Michael Thomas is a weapon.
From the moment he entered the NFL in 2016, the New Orleans Saints star has decimated defenses. He became the fastest player in league history to collect 200 (then 300) career receptions. He ingrained himself in Saints’ lore, setting franchise records for receiving yards and receptions both in a single game and a single season. And after a year when he led the NFL in receptions and secured All-Pro honors, he’s spending this offseason building himself into something even greater.
“(I’ve just tried to) enhance my weaknesses, watch a lot of film, study a lot of things. See where I could’ve extended plays or did more with the opportunities I had,” Thomas told STACK. “I’ve had success doing what I’ve been doing the past three seasons in the NFL, but (I’m) definitely staying disciplined and enhancing my weaknesses…I feel like you’re always going to find ways to get better.”
But exactly how is Thomas training to do that? Well, that’s mostly classified. Thomas is notoriously secretive about his workouts, rarely posting such clips on social media. “A lot of guys now, they post videos on the internet where they show their workouts and they try to do all this cool stuff for the internet. I’m more like I want to see if that work really pays off in the fall and (if I’m) adding value to my team,” Thomas says. As for the names of his trainers? Top secret. “The trainers I train with, they’re pretty private,” says Thomas.
But we did get Thomas to divulge one major focus of these clandestine workouts with his mysterious trainers—speed. Specifically, obtaining more of it. Middling speed was one of the few legitimate knocks on Thomas as a prospect coming out of Ohio State, and it’s one reason he fell to the Saints in the middle of the second round. Ever since, he’s been obsessed with addressing it.
“Speed is very important in this league and the more speed you can create, the easier your life is on Sundays,” says Thomas, who believes he’s “for sure” faster today than he was when he first entered the NFL.
“I knew that was one of the things people criticized me about and I took notes on that and I knew I could control what I could control—(but) I only had so much time to do it. I got to work and I’ve been improving. I try to do little things every day to improve…Even If I’m (only) improving half of a precent, I’m always trying to get faster.”
Similar to NFL running back Christian McCaffrey, Thomas says track workouts now play a major role in his routine. “Doing a lot of track stuff—I’ve definitely been emphasizing track workouts in my routine as much as possible. You can’t go wrong with that,” Thomas says. “The track sessions will look like a lot of different varieties of sprints, different running drills, distance. Then it’s all about the recovery break in-between each distance that you run…Pretty much the basic stuff of training like a sprinter.”
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Recovery is the name of the game when developing top-end speed. Traditionally, football players have a bad habit of turning what are supposed to be speed workouts into conditioning workouts by overdoing the volume and not allowing themselves enough recovery between reps. The late Canadian sprint coach Charlie Francis advocated running at above 95% of your best performance to develop speed, believing that anything less than 95% of your max is too slow to get faster. When your body doesn’t have time to adequately recover between reps, your sprints get slower and you start working more on conditioning or speed endurance than true max speed.
Inside the weight room, Thomas is after explosiveness. “Doing a lot of explosive work, that translates a ton to the field during the season. Building up your hamstrings, your hamstrings translate to a lot of speed—I do a lot of hamstring work that translates to speed on the field,” Thomas says. “You have to build up that power in your legs.”
He supplements his training with extensive body work, an approach partially inspired by the incredible longevity of his ageless wonder teammate Drew Brees. “I feel like a lot of people forget about getting body work—massages, sauna, ice tub, hot tub, pre-hab stuff, doing all that stuff is really important,” Thomas says.
“When you get drafted to a team like the New Orleans Saints or a team in the NFL, the best thing for you to do is find the guys that do it right and the guys that have done it for a long time at a high level. I watched Drew a lot and he kept me honest. I saw the things he did were working and I kinda just followed suit and took his lead.”
When it comes to gear, Thomas has been relying heavily on the Jordan React Havoc during his workouts.
Slated to be available for sale this August, the React Havoc is built for team sport athletes who run, be it sprints or multi-mile treks, during much of their training. A Zoom Air unit in the forefoot assists in explosive actions while a TPU heel cup locks the foot down for enhanced stability.
“I think this shoe is definitely going to be a tool for a lot of guys that like to run,” Thomas says. “It’s great, extremely comfortable. I feel really good traction on different surfaces—stairs, track, turf. I’m excited for it to launch.”
Photo Credit: Jordan Brand