostly on special teams during the 2003 and 2004 campaigns, Taylor bided his time until joining the starting line-up the following season. Starting 15 regular season and all four playoff games, the now 32-year-old became a household name and was crucial with seven tackles and an interception in the Steelers’ 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
Since then, he has been a steady component of a team that thinks ‘defense first’ and earned another Super Bowl ring in 2009. Maintaining his conditioning has surely played a big part in the 6’2″, (and still) 195-pound Taylor’s longevity in a league where many come and go after a few seasons.
“As a human, period, we look at the outside appearance, but you need your core to be strong,” Taylor says. “”If it isn’t strong, it will get worse the older you get.”
CORNERBACK IS DIFFERENT FROM THE DEFENSIVE LINE
By performing position-specific drills, Taylor ensures that his body will get the preparation it needs to perform at a high level every Sunday, especially when he needs to go one-on-one with some of the top wide receivers out there.
“When you play corner, there’s a lot of twisting and turning,” he explains, “so I make sure to do exercises that include one-leg plant offs, one-leg and one-arm movements and a lot of abs.
“I also run every day and will lift weights (at least) three days a week according to my position.”
Taylor trains with Coach Tom Shaw in Orlando, Florida and does outdoor running of both the distance and sprinting variety. And his weight lifting is not based around putting on size and total strength like one of the 300-pound linemen would do.
“I don’t want to get bigger,” Taylor says matter-of-factly. “And I make sure to stretch and flex a lot, too.” Taylor’s weekly regimen is so effective that he performs the same one year round – in the offseason and during the playing months, too.
EAT AND SLEEP
To get the most benefit from his workouts, Taylor also knows that things can go awry if a healthy diet and proper rest are not included in the program.
“I stay away from fried foods and eat lots of fish,” he says. “I eat steak only once or twice a month and have a clean diet. But the main thing is sleeping. I go to bed around 9:30 or 10:00 pm and wake up no later than 6:30 in the morning. I always get eight or more hours of sleep every night.”
When the NFL Players Association was able to get the league to lessen the workload during training camp, many of the players rejoiced that they wouldn’t have to work as hard doing two-a-days under the sweltering summer sun. But not Taylor, who believes that a common problem is the direct result of that mandate.
“Training camp is not what it used to be,” he says. “When I first came into the league, you had to hit twice a day in full pads. It‘s a breeze now compared to that.
“You see more concussions now more than ever,” he concluded. “These guys are not getting the hits in during camp and they don’t know how to hit properly or how to protect yourself. By the time the regular season starts, it’s too late by then.”
Words of wisdom from a man that knows a thing or two about getting ready for the weekly war that takes place between the yard markers.
Be sure to follow Ike Taylor on Twitter – @Ike_SwagginU
Photo by Eric Schwabel, Courtesy of EAG Sports Management