‘HulkaRaider’- The Jared Veldheer Story
*This is more of a story than a typical article. Jared has been back in Oakland for OTA’s for a few weeks now. Still, so many people are asking me about his program and how he has developed. I never have enough time to explain as it’s been a process. I’m going to try and give an overview of that process now. Just remember this…we train hard, we train smart, and we are very serious about our training. We aren’t fancy. We pride ourselves on our blue-collar mentality that so many people claim to have. This is how we train and operate PowerStrength Training Systems. These are the types of athletes I prefer to work with. That being said, please read on and thank you for following along!
Eventually, everyone will recognize smart, consistent, hard work.
This is exactly what happened this off-season with Oakland Raider Left Tackle Jared Veldheer. You may have seen this picture…
This picture went viral- Yahoo, CBS, USA Today, Reddit, Bleacher Report, everywhere! It was kind of fun to watch. I read the comments on some sites. Some were creative and hilarious, while others were ridiculous and a great depiction of how poorly educated many people are about training. Let’s clear up a few random things that I noticed from the comments…
- In this picture, from left to right- Jared is 6’8 330lbs, I’m 5’11 234lbs, Cam White is 6’2 249lbs, and Jesse Peterson is 6’4 304lbs – pretty above average guys he’s standing next to if you ask me.
- You can’t literally “turn fat into muscle”. They are two separate types of tissues.
- Being big doesn’t necessarily mean you lose speed and power. Increasing muscle cross-sectional area (building more muscle) provides a larger base on which to build strength, speed and power- if that’s the purpose of your program. In our case this is exactly our purpose because NFL linemen need to have enough muscle to be strong, powerful, etc.
- Of course people screamed “steroids” but is 6’8 325-330lbs THAT big? Jared gained 15lbs in the last 3 years and he trains his ass off (read on). Why is it always the lazy skinny guys sitting in their mom’s basement with a shake weight screaming “steroids” when they see someone who obviously put in work day after day? Someone said he’s on steroids because his head is so small. I don’t know if that’s a real side effect or not but I’ve known Jared for a while and his noggin is massive! (No offense big guy). We all got a chuckle out of that ignorant comment.
- My personal favorite was being called a “camouflaged mini-me”. Next to Jared, that’s not an insult- just a funny/true statement. Other’s wanted to know if “Bro, do you even lift?”, and as a strength coach, yes…yes I do. This article isn’t about me but I’ve benched 450lbs, done 23 chin-ups, squatted 500+lbs for reps, and a whole-lotta other weird/semi-cool stuff from hanging around in a gym all day. Ok, had to get that out there because nothing annoys me more than a strength coach who is weak.
…Boy do I feel better now that I replied to some Internet troll comments….
Anyways, it seems everyone wanted to know what exactly we have been doing with Jared tucked away in our garage at PowerStrength. We just completed our winter off-season program (12-weeks, not including a couple vacations mixed in). Training is a process and in order to understand this process let’s start way back at the beginning…
I’ve known Jared since he moved to my elementary school in 4th grade. We played on every basketball and football team together growing up. We had the same group of friends and have been buddies ever since. Jared actually didn’t train much in high school but when he got to Hillsdale he made training a lifestyle as he and some of his close teammates busted-ass in the weight room. He graduated high school at 6’7 255lbs and was drafted at 6’8 315lbs.
While Jared was finishing up his college football career, I was studying everything about training with the goal of eventually opening a gym. One summer night we were all playing cards. Jared and I got to talking about training, what I had been doing, and some of the facilities he worked out at when he was searching for an agent. The conversation ended and Jared went on to have a great final college season, get drafted, and complete his rookie year.
After his rookie year the lockout began and he called me up asking if I was still serious about opening a gym. I literally was studying a business product on how to do just that when he called. The rest is history and PowerStrength will head into its third year this June.
*PowerStrength is a smaller, private facility located in an old auto garage. If you drive by you’ll see badass athletes training in the parking lot, pushing heavy sleds and any other crazy things we think of to make a better, tougher athlete. What people consider ‘strong’, ‘hardcore’, or ‘freak athlete” is typically the norm around here.
Let’s Train- Year One- 2011
During the lockout Jared started training with me- literally with me. We’d work out together as I think everyone works better with a training partner. The style of training I was doing was a little different than what he did in college but he trusted me and we trained hard.
One thing you need to remember, and people always forget, is that NFL players are football players first and foremost- not competitive weight lifters. How much they lift isn’t their main goal- getting better at football is. Does getting bigger and stronger help you become better at football? Absolutely, but you better be sure it’s good, athletic strength and weight. Jared had great combine training and dominated the combine. So if he’s already athletic how do we get him better in the gym to provide the physical tools to help him raise his football game? How do we make him more athletic if he’s already athletic?
Jared was already considered big to normal people standards but I didn’t think he was NFL-big yet. I thought he could still add plenty of size to his frame. We were going to do this by getting strong.
Yes, I just said lifting more weight isn’t the main goal of an NFL player but this was a big area that needed to improve. Jared had strong numbers in college but we hammered technique. When you’re that big you can muscle up a lot of weight but may not do it properly. This will lead to a short NFL career and a lot of standing on the sidelines with injuries. Learning great technique and loading the muscles and joints the way they were intended (on a solid, progressive program) is how you get someone truly strong without training them into an injury.
Getting this ‘true’ strength and new muscle takes time… years. Add in other athletic components that need attention, a crazy work/travel schedule, and it can be very difficult to stay consistent with your numbers. We would need at least 3 years to get him truly strong to not only accommodate his great football skill, but to improve explosive power.
So here’s what we focused on during year one…
- Proper exercise technique.
- Mobility and SMR- this always has to be a top priority. SMR stands for ‘self-myosfasical release’ and has been a huge factor in keeping him feeling good.
- Improve maximum strength- more volume at a higher intensity utilizing his new technique on all his lifts.
- Correct imbalances and weakpoints- plenty of single leg variations, hamstrings, and upper back work.
- Get explosive- Jared did Olympic lift variations in college 4x per week. His AC joint in his shoulders were always sore. We dropped this down to 1x per week (if at all, but he liked doing them) and added more jump variations for his lower body power.
- Cam Bradfield (current RT for the Jacksonville Jaguars) joined us for the last couple months of summer to prepare for training camp his rookie year. He dove right in with us and was one of three undrafted free agent’s the Jaguars kept that year. By the way, once they left for the season I personally took a couple months off of intense training. Don’t open a business and participate in an NFL lineman’s training program in the same summer- you won’t feel very good…
Training- Year Two- 2012
Jared and Cam returned after the season for 10-weeks of training and again in the summer for 5 more weeks. Now that Jared was getting more familiar with the system we had to keep gains coming. He still lacked the maximum strength I wanted him to have so we still focused on that. Like I said, we both share that blue-collar mentality. Jared had to be strong to be a ‘bully’ on the field. Here’s what we did-
- Train hard for three weeks then take a de-load week.
- Dropped all Olympic lifts. Added more jumps and throws.
- Hammered hip and thoracic mobility.
- Added more ‘chaotic’ movements to improve overall stability (push-ups on bands, recline rows with bands, exercises with suspended chains or banded KB). (‘POWER!’ and ‘Extreme’ are great DVD’s by Joe DeFranco and James Smith that we took some of these movements from).
- Did more football-based conditioning to get in top football shape (this can be difficult when the 320lb linemen you’re training have to also prepare for 300yd shuttle conditioning tests… but we got it done, i.e. conflicting training goals)
- Focused on recovery techniques.
- Emphasized the importance of in-season nutrition and maintaining weight throughout the season to help maintain strength.
Training- Year Three (Now)- 2013
Jared came off a solid season individually. His stats improved but what I liked, and I’m sure other Raiders fans liked to see, was how much stronger he was on the field (what bull-rush?) He’s a student of the game so he’s always improving his blocking techniques, footwork, and overall football IQ. He’ll tell you firsthand that if you aren’t strong and powerful enough to execute your job- you’re done. I really couldn’t wait for this off-season, as I knew this was going to be a big year. Remember, we were focused on 3 years of getting strong.
- Switched from 3 weeks on 1 week “off”, to 2-week mini-cycles with no planned de-load weeks. We rotated exercise every two weeks.
- Nutrition- ate higher quality foods, drank more water, timed his carbs better, limited fast food and chose better options at restaurants, but still ate like an NFL lineman. His fiancé is quite the chef as well…
- ‘Auto-regulated’ his workouts better. If he felt good we’d ramp it up. If he felt a little rundown we’d cut something out or replace it with a less-demanding exercise. Being able to properly auto-regulate a workout is a skill that is learned only by actually being in the gym training yourself and others.
- Big emphasis on recovery. Plenty of sleep and proper nutrition. Massage and chiropractic adjustments if needed. Jared owns Normatek leg sleeves that provide compression to flush his legs out after a tough lower body day. Spent more time performing self-myofacsial release techniques utilizing the foam roller and lacrosse ball before training and after.
- Mobility/Stability/Warming-Up- Continued to work on achieving the positions we wanted and added some resistance to these movements to create more stability in his newfound ranges of motion. Utilized some tractioning techniques as well. Spent more time warming-up every day. This is where we work on proper skills needed to train the right way but also to add athleticism to his program.
- Breathing/Core Strength- this was huge! Learning to breathe 3-dimensionally is a skill and we practiced it. Jared would get sick of me telling him to ‘belly-breathe’ or to catch breaths in awkward positions to help prevent energy leaks. Learning to breathe and properly set your brace is the first thing athletes should be taught. It provides core stability and improves core strength on every exercise.
- Got basic. We still had plenty of variety but I found myself reverting back to plenty of basic barbell and dumbbell exercises. As proficiency improved we would add volume. We also trained his main movements at a higher intensity than in the past. If we ever had to drop intensity, we’d do so on his accessory movements.
- Big back- tons of upper back and lat work.
- Glute Activation- this was made an emphasis. Got him to ‘turn his glutes on’ and fire properly.
- Lower Body Plyo’s- performed more reactive type jumps (plyometric and jump training are two different things). Seeing a 330lb lineman be light on his feet tells me the added strength and size isn’t slowing him down.
- Added an Olympic Lift variation back in 1x/week. Mainly a high pull or hang snatch variation.
- Performed more football skill work on our recovery day or on a separate day that we added some weeks.
This isn’t necessarily training related but it plays a very important role. Jared takes his training, nutrition, and recovery very seriously. At PowerStrength we pride ourselves on attention to detail and Jared is no different. He doesn’t create distractions for himself. We have zero distractions in the gym and he carries that over to life outside of the gym. His mindset is on becoming the best he can be.
Family is first and he keeps a close group of friends. He isn’t partying or spending time in bars or nightclubs. Here’s a list of what he did this winter while he was back home in Grand Rapids- he did this solely because he wanted to and not for appearance fees or any of that entitled B.S…
- We helped organize a fundraiser where Jared was a celebrity bartender. This helped raise over $3,000 for a memorial scholarship fund for a high school friend of ours.
- Combined, he spoke to over 1,000 middle school students from 6 different middle schools.
- Read books to a couple elementary school classes.
- Drove an hour to speak to a company of Marine Corp Recruits during one of their mandatory training workouts.
- Spoke at one of our PowerLead meetings we have at PowerStrength for our athletes.
I don’t know why this type of focus is so uncommon these days but I don’t care. Those who do it the right way will be successful and will stay successful. The best thing is that Jared is pretty much the same guy he was back in high school- just a lot bigger, stronger, powerful, focused….
The Training Results
- New Box Squat PR
- New Bench PR
- New Chin-up PR (yes, when you’re strong you can do chin-ups no matter how much you weigh)
- New Vertical Jump PR
- Improved lean body mass and still weighed his heaviest bodyweight
- Dropped his body fat percentage
- Dominated his OTA conditioning test
- Increased mobility, improved stability, and increased flexibility
- Feels great
Keep it basic, trust your core values, and do the little things that add up to make a huge impact. This is the recipe for training/athletic success but also for life success. None of the above info is groundbreaking. We simply fit a program around his specific needs and continue to adapt as his playing and training career progress. If Jared couldn’t play football anymore he’d still be successful and lead an impactful life. But since he still is, we’ll continue to train our asses off in our garage, get really good at pushing people around on the field, and show everyone what the HulkaRaider is all about.
To anyone who thinks we’re going to slow down- my only response to you would be, “complacency kills”.
Thanks for reading.
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