Christian McCaffrey has been an absolute workhorse during his short time in the NFL. He’s one of the best running backs in the game today and overall athletes. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he is a beast in the gym. Let’s take a look at what the Christian McCaffrey workout plan looks like.
McCaffrey attended Stanford University from 2014-2016, totaling over 5,000 yards from scrimmage, 3,922 of which were rushing.
His breakout year was his sophomore season in 2015 when he rushed for over 2,000 yards in just 14 games. McCaffrey led Stanford to a victory at the Rose Bowl to cap off a 12-2 season for the Cardinals.
After another productive Junior season and being named to the All-Pac-12 first team, McCaffrey declared for the NFL draft.
Drafted 8th overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2017 NFL draft, McCaffrey has been a stud all three seasons. He’s rushed for 1,000 yards and posted 800 yards rushing in each of the last two seasons.
In the 2019 season, Christian posted 1,387 rushing yards combined with 1,005 receiving yards. His performance placed him third in NFL Offensive Player of the Year voting and a spot in the Pro Bowl. McCaffrey broke the record for most receptions in an NFL season by a running back with 116. This proves that this guy isn’t just a threat on the ground.
Christian McCaffrey Workout
Like Saquon Barkley’s routine, McCaffrey trains for speed and power which he defines as the two most important attributes for a running back. He spends his offseason trying to improve those two parts of his game while staying at a weight that fits his game best, which is about 210 pounds.
No need to overbulk in his opinion. Speed is more lethal. His trainer, Brian Kula, says the objective is to enhance his “mass-specific force”. They’ve identified the ideal weight for McCaffrey to play at, now they just focus on the force output.
“At his ideal playing weight, how much force can we produce to get that body to move as fast as it can possibly go?”
– Brian Kula, McCaffrey’s trainer
The Christian McCaffrey workout regime consists of a five-day cycle operating Monday through Friday. This generally includes three intensive lifting workouts, one football-specific movement workout, and an active recovery day. So, his schedule will look something like this:
Monday: Heavy Lifting
Tuesday: Heavy Lifting
Wednesday: Active Recovery Day
Thursday: Heavy Lifting
Friday: Speed, Football-Specific
Intensive Lifting Days
Prior to every intense workout session, McCaffrey will start off with dynamic warm-up routines that focus on linear and lateral movements. This is to promote improvement in his lateral and linear speed and power movements while on the football field.
Related: Aaron Donald Workout
When lifting for power, which is a specific goal for McCaffrey, the repetitions remain low. We’re talking in the range of 2-5 reps. This is to maximize his force output and limit his time under tension, which is important for keeping him fresh and reducing soreness.
Lifting for Power
If Christian were to work in a higher rep range, he would promote hypertrophy (muscle growth) instead of power, as well as increase the chance of soreness which could affect his on-field performance when it comes time for the NFL season.
McCaffrey focuses on heavy, core exercises for his power movements and cites the trap-bar deadlift as the most important. He can pull over 550 pounds for three reps! No wonders he’s jacked and can also run like the wind.
An interesting aspect of his power workouts is that each core exercise is paired with a plyometric movement. This is based on the post-activation potentiation effect, which is a phenomenon that shows an increase in force output when a heavy resistance exercise precedes a high-velocity movement.
For example, McCaffrey will do heavy sets of squats and then follow it up with sets of box jumps. Or deadlifts followed by sprints. The goal of this is to have a more forceful muscular contraction during the second exercise than you would without performing the first exercise prior to it.
Christian McCaffrey Sprint Workout
As previously mentioned, McCaffrey focuses on speed and conditioning training at least once a week with the goal of keeping his mechanics keen. Instead of doing endless sprints like he used to, Christian focuses on a more football-related approach.
McCaffrey mimics a two-minute drill and runs routes every 10-15 yards as he simulates marching down the field. He’ll then walk back and repeat the drill a few times. This is a big part of his conditioning but it’s also a way to keep his program sport specific.
Related: DK Metcalf Workout
He doesn’t need to be able to sprint the entire length of the field ten straight times in a game. Overdoing it just wears him out and he’s even said he’s felt himself “getting slower” when he used to run an unnecessary amount for his conditioning.
Active Recovery Days
Another big part of the McCaffrey’s workout schedule is the active recovery day. This usually falls mid-week and cuts up the heavy lifting into smaller bunches to give his body a break. Most of these days will consist of massage and chiropractic work to help heal his body after it being broken down almost every other day.
But it’s not a day of nothing, hence the active in active recovery. McCaffrey has also been known to do pool workouts and lots and lots of stretching.
Diet and Nutrition
Finally, McCaffrey is a big routine person if you couldn’t tell already. I mean he wouldn’t be as successful as he is when it comes to his training if he wasn’t. That’s why he puts extra focus on his nutrition. The key to his nutrition? Similar to Tom Brady’s nutrition plan – the right foods and sleep.
Christian hired a chef, who used results from the NFL player’s bloodwork, to construct the most efficient diet to keep him at his performance peak. McCaffrey first had to cut out foods that his body was sensitive to like chicken, tuna, wheat, and soy. Here is a typical day of eating for the Panthers running back:
Breakfast: Egg Yolks, sweet potato hash, fruit, oats
Lunch: Bison chile, potatoes, vegetables
Dinner: Steak, sweet potatoes, avocado
In addition to eating right, McCaffrey tries to get at least eight hours of sleep every night plus an additional nap after lunch. This gives his body plenty of time to rest with his intense workout schedule.