Christian McCaffrey is the definition of a workhorse. Since drafting in the first round in 2017, the All-Pro running back has been a versatile offensive threat for the Carolina Panthers. Playing every single game for his first three years in the league, he became the fastest RB in NFL history to reach 3,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards. Now, coming off a somewhat injury-slow season, McCaffrey is doing everything he can to return to full potential as a weapon for the franchise.
“I love working out and my mind is constantly trying to get me on the field or in the weight room,” says McCaffrey. But growing as a career player means taking a day off and learning to recharge the battery when needed. “My workouts have always been intense and I’ve learned, in some instances the hard way, that your commitment to recovery has to be just as rigorous.”
men’s magazine McCaffrey to discuss lessons learned, breaking league records, and working underwater with Laird Hamilton.
Men’s magazine: Can you tell what kind of energy you bring to your physical preparation and recovery for football season?
Christian McCaffrey: I am obsessed when it comes to my training and recovery. That’s because I know it’s a percentage gain or correction that’s going to make a difference in the end. That’s the lead that can run for eight yards and turn it into a touchdown. I want to go the distance every time. As someone who has struggled with injuries over the past two years, I need to do everything possible to get back as soon as possible. Of course, some of those failures could not be prevented. It’s football and it’s part of the dance. But it’s about addressing what you can and can’t leave the rest to fate. I’m putting myself in the best position I can be successful – when the technology I’m using is at the cutting edge.
What kind of technology are you using?
i will use hyperis hypervolt [massage gun] Whatever I’m kicking around, just to get a little tune-up before the game; They are all great. During sports, if I feel something coming to my muscle or breaking it, I’ll use it to help. I have my own on the edge. The trainers hold it for me and no one else is allowed to touch it. I have those game days where I’m getting 35 to 40 touches, and I know how my body feels after such a gauntlet. The pain is serious. Every little element that’s going to get you back in shape for the next play is inevitable. after a game i’ll sit with normtech [compression sleeves] Really helping my feet recover.
Can you tell more about the physical toll? How does it feel after the game with the NFL running back?
It has a few different levels. On Sunday I feel invincible on the field. I am a punisher That’s how I’ve always been in sports. I have a different personality when I step on the field, and that’s why I love the game so much. My body pumps so much adrenaline when I play, I don’t really understand how much damage my body has taken until the next day. And, in some cases, over the next few days. There’s no denying that it’s an incredibly physical sport, and it’s important to work hard to prepare yourself for it.
However, recovery is a bit different, as the conditions in the games are never the same. The movement is always different, whether you’re jumping over someone or running through them. There’s no way to predict where you’re going to get hit or how severe it will be. There is no check list of what you are going to retain, so the recovery plan is constantly changing. Knowing the complete anatomy of the body—muscles, joints, tendons, and tissue—is almost a job requirement. You have to become a student of your own physical self. I have found great joy and satisfaction in doing that work and learning every day. I wouldn’t call myself an expert just yet, but I’ve really started to pay attention to what works for me and what doesn’t.
There are many great highlight reels of your career on the internet. Do you have one that you are particularly proud of?
Obviously there are some that I am proud of. One of the games played against Jacksonville was noticed by people the most. Everyone says that I jumped on top of a man. I started and then flipped over a defensive player. I think it was the first drive in the game, and an exciting drive from the start made it one that people like to focus on. To me it’s not just about the highlights, it’s also about those two- or three-yard runs that get us very close to scoring, especially when it looks like you’re going to end up in the backfield or something. Even with no. Big plays do come, but only if you’re putting in that effort relentlessly. Only then do you get opportunities that you can capitalize on. And it also comes down to plays that no one sees, like pass protection pick ups where I’m able to afford my quarterback a few more moments to get the ball where it needs to go.
You have created a lot of franchise and league records. Do any of them stand out as achievements to you?
I don’t care what a player says. Everyone knows their stats. Getting the 1,000-1,000 feat, the 1,000-yard run and the 1,000-yard run was a big achievement for me. Joining a very small group of players that included Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig was very special. I idolized the people who were coming up. But football is the biggest team sport in the world, and when it comes to statistics, no achievements are made by just one person. There are so many great teammates, coaches, and employees that go into achieving something like this. So it is important that I share all those victories with the team.
What does your training off the field look like these days?
I’ve really fallen in love with the weight room, the track, and all kinds of training methods. Growing up, I played three or more sports at any one time, including football, basketball, baseball, and track, so I learned early on the importance of diversifying your training. I am lucky to have very nice people around me. I’ve worked with a lot of great coaches over the years, including my high school track coach, Brian Cula, who has been great to develop with. I have spent a lot of time with him. When it comes to body work I have about five or six people I work with. I love working with different people all the time, as it takes me out of any comfort zone and challenges me to train on new things. I want to continue to learn and grow, testing new elements with people like Willie Gault and Olympians like Gil Roberts. I find it quite simple. do i want to be fast? Well I should train with people who are faster than me. do i want to grow up? I need to be raised with people who lift more than me.
I keep my races separate from the track or field. That’s where I need to be comfortable with my game. I’ll work a little gymnastics into my routine to address that full body movement. I want to be strong at all angles and be able to get into different positions. I do the same through Pilates. I am enjoying training in the pool as well. I love it because I’m learning and working in new ways that make recovery even easier. I have just started working with Laird Hamilton. Laird and his wife, Gabby, are some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. To be able to learn from someone like him and listen to someone who has that kind of life experience is such a gift. This is another example of being around people who are the best at their jobs. And when I go over there to train in the pool, they kick my ass every single time.
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