Athlete/Celebrity Workouts


Vikings head strength and conditioning coach Tom Kanavy provides us a deeper look into what keeps his players strong, powerful and healthy


>> To check out behind-the-scenes video from our off-season photo shoot with Peterson, click here.

>> To learn more about sports-specific training, click here.

Behind every great athlete is a team of great trainers and coaches. It's no different with Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson. He started training at an early age (around 7 or 8 years old) with his father, Nelson Peterson, and then was a pupil of Jerry Schmidt and his expert strength and conditioning staff at the University of Oklahoma while breaking rushing records as a Sooner. Now, Peterson is under the tutelage of Vikings head strength and conditioning coach Tom Kanavy and his staff.

When we interviewed Kanavy for the cover story on Peterson in the October issue of Muscle & Fitness, he simply had too much to say to fit it all in the pages of the magazine. The remainder of the exclusive interview has now made its way to the web in the form of Coach Kanavy's views on a variety of training topics:

On how the Vikings' lifting program suits each individual player:
"Within the team program, it's completely individualized - for example, we have a parallel [neutral] grip bar that can be used for hang cleans for guys who have shoulders issues and can't use a regular bar. It's individualized, it's modified to each player - "bench press" can mean barbell bench, dumbbell bench, machine bench and so on. Some guys can only dumbbell bench. And some guys just like the dumbbells better, and if they like the dumbbells better, they'll work harder at it and I'm all for that."

On his background and experience with different training styles:
"I have a strong background collegiately in two disciplines: one being high intensity training at Penn State, and the other a background in Olympic training at the University of Miami. So now I integrate both training styles [into the Vikings programs], and it really complements what we're doing here because I'm getting players from different disciplines and different backgrounds. One guy might be more used to a certain style as opposed to another guy. For example, one guy's coming from Texas versus another guy coming from Michigan State versus yet another guy coming from USC."

On his overall training philosophy:
"If I had to give our philosophy a name, I would call it progressive overload. I wouldn't call it powerlifting or Olympic lifting or high intensity training. I would say it's progressive overload using a wide variety of different exercises. Whether we're using Olympic lifts, free weights or machines, once a guy can handle a weight properly with good technique, we increase his weights next time, as opposed to a long-term plan of percentage-based increases. If you handled a given weight for the prescribed number of reps, we go heavier next time. If you can handle that, then we'll go heavier next time too. When they can handle the running, we ramp up the running. It's progressive overload. That's one of the principles we subscribe to."

On doing fewer sets per exercise:
"Instead of doing a lot of multiple sets - like three sets of every exercise - we might instead do three sets of dumbbell flat-bench presses, then do two sets of incline presses and then throw in one set of dumbbell front raises. Because number one, it's more variety - you're covering the bases more thoroughly by mixing up the angles. But it also keeps us moving. Instead of having 30 guys in the weight room, all spending 45 minutes on the dumbbells, we keep it moving. There's also a push-pull concept going on in our workouts - bench press followed by chin-ups, or dumbbell presses and lateral raises followed by seated cable rows."

On core training:
"Personally, I like our core machines better than all the stability balls and physio balls in the world, because it's progressive overload. To me, doing the stability ball all the time is like doing push-ups all the time. If you can put a resistance on the muscle in the form of a weighted exercise like a low back extension, a torso rotation or an abdominal flexion machine, that's like bench pressing as opposed to push-ups. We can stress that muscle to the point of muscle overload and fatigue it. And then when you can handle that weight without fatigue for extra reps, you know you've seen a strength increase. As great as that stuff is - and we do a ton of bodyweight-only core exercises - there comes a point when handling your own bodyweight becomes limited, where guys can do 100 reps, and then it just becomes muscle endurance. But then again, I love muscle endurance, so that's why we do that too."