NFL teams are always looking for the “perfect” quarterback—a player who has strength, size, speed, and field vision to make the quick throws to the sidelines, the deep throws to streaking wideouts, and who can take the big hits from ferocious defenders.
Basically, they’re looking for the next Andrew Luck.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback has all the skills scouts and executives drool over. At 6’4” and 240 pounds, Luck has the size to barrel over any opponent, and his dynamic combination of arm strength, football intelligence, and accuracy is hard to match by anyone in the league.
Coming out of Stanford, Luck was the most highly-touted football prospect at quarterback since Peyton Manning, and by all measures he’s lived up to the hype. Luck, who replaced Manning after being drafted in 2012, took the Colts to the playoffs in three of his first four seasons, led the league with 40 touchdowns in 2014, and went to the Pro Bowl three straight years from 2012-14.
All that makes it no surprise that Luck’s now the highest-paid player in the NFL after signing a $140-million extension ahead of the 2016 season. Luck’s meteoric rise has been in part due to his natural athletic ability, but it’s also because of his hard work in the gym.
“The importance of being physically fit and in shape cannot be understated,” says Luck. “A game like football can take a toll on your body. Everybody has their own style and they all do a great job, but I feel like the training we do really makes a difference on the field.”
Luck uses a range of exercises and methods in his training, including deadlifts, squats, bench press work, barbell rows, and jump rope—plus, he puts a strong emphasis on working his core: “That’s what drives the machine in a sense for the quarterback,” says Luck. “It’s important to have a strong core, strong legs—it’s key to withstand the season, to stay strong through the season. That’s where it all starts, really.”
Luck’s commitment to his training and fitness doesn’t stop when he leaves the gym—he’s just as focused on nutrition and what he’s putting into his body on a daily basis. “I eat a lot of protein, vegetables, quality carbs—I love sweet potatoes, love fruit,” says Luck. “It’s always trying to make sure that you have a good balanced diet. It helps on the field.” Luck also uses BODYARMOR sports drinks to fuel his workouts—the strawberry-banana and the orange-mango flavors are his favorite.
The Colts missed the playoffs in 2015 for the first time since Luck was drafted—due in no small part to Luck’s multiple injuries, which kept him out of nine games. Heading into 2016, Luck says that he’s fully healthy and ready to get back to the postseason: “This year I didn’t take as much time off after the season,” he says. “I got right back into the rehab and strength building and conditioning—it’s paying off now.”
Luck spoke with Men’s Fitness about his workout routine, how he eats to get ready for the season, and why he started the team book club.
(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity.)
MEN’S FITNESS: What’s your training like on a daily basis?
ANDREW LUCK: I always try to wake up early, then make sure I get a good, substantial breakfast in. It helps with training to have a big meal there, then I’ll get to work. We’ll usually have a couple of hours of meetings, then go on a nice warm-up, usually a good long run. We’ll focus on general conditioning one day, then agility and quickness the next. Then maybe just straight speed the next day, or power. Then we’ll head back into the weight room. Usually, we’re doing total body lifts every day. One day we’ll work on a press and a knee bend, and the next day is going to be a pull and hip bend for the legs.
As a quarterback, what are the most important areas for you to focus on in the gym?
There’s definitely a focus on the legs, lower body stuff, but also a big focus on shoulder stability and motion—making sure that my shoulders throw a bunch and also can stand getting hit. A lot of scap work, pulls and presses. And we do deadlifting, a lot of split squats, and some single-leg work.
What’s your nutrition like on a daily basis? What are some of your favorite foods to eat to support your training?
I wouldn’t say I’m too picky about what I eat, but I’m making sure it’s clean and gives me the nutrients I need. I eat steak, chicken—I haven’t eaten as much red meat, though. I sort of leave that as a treat, a hamburger or something. I enjoy eating local produce, supporting local agriculture, I like getting chicken, vegetables, and fruit from Indiana farmers. I still enjoy my dessert every now and then, I love to have chocolate.
Was there any pressure to get your new contract done before the start of training camp and the season? [Luck signed a six-year, $140 million deal with the Colts in June, making him the highest-paid player in the league.]
Honestly, not really. I didn’t view it as any type of pressure, deal or no deal. I enjoy being on the Colts. I’m just happy and honored to be a part of the Colts for the future.
Has your training and nutritional routine changed since your time in high school and college? How has being in the NFL affected what you do now compared to when you were younger?
Absolutely. It’s changed a lot. In high school we ran a pretty strict program actually, with conditioning and training. At Stanford, we had a great strength coach, Shannon Turley. I learned a lot from him. I still use him as a resource during the off-season and during season. During my first couple of years in the NFL, I had a fantastic strength coach, Roger Marandino. I learned a lot from him.
Is there one area you find most important to focus on as you prepare for the football season?
That’s a tough question. I don’t think necessarily it’s one area, it’s all important really. It’s the strength training, but at the same time it’s also the conditioning and making sure you can be on your feet for multiple days in a row running around and still go strong on that sixth, seventh day. That’s where it counts.
For a quarterback your size, you have pretty good footwork—quick feet in the pocket, ability to escape pressure. What do you do to maintain that footwork?
We do a lot of quick foot exercises in the offseason and during the season. I think jumping rope is great—also running around bags, cones and working on jumping, especially exploding off the ground, it’s all are very important. It’s all good. As long as I feel tired and that I’ve got a good workout in, that’s good. I think jump rope has some good crossover with conditioning and also quick feet. You have to be flexible enough to move around.
Do you use any energy drinks, energy bars, or other products in your training?
I use BODYARMOR sports drinks when I train. It’s my sports drink of choice. It really helps out, especially during training camp practice—it can feel like practicing in a sauna outside. During and after practice I like to drink it. I think it hydrates you better, makes you feel better afterwards. I’m a fan of the potassium and electrolytes, I’m probably drinking two a day while working out—one during the workout and then one afterwards.
Why did you start the Colts team book club? What are some of your favorites you’ve read?
Yeah, I started a book club. It’s been great. The first book of the club was a favorite of mine, Boys in the Boat. It’s about the 1936 Olympic crew team from the United States, but also a great snapshot of the history of our country in it.
What do you like to do in your down time?
I love to pick up a book and read, or go on a bike ride. When it comes to TV, I always watch soccer or basketball, but I don’t have many favorite shows.