J.J. Watt is ready to return to the NFL with a vengeance.
After back surgery sidelined him for almost all of the 2016 season, Watt is back in good health and ready to return to his dominant ways. According to Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien, the 2017 version of Watt may be his most terrifying form yet.
"The guy's going to be at the top of his game," O'Brien told the MMQB. "He's had a great training camp. I think he'll be better than he was."
That's strong praise considering that Watt has already won three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards to date. One reason O'Brien might be right? Watt made some key changes to his offseason training that could help him be both more durable and more effective. Most notably, he cut back on the type of high-load exercises that can wear on your body in favor of an increased amount of core-centric training.
"In the offseason, I transferred the tire-flipping and the 700-pound Back Squats into different exercises. Now I'm doing 14 different core exercises. It's not any less time or less effort. It's just different," Watt told the MMQB.
J.J. Watt says no one has done more core work this off-season than him. — Mark Lane (@therealmarklane) May 13, 2017
In the year leading up to Watt's season-ending back surgery, he'd suffered a litany of injuries. In addition to a herniated disc, a broken hand and a staph infection, Watt also endured five torn core muscles (two torn abdominals and three torn adductor muscles).
Your core, commonly defined as the collection of muscles around your lower back and midsection, might be the single most important area of your body when it comes to athletic performance. If you think of your body as a giant chain, your core is the center link that holds everything together. Without a strong and stable core, power cannot adequately transfer through the body. That means almost every athletic movement—from sprinting and cutting to pushing and pulling—will suffer.
RELATED: J.J. Watt's All-Pro Core Workout
Watt has been no stranger to extremely heavy loads in the past. In 2014, he shared a video of himself flipping a 1,000-pound tractor tire 30 times in a row (he eventually became capable of flipping it 65 times in a row). In 2015, he called a workout which saw him squatting nearly 600 pounds "cake." Those workouts obviously helped him build the power and strength needed to bully offensive linemen, but it's possible they also contributed to the breakdown of his body.
By easing up on the heavy loads and putting an increased emphasis on core strength and stability, Watt has eased the pounding on his joints while also better preparing his body for the violent chaos of trench warfare in the NFL.
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