We got a hold of Carolina Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly to talk training camp prep, nutrition, shoulder injury rehab and his partnership with Eat the Bear

M&F: What does your fitness routine look like leading up to training camp?

LK: We have a six-week, off-season program leading up to training camp. It’s a four-and-a-half day workweek. Monday and Tuesday are upper and lower-body, and then Wednesday is more of an auxiliary day. On Thursday and Friday, you finish up with upper and lower again.

Monday is a lower-body day, and that’s more of a heavy day. You’ll have more strength-building and heavier-weight stuff, whether it’s squat, RDL or deadlift. Tuesday is an upper-body day, with heavy bench and some back. So that’s pushing and pulling. Thursday is another lower-body day with more of an explosive pattern. It’ll be a clean or a powerful single leg movement.

One thing that I like about our program is that you have your strength and you have your explosive power  especially lower-body, single-leg movements. In games, you’re breaking off of one foot or making a movement where you’re coming off of one leg. That’s something we’ve implemented that I really like.

Friday is your final day – an upper body day. It’ll be a bench with a chain that allows you to stimulate speed and power, and you can hook that up to get some readings on what your movements look like.

I like that workout plan because on both upper and lower-body days, you’ll have a power-heavy day and you’ll couple that with an upper and lower body day where you’re working on explosive power. I think that’s a good combination.

After going through the playoffs with a partially torn labrum and then having surgery, what was your recovery like?

We had a good program in place to accomplish what we needed to get done. The guys in the training room did a good job, and for me it was about being patient and not pushing it too hard. It was a little bit of a process, but we were able to take things slow during the off-season program, and at this point I’m feeling pretty good.

Do you have any tips for people who are recovering from a shoulder injury?

I think that the biggest thing is not to rush it. A lot of people are used to training and working out hard, and when you have a setback like that, you have to take your time and let yourself get better. The best way for me to do that was to understand certain thresholds. The progression gave me something to look forward to.

SEE ALSO: Shoulder Rehab 101

As far as nutrition, how are you prepping for the start of the season and for training?

As your workouts change, your nutrition changes. You have to stay clean and get your calories, and we have a staff at the stadium that does a good job of putting stuff in place that allows us to be successful. It’s good carbs, lean protein and supplementing your diet with things that will be beneficial to you. I’ve partnered with the company Eat The Bear that has provided those products. It’s everything from a pre-workout to an in-workout to a post-workout.

I like their company because it’s a clean product and you don’t have to worry about what you’re putting in your body. We get drug tested and you have to make sure that what you’re putting in your body is going to be beneficial and worry-free. It’s transparent, pure and it works. The mantra “eat the bear” is based around the idea that you either eat the bear or the bear eats you. The products give you the opportunity to accomplish challenges during a workout, at practice or during the off-season.

What does a typical dinner look like for you?

For dinner, you’ll have your carbs and your protein. That’s the way I think about it. I’m a chicken, steak and fish guy. So you can have your steak and pair that with chicken, and on the side you can have your carbs. You can go sweet potato, with some quinoa and vegetables cut up in it. If you go with the correct portion sizes, you’re in good shape with that.

SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Starter’s Guide: The Meal Plan

Do you have any tips for people who might be trying to start on a new meal plan or increase calories for more intense training? 

I think eating small meals throughout the day is how I approach it. I’m not a big breakfast, big lunch, big dinner guy.  Breakfast is the most important meal to start off on the right foot. You need a breakfast that’s balanced, then throw a snack in there, some quick carbs. I like peanut butter on an apple or banana. Then, lunch could be a chicken breast or two with a good carb like quinoa or rice. Then you have a snack before dinner. Then, before bed, it’s important to have a good, quality protein that you can put in your body before bed. That’s another reason I paired up with Eat The Bear. They have products that can give you a boost at any time of day.

What are your favorite exercises?

I like the squat and Olympic movements, like hang-clean or full clean. The clean is a full-body movement that brings your explosive power and strength together. With squat, some days you can load it up heavy and squat for power, and other days you can lighten it up and maybe throw chains on the squat bar to incorporate a speed aspect into it. One thing I’ve found is that most of your body’s power comes from your lower body, so if you train that in the right way, you’re in good shape.