After going first overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft, Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos got a chance to play alongside veteran forward and noted fitness enthusiast Gary Roberts during his rookie year.
Later in his career, the experience still paying dividends for the star.
Even though Roberts retired the year after Stamkos was drafted, he found a second career as an off-season training guru for players like Stamkos—so much so that the “Gary Roberts workout” is spoken about in hushed tones like some kind of physical stress test. Stamkos has used the lessons he learned from Roberts in his training and it continues to work—the center led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup finals in 2015 and in 2016 he signed an eight-year contract extension with the franchise.
Stamkos spoke with Men’s Fitness about what he does to stay in shape and how he prepares to transition from off-ice summer punishment to the “grind” of an 82-game NHL season.
How do you modify your training once the NHL season starts? Obviously you can’t go that hard all year long.
There aren’t as many workouts, so you try and train two times a week just to maintain the gains you made in the summer. It’s also tougher to eat as well—you’re always traveling, you’re on the road, you have to go out to dinner—so it’s tough. It’s a grind. And you just have to try and stay as disciplined as possible.
What makes the “Gary Roberts Workout” so legendarily intense?
If you see him, he’s pretty fanatical when it comes to working out and nutrition and taking care of his body. Today’s game has progressed over the last couple of years where you have to come in to training camp in the best shape possible to keep up with everyone in the NHL. Fortunately, I got to play with Gary my rookie year, and now I just finished my third summer with him. And not only is it the workout aspect, it’s the nutrition. He’s got us on a pretty strict organic diet.
What kinds of things do you eat?
A lot of organic chicken, and fish. Lots of nuts, hemp seed… just all sorts of healthy foods that I probably wouldn’t eat if he didn’t introduce them to me. [laughs] It’s hard to get your body adjusted to it the first couple of weeks.
What was the hardest thing to adjust to?
Pretty much everything. You don’t have your mayo, you don’t have your ranch or Caesar salad dressing. Everything is a little more dry. You drink a lot of water with the meals, but you realize how much better your body feels and the results.
What would you say is the most grueling segment of your off-season workout?
The toughest thing that we do in the off-season is actually not in the gym, it’s our dry land training. We have a 125-pound sled that we harness onto ourselves. Then you do 30-meter sprints with it, then you rip it off and you sprint back.
How many times do you do that?
We do three sets of five, so 15 total. There and back. So it’s tough. Usually the toughest workouts are the ones that benefit you the most, so Gary doesn’t let us off the hook on that one.