Panthers Running Back Christian McCaffrey on His Style and Why Recovery Is Key to His Success

Titans Panthers Football, Charlotte, USA - 03 Nov 2019 Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) takes the field prior to an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Charlotte, N.C 3 Nov 2019
Mike McCarn/AP/Shutterstock

In just his third season in the NFL, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has proved he’s one of the most explosive weapons in the league. After turning heads with his muscular arms in training camp, McCaffrey’s now a top MVP candidate, continuing to show there’s almost nothing he can’t do on offense.

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Through Week 12, McCaffrey leads the entire NFL in total touchdowns and total yards from scrimmage. And the competition isn’t even close (the next closest player is over 250 yards behind). Not to mention he already has more receptions than high-profile wide receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones. This performance all comes after a season in which McCaffrey set the NFL record for most receptions by a running back (107 catches) and became the first player in NFL history to record over 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the first 10 games of the season.

McCaffrey’s strong performance on the field can be traced back to the long hours he spends training in the offseason.

“I love doing the work,” McCaffrey tells Men’s Journal. “Getting in the weight room and being out on the field is all part of the process. That’s what I love to do… putting my body in those positions to be as fast and as fit as I can be.”

McCaffrey spoke with Men’s Journal about how he trains, his top recovery tips, his style, working on a new campaign collection with Flag & Anthem, and his best advice.

Men’s Journal: What’s your daily routine like in the offseason?

Christian McCaffrey: I’ll wake up, get some treatment, then train, whether that’s on the track or out on the field. After that, I’ll get to work in the weight room. Once that’s done, it’s about relaxing and taking care of my body—seeing the chiropractor, getting massages and soft tissue work. During the season we’re at the facility all the time, so anytime I can relax is nice. I like to spend time with my family when I can.

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Run us through a typical week of training.

Monday is usually an acceleration type of day. It will differ a bit on what we do, but it’s a lot of agility-type work, then I’ll go into a 45-minute dynamic warmup. In the weight room, it’s mainly Olympic lifts. On Tuesday, I’ll start with some position work and strap on my cleats to do running back drills. I’ll also do deadlifts, box squats, and stuff like that, sometimes more of the heavy stuff. On Wednesday, it’s usually an off day. I’ll go to the chiro and make sure everything’s feeling good. Thursday is similar to Monday, with an emphasis on speed. And Friday is a metabolic day. I’ll do more conditioning work.

Panthers Buccaneers Football, London, USA - 13 Oct 2019 Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter of an NFL football game, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London 13 Oct 2019
Tim Ireland/AP/Shutterstock

If you could only do one workout to train for football, what would it be and why?

This is a tough question. The reason why it’s tough for me is because, in my eyes, training is such a dynamic process. So much goes into what we do to train and there’s not one thing, but a culmination of a lot of things. I get the point of your question and there’s probably one I could pick, like doing sprints and working in the weight room. Hang cleans and squats are all key for me. And while all those are good, I think it’s more important to learn and understand when to do those things in your routine and why you’re doing certain workouts, because of the complexity of the process. The biggest thing overall for me is the rest, recovery, and treatment aspects. 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.

Any favorite exercises?

I love all the dynamic, explosive lifts and Olympic lifts. I do a lot of cleans, snatches, deadlifts—stuff I feel athletic doing. I like those moves that are springy and more explosive. I really do love track work. I have always been fascinated with the art of speed and getting faster and putting my body in those perfect mechanical positions to be as fast as I can. That has always intrigued me, and being a running back, it’s right there in the name [laughs].


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Workin 🤐

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What’s your recovery like?

I use a lot of different recovery tools and methods. To me, it’s so important. Whether it’s doing water movements and exercises in the pool, contrasting between hot and cold therapy, doing the sauna, all of those help me. The NormaTec boots are one I use a lot, also the HyperIce HyperVolt. The biggest thing is finding someone you can trust who can take care of you when it comes to the chiro work, the soft tissue recovery, dry needling, and all that. I’m always doing something that’ll help me bounce back and feel good.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and how have you used it in your career?

I’ve received a lot from the people in my life. I’m blessed to have had a father and brother play in the NFL. They’re people who know what I’m going through each day, and they’ve been an unbelievable asset to have. They’ve given me advice on training and just how to handle life as a professional. Anytime I need it, they’re there for me. The biggest thing I’ve realized—and while it’s general, it feels true: If you’re not having fun doing what you do in life, it’s not worth it. I’ve learned to enjoy the game. Being in the NFL is a tough job, but I love everything about the process and working hard to make sure I’m ready and at the best of my abilities.

How does diet come into play?

One of the biggest things that’s helped me with my nutrition is getting my blood work done. From doing that, I’ve learned a lot about sensitivities and allergies. I give all that information to my chef, and he makes a lot of different foods for me. The biggest issues for people is trying to find the best diet that works for them. But if you don’t know what your body is doing or what allergies you have, even small ones, it doesn’t help you as much. I usually do that twice a year since it changes over time.

You recently partnered with Flag & Anthem, what was your experience like shooting the Holiday ’19 campaign and working on this collection?

It was a lot of fun, I always love working with Flag & Anthem. One, they’re great people,and two, it’s a lot of stuff I wear. So it’s a fun time knowing I’m trying on stuff and I know I’m going to wear it. It makes it purposeful, and Flag & Anthem makes the shoot fun. We shot at Joey Logano’s spot, so I got to see some really cool cars, and it was a fun shoot overall. I love what Flag & Anthem is doing with the military campaign—being able to wear that and give back to people who served is a great thing.

Why did you want to partner with the brand and how has the experience been so far?

It’s a few things. I love the stuff they have, and I love that they do a lot with the military. I love the title, the concept, and that the guys started the business from scratch and built it into what it is today. If I was going to do something with a clothing line, I wanted to do something authentic. I have worn flannels, jeans, hoodies, overcoats, tees, all that kind of stuff for my whole life, so it was a natural fit to do it together. I wanted to represent that, and when it came about, I did some research and looked into the gear and just loved it. Those are the main reasons why I wanted to work with Flag & Anthem.

Flag & Anthem
Flag & Anthem / Greg Hinsdale


What are some of your favorites from the collection that people should check out?

I love all the flannels. Being from Colorado, I’ve always worn those and the ones they have are great. A good flannel is always clutch. I love what Flag & Anthem is doing with the military campaign, the desert sun, and the Flag & Anthem honor hoodies and honor shirt. Being able to wear that and give back is a great thing. There are a ton of great stuff in this collection, but I especially dig those.

Why should people give the gift of Flag & Anthem this year?

The Flag & Anthem collection is so versatile, and everything is wearable and comfortable. Sometimes you find clothes you can only wear a few times, but with this there’s stuff you can use everyday. It’s all stylish and usable. You have options for warm and cold weather, and it’s classy, comfortable and affordable. For me, I grew up wearing this stuff and still to today. It all looks really cool and I’ve been a big fan of the jeans and flannel look. The people here are great people and it’s all great gear. It’s been an honor to partner up with brand where I love their clothes, and also with a company that stands for a lot of the same stuff I believe in too. Partnering with the military is such a great thing and that’s one reason why I wanted to join up.

Here’s a look at a few pieces in the McCaffrey collection:

Flag & Anthem
Flag & Anthem
Flag & Anthem
Flag & Anthem / Greg Hinsdale
Flag & Anthem
Flag & Anthem / Greg Hinsdale

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