Category Archives: Dwight Freeney

The Dwight Freeney Workout: An Inside Look

This is the story of two men.

One man: Adam Bornstein (left), the fitness editor forMen’s Health, stands 5’8″ and weights about 175. The other: Dwight Freeney (the big one), a 6’1″ 270-pound, Pro Bowl defensive end and all-time sack leader for the Indianapolis Colts. It’s Born vs. Freeney.

One man has been called short, scrappy, and was voted most likely to sell his soul for protein powder and carton of eggs (yeah, that’s me). The other is known as one of the most-feared football players in the NFL and in 2007 signed what was then the highest contract ever for a defensive player. This slideshow is a snapshot of approximately 2 hours of training together. 


Freeney Prepares for the Workout

It’s time to meet the cast; let’s start with the star. The one, the only, Dwight Freeney. (Say cheese!)

Meet the Trainer

And now the man behind the curtain: The trainer, Ryan Capretta, C.S.C.S.

The Warmup

Let’s get to work. The day started with a drive to the Santa Monica Mountains and what Capretta called a light jog (translation: We ran a mountain).

Training for Speed

Then we progressed from a jog to a sprint. But might I add we did it tied to a 100-pound tire. I took the term “eat my dust” to heart. I think I can still taste the sand. 

The Fitness Editor Works His Core

Enough with the running. Here’s my take at some rotational strength. I thought I looked like I’m in decent shape. But that was before I saw the next picture. 

Train Your Rotational Core

And here’s Dwight doing the same exercise. I think it’s safe to say that he looks like a pro football player and I don’t. Oh yeah: He also tossed the tire about 30 feet farther than I did.
Freeney focuses on lifting the tire

Freeney Focuses on Lifting the Tire

Dwight prepares to flip a 200-pound tire, which might be how much his right arm weighs.

200 Pounds of Rubber Meets 175 Pounds of Editor

Here I am flipping the tire. And yes, with a little bit of effort I made this happen 10 times.

Freeney Flexes His Muscles

Want to try something you won’t typically see in a gym? Grab a sledgehammer, step on a tire, and slam away. That sledgehammer is much heavier than it looks. And Dwight’s even bigger than he looks, too.
Even professionals feel fatigue

Even Professionals Feel Fatigue

The end result: 270 pounds of exhaustion.
Sledgehammer 101

Sledgehammer 101

Time for the little man to give it a try.

The NFL-Version of Core Training

I wasn’t as forceful or as fast, but I left feeling like I should have been a lumberjack (or something like that).

Freeney vs. the Tire

Now it’s on to dragging 200 pounds up a hill. Yes, I said 200 pounds. (Fear level: 3.0 out of 10.)

Ready . . . Set . . .

Something tells me this is a familiar position for Mr. Freeney.


I can’t lie: He moves as if he were shot out of a cannon—speed, quickness, and power. All that was missing was his vicious spin move.

The Editor Prepares to Face the Hill

It’s time for me to get suited up in the harness and give the hill a try. Keep in mind, the tire weighs more than me.

Moving in Slow Motion

No fear and absolutely no speed. I’ll admit that I was slow. But, I made it up to the top each time. You just keep pumping your legs.

The End of the Outdoor Course

So we finish the outdoor course and pose to celebrate our victory. But wait. What’s that? Ah yes, that was only half of our workout. Let’s head indoors.

Time for the Gym

Dwight wanted to show me a little device he uses called the ARP Wave. It sends electrical currents through your muscles. We used it while performing exercises. Just imagine having your muscle contract as hard as possible, and then being forced to do exercises. As I would soon find out, this was not so much fun.

Inside the NFL Lab

We’re strapped up to the machine and ready to go. Before we began, Capretta tells me, “Have you ever seen theGreen Mile and the electric chair scene? That’s what this is like.” (Fear level: 7.5)

Partner Training

Squats as the currents are running through my quads. I won’t even tell you how hard it was to walk with the machine on.

Freeney: NFL Star or Mad Scientist?

Triple threat: Squats plus the ARP Wave and manual resistance provided by Capretta. Bring it!

Meet the Forgotten Muscle: Your Hamstrings

Dwight decides I’m not feeling the ARP enough. Time to crank up the amplitude of the current.

Thanks, Freeney

We’re preparing for hamstring exercises. Dwight told me I have very athletic legs. Honestly. To be exact, he told me, “I can tell you’re an athlete.” Who am I to argue with Mr. Freeney? And if you have a problem with it, I’m guessing you can take it up with him. 

The Benefits of Working Your Legs

Dwight’s legs = six of mine. They’re HUGE. 

Swiss-Ball Hip Raise and Curl

Let’s not forget Swiss-ball hip extensions and leg curls. For those who think this isn’t a “man’s exercise,” think again. Just make sure you keep those hips up.

Pain Without Weights

Let’s not forget Swiss-ball hip extensions and leg curls. For those who think this isn’t a “man’s exercise,” think again. Just make sure you keep those hips up.

Performance Tip #1: Stay Hydrated

Let’s now pause for station identification, Dwight’s replenishing of lost fluids, and my preparation for the most torturous part of the day.

Shock Therapy

So we hooked the machine up to my biceps. I really had no idea how awkward this was about to get. The electrical current began flowing through my muscles. They tingled and tensed up.

The Man Behind the Pain

And then weird stuff started happening as Dwight turned the amplitude to its max. Look at my wrists (especially the right). That’s involuntary movement and it’s starting to crush me.

ARP Wave > MH Fitness Editor

Possessed! I couldn’t make that face again if I tried. I felt like I was being attacked by 100 stun guns (just work with me). It was a different experience, that’s for sure. If I had to explain the sensation, I would have said my biceps felt like they were about to explode through my skin and my traps were going to pop through my ears. (Fear level: 21.6 out of 10.)


Finally on to some regular movements. Here’s Dwight with some shoulder warmups.

Manual Resistance for Your Shoulders

Manual-resistance lateral raises. This is much tougher than it looks. Grab a partner and give it a try.

Master the Pushup Shuffle

Dwight gives new meaning to a game of shuffleboard. This is the exercise version. Go back and forth through the gauntlet.

More Pushup Shuffle

Now here’s something I can actually do.

Knowledge = Power (and Strength)

Believe it or not, that was the warmup. Why did we need a warmup after all that time outdoors? Because Freeney is a pro (and quite possibly a machine). Here I am discussing the madness with the creator of the program, Ryan Capretta.

Build a Bigger Chest

Bench time! We did 15 rep sets with 4-second negatives. Fun stuff and different than what I’m used to. I’d recommend giving it a try to increase the difficulty of the exercise. 

Bench Like a Pro

Yeah—Dwight used much bigger weights than me. I’m sure you’re shocked.

Chain Pushups

Chain-loaded pushups. Why not throw 90 extra pounds on your back and keep on going until you can’t move? Now I know what it’s like to be as heavy as Dwight. 

Heart of a Champion

I’m still going. I honestly thought that this was the one exercise that I could maybe challenge Dwight on. I finished with 22, and in my defense, it was after all of our bench-press work. But I was proud.

360-Pound Pushups

Now it’s Dwight’s turn. He started slow, and I was feeling pretty confident . . .

Training Till Failure

But he owned me (and then the chains crushed him). Dwight ripped off 40 reps. Wow. I was about ready to throw in the towel.

Nice Rack

But not quite yet. We’re in California, which means you have to impress the ladies. And there’s really only one way to do that . . .

Real NFL Muscle

With two tickets to the gun show. Time for a little vanity work with dumbbell curls. Did I mention Dwight is strong?

The Motivation of Healthy Competition

Dwight finished before me and started mocking the size of my arms.

Every Man Loves to Curl

Yes, Dwight. Your biceps are much larger than mine. I get it.

Victory Photo

And finally it’s over. It was an eye-opening look at the intensity and commitment of a pro athlete in the heat of off-season conditioning (and the beginning of 6 days of soreness).

But you don’t need truck tires and 90-pound chains to reap similar rewards. Click here for a modified version of Freeney’s routine that you can do at any gym.


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