Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 14, 2021

I've been researching and writing about pro athletes' fitness regimens for almost a decade, and I've never seen anything as precise as the Christian McCaffrey workout routine.

I've been following the Carolina Panthers running back ever since he entered the football scene, and that has allowed me to collect years' worth of info on his fitness secrets.

I'm about to share everything I know about it in this article.

If you're an aspiring football player or just someone who likes to get in top shape, check out this Christian McCaffrey workout!

McCaffrey’s College & NFL Career

Christian McCaffrey wearing a jersey in a field

Before we dive into McCaffrey's workout and diet plan, let us look back on some of the most remarkable accomplishments of his athletic career.

After playing for three seasons at Stanford University, everyone knew he was a triple threat on the football field.

Christian McCaffrey was drafted 8th overall by the Carolina Panthers during the 2017 NFL draft.

He then became the first-ever player from the team to have over 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game.

The Colorado native also set the record for the most yards from scrimmage in a single game.

He's the third NFL member to achieve 50 rushing, 50 passing, and 50 receiving yards in the league's entire history.

He also broke the NFL record for most receptions by a running back in just one season.

Needless to say, McCaffrey is among the best football players and running backs in the NFL today.

Here's how he maintains his muscular physique.

Christian McCaffrey Running Back Workout

Christian McCaffrey during training

An ESPN write-up described McCaffrey's offseason training schedule as similar to one for an elite track athlete, and I couldn't agree more.

To train like Christian McCaffrey, you must do a combination of lifting and sprinting workouts. T

he All-Pro running back also puts a premium on recovery, so he dedicates at least a day in his weekly regimen for that.

His trainer, Brian Kula, compared their sessions to running an "underground operation" because they don't accord to a fancy training facility, i.e., elite gyms. McCaffrey prefers a no-frills approach, so they just work out together wherever and whenever they can.

McCaffrey trains for speed and power, which are the two most vital attributes for running backs.

Like his trainer, he believes there's no need to overbulk, as speed is the more crucial factor that will help him play his best at every game.

McCaffrey works with Brian Kula to enhance his mass-specific force. They've identified 210 pounds as the best weight for him to play at. Now, their goal is to focus on the force output.

Here are the components of the NFL star's workouts.

1. Lifting Workout

shirtless man lifting a barbell

McCaffrey's goal when lifting is to increase power, so he keeps his repetitions low, never using more than three.

Doing so maximizes his force output and limits the amount of time he's under tension, which is essential to reducing soreness and keeping him fresh [1].

Targeting a higher rep range will promote hypertrophy (aka muscle growth) instead of power.

It also increases the chance of soreness. These could affect McCaffrey's performance during the NFL season, so he makes sure to limit his reps.

As for his power movements, McCaffrey likes to focus on heavy core exercises such as the trap-bar deadlift, which he considers the most important.

Incredibly, McCaffrey can pull over 550 pounds for three reps! Now we know where his massive arms and quickness come from.

Each core exercise in his power workouts is paired with a plyometric movement.

This practice is based on the phenomenon referred to as the post-activation potentiation effect, which shows that force output increases when a heavy resistance exercise is performed before a high-velocity movement [2].

2. Sprint Workout

male athlete running through a course

Instead of doing endless sprints like he used to, McCaffrey has taken a more football-related approach to his sprint workouts.

He replicates a two-minute drill and runs routes every 10-15 yards, simulating the act of marching down the field.

Then, he will walk back and repeat the routine a few times.

This is a big part of his conditioning and serves as an effective way to keep his program sport-specific.

3. Recovery Days

man giving a foot massage to a person

Another significant part of McCaffrey's workout schedule is the active recovery day.

This usually falls in the middle of the week to cut his heavy lifting days into smaller bunches, giving his body a break.

He'll usually get a massage or have chiropractic work done to heal his body.

If he feels something on his ankle or hamstring, he'll also have that taken care of.

But, of course, it's not a day of nothing. Since this is an active recovery, McCaffrey will do some water movements, pool workouts, or lots of stretching.

Workout Structure

Christian McCaffrey intense workout in a gym

McCaffrey thrives on routine, as evidenced by his strict workout program and his daily lifestyle.

The running back tries to get at least nine hours of sleep, waking up at 8 a.m. and returning to bed between 10 to 10:30 p.m.

His workout schedule for the entire week is focused on his training sessions. He dedicates each weekday to a specific area of his training. For example, Mondays are for enhancing his linear explosiveness, while Wednesdays are for his treatment and recovery day.

After his workouts, McCaffrey takes a break by having a nap.

"In training, you listen to your body. In competition, you tell your body to shut up." - Rich Froning Jr., Professional CrossFit Athlete

He describes his training as very sport-specific, which means he focuses on doing workouts that will improve his performance in the NFL.

"Somebody has eyes on me all the time," McCaffrey said. "My training is very specific to my sport, so it's a lot of fast, explosive movements. It's very pertinent to exactly what I do on the football field, which is fast burst in short spaces. Every once in a while, I'll get in the top end."

His offseason training involves doing some track work and spending time in the weight room. Once all of that is over, McCaffrey likes to relax and take care of his body. This includes seeing a chiropractor, getting massages, or having soft tissue recovery work done.

Here is his typical weekly workout plan during the offseason.

Monday: Heavy Lifting

close up image of a man doing bench presses

McCaffrey describes his Mondays as an acceleration type of training day that involves a lot of agility-type work.

Before going to the weight room for his Olympic lifts, he will start off with 45-minute dynamic warmups that focus on linear and lateral movements.

Summary

  • Agility workout
  • Dynamic warmup (45 minutes)
  • Olympic lifts

Tuesday: Heavy Lifting

black man sprinting through a field

Every Tuesday, McCaffrey will start with some position work.

He’ll strap on his cleats and do some running back drills. In addition, he will also perform deadlifts, box squats, and other similar exercises.

  • Running drills
  • HIIT workout

Wednesday: Active Recovery Day

man giving a shoulder massage

Wednesday is usually an off-day for McCaffrey.

He spends this day relaxing and taking care of himself.

This includes getting chiro work done to make sure everything is feeling good in his body.

This day also includes time in the sauna, a pool workout, a huge stretch, a contrast bath, a massage, dry needling, physical therapy, and cryotherapy.

It's also a lighter workout day, which means McCaffrey will consume fewer calories.

His caloric intake is structured based on his current and target weight. If he's a bit lighter, he will increase his macros.

Thursday: Heavy Lifting

Thursdays are similar to Mondays but with an emphasis on the speed aspect.

  • Agility workout
  • Dynamic warmup (45 minutes)
  • Olympic lifts

Friday: Speed & Conditioning

This is a metabolic day for McCaffrey. Every Friday, he directs his attention to speed and conditioning to keep his mechanics keen.

Saturday and Sunday: Rest

His Workout Philosophy

Christian mccaffrey wearing a tank top in an open field

As you've seen, McCaffrey's workouts are all about variety.

The guy sees training as a dynamic process that involves not just one thing but also a culmination of many things.

For the Cardinals member, there is no one type of workout that is superior to all.

While hang cleans and squats are essential for him, he believes it's more important to learn and understand when to do those exercises in his routine and the reason behind doing those workouts.

The biggest thing for him overall is the rest, recovery, and treatment aspects of his routine.

He said:

"You do some sort of training every day, but if you're not healthy and can't perform at your best, it doesn't help you. I'm always making sure I'm putting hours on the recovery table."

He also doesn't have a favorite kind of exercise, but he has a favorite form: explosive moves. McCaffrey loves doing explosive lifts and Olympic lifts such as cleans, snatches, and deadlifts.

Unsurprisingly, he also loves working on the track. He's always been fascinated with the art of improving speed and figuring out the perfect mechanical positions that will allow him to be as fast as possible.

Christian McCaffrey's Diet & Supplements

close up image of two pink dumbbells and a green apple wrapped in tape measure

Like most athletes, McCaffrey adheres to a strict diet to support all his muscle gains.

He consumes a balanced amount of lean protein, fats, and complex carbs that give him the energy to perform at his best every day.

When it comes to his nutrition, he can never be too careful.

McCaffrey is very particular about his diet, which is why he hired a personal chef to cook all healthy and balanced meals for him when he first got into the NFL.

His chef will do two meal dropoffs a week and label each with information such as when it should be eaten and what's in them.

It really takes a lot of thinking out of things, which McCaffrey really appreciates.

He also gets blood work done twice a year to identify his exact sensitivities, allergies, and deficiencies.

He claims it's one of the biggest things that have helped him with his nutrition.

His results showed that he had to cut out chicken, tuna, wheat, and soy.

The football player also doesn't eat anything that can cause inflammation in his system, which means he can't have dairy or any kind of dessert.

McCaffrey has a list of inflammatory foods he gives to his chef, who makes sure that he doesn't add any of those products to his meals.

While his diet may seem so restrictive, it has clearly worked for him because he looks so buff and powerful all-year-round!

That phase was sort of a mini cleanse for him, but he seems to have relaxed a bit, saying that everything he eats now is "pertinent to what I need for my best performance."

Here's what the NFL star's daily menu looks like.

Meal Plan Sample

one opened fresh egg in a tray

Breakfast

Christian eats his breakfast—which is also his pre-workout meal—two hours before he starts working out.

He can't have egg whites, so he would have egg yolks and pair that with something sweet, like a sweet potato hash with oats or fruit of his choice.

Supplements

After his first workout of the day, Christian will drink lots of water and take another scoop of pre-workout and some amino in preparation for his lifting and plyometrics session.

bowl filled with a bison chili

Lunch

For his lunch—which is also his post-workout meal—Christian will have something like a bison chili with potatoes, peppers, and vegetables in some sort of a stew.

McCaffrey has a particular liking for soups because they're very easy to eat.

After lunch, the NFL star will head to a recovery center to see if he needs any soft tissue help. Then, he takes a nap.

Dinner

After waking up from his nap, Christian tries to eat his dinner at around 7 p.m. to give his body enough time to digest the food before he turns in.

He will typically have a meat dish during the evening, like a steak with sweet potatoes or avocado.

Christian also drinks a lot of water and tries to get at least a gallon-and-a-half of it every day. To achieve this, he drinks half a gallon in the morning before doing anything else.

plate filled with sushi meal

Cheat Day

As you've seen, Christian is quite meticulous about his diet.

And although he eats organic and clean foods most of the time, he also allows himself some indulgences.

Christian will do a cheat meal every so often, usually on Saturday night.

His guilty pleasures include sushi, Oreos, and Cool Ranch Doritos, which he claims he can finish an entire king-size bag of.

The NFL athlete admits he is the type of person with zero self-control, so he doesn't keep any of these foods at home.

Conclusion

McCaffrey's bulging biceps, low body fat percentage, and overall muscular figure just scream power.

And he earned all of that through his relentless work ethic in the gym and solid commitment to eating what's right for him.

McCaffrey's rigid workout and diet program has been key to his sensational play and strength in the game.

He ranks among the best players in the league, and at the rate that he's going, he's bound to remain so for the next several years.

Try this Christian McCaffrey workout today, and let us know how it goes in the comments below!


References:

  1. https://drjohnrusin.com/maximizing-the-force-velocity-curve-for-power-strength-development/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3164001

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