Hard work and raw talent got him to the NFL. Two seasons later, his heart was telling him to move on. For Curtis Williams, former wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants, the drive to train hard, eat well, and feel unstoppable no longer requires a jersey on his back. But don’t think that will make it easier to keep up; the New York City-based trainer still breaks out the speed ladder, battle ropes, and sandbags (for fun!) — and he’s taking his clients along for the ride. Between workouts at Velocity Sports Performance and bootcamps in Central Park, Greatist caught up with Curtis to talk performance training, cheat meals (fried ice cream, anyone?), and the ultimate speed and agility workout. Read on to try it yourself!
How does your football background influence how you train your own clients today?
I think having competed at the level [that I did] is a huge component to people actually entrusting in me, and believing in what I’m applying to their training. I understand that training isn’t going to be easy — it’s actually very challenging — and that’s the reason I’ve been able to maintain the shape that I’m in. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone. In order for your body to change and for you to get the results that you want, it’s not always going to be very comfortable. What’s your philosophy as far as training goes?
My training philosophy is to train for movement, [with the goal of] becoming more athletic. It’s not necessarily to develop muscle mass or lean out or lose weight, it’s more about teaching people to move more efficiently in the things that they do on a regular basis. It’s also about [using] a mixture of physical therapy, sports medicine, and strength and conditioning. So it’s not just an ass-kicking workout, but something that is actually beneficial to them; understanding what their bodies are doing, and understanding certain imbalances they have that we have to correct. What’s the biggest mistake or oversight you see clients make?
A lot of it is nutrition and the decisions that are made outside
of training. It all goes back to fueling your body. If you look at your body as a vehicle, you have to provide it with the proper fuel to perform at its best. Are you still as strict with your diet as you were back when you were playing professionally?
I definitely am. In order to maintain a certain level of efficiency, you have to eat a certain way. I think it’s all about moderation as well. So it’s not necessarily about always eating clean or always being strict, it’s also understanding it’s OK to cheat once in a while, but all within moderation. I’m not running around eating chicken salads all day — I do have certain things I enjoy — but it’s also a matter of mathematics. You have to burn more calories than you consume if your goal is to lose weight. On cheat days, how do you indulge?
When I really go into cheat mode, it’s all or nothing. I like starches like mashed potatoes, cheese fries — you name it. I also love ice cream (Rocky Road!). And if it’s fried ice cream, standard vanilla does the trick. It’s not every day because I feel the difference in my body and my performance. But I like to tell people it’s a matter of being smart, and you want to make more smart decisions than anything else. For me, I know I need about 4,500 to 5,000 calories a day. But that’s not everyone’s ideal situation. You have to learn what works for you. So clearly you’re still training pretty hard. What’s your current workout routine?
I do strength training about twice a week — Tuesdays and Thursdays. And then I do a lot of agility work with the agility ladder, a lot of cone drills — different things that keep my body flexible and moving. I also do a lot of dynamic exercises that keep me limber throughout the week. And then I do sprint work and agility on the weekends. (See workout below!) And do you have a workout partner — or are just a crazy person doing all this by yourself?
Yeah, it’s just me. I’m the guy everyone’s looking at very strangely at the gym. But in a good way, though! I think that’s the challenge — to stay at that level without having a game or a season you’re preparing for. That’s what I find is difficult: Being able to keep driving myself to try something different, or change up my workout regimen, which is huge. Who inspires you? Who’s your fitness hero?
I look to the guys who were elite in their time. So, Michael Jordan, Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis — people who are legacies. I look at those guys who weren’t just doing it for a short period of time, but were able to leave their mark. I think that’s huge. Not just being a great player but being able to really put their stamp on the game. You watch their approach to the game and how they were able to make other people around them better. It’s one thing to be a great player as an individual, but to be able to make others around you, elevate their game. That’s something that’s more of a gift. Can you tell us why you decided to stop playing and leave the NFL?
I stopped playing because I stopped loving the game. It got to the point where the business side of things made it tough for me to continue to love it. And then once that happened I decided it was time to walk away. When you fall out of love with it, that’s when you need to make some changes. Was there a specific moment or was it something that was building up?
There was a day where I woke up and my body was in sheer pain — I couldn’t put my shoes on without hurting. It was just a stressful time. I was in camp with the Jets at that time, and remember telling my mom that it was probably my last day. And it was. Looking back, do you have any regrets?
Absolutely not. I learned so much from playing football. And I credit sports with a lot of what I consider my strengths now: my work ethic, being able to work with other people, and just having that drive and passion. I worked hard to pursue something — and tried not to let people tell me I couldn’t do that thing. That was a huge part of it for me: just believing in myself.
Curtis Williams’ Speed and Agility Workout
I. Dynamic Warm-Up:
Walking knee hugs (20 yards) High knees (20 yards) Butt kicks (20 yards) Karaokes (20 yards) Walking lunges with front arm raise (20 yards) Inchworms (6-8 reps) Spiderman steps (12-16 reps) Shuffle to sprint: Traveling in a lateral plane, complete four side shuffles. On the last shuffle turn forward and as fast as possible, and sprint at 65 percent of your maximum speed. (2-4 sprints, 30 yards each) II. Sprint / Start Technique: Use these drills to develop proper running mechanics from the ankle up. They are very low in volume, focusing more on the technical aspect of sprints and starts. These drills include:
Seated Arm Movement: Start seated on the floor or field with the legs slightly bent in front and arms at your sides. With the arms bent at a 90-degree angle, begin to move the arms (as if running in place). The action will bring the hands from hip to chin level, paying close attention to not bringing the arms across the body. Remember to sit up tall, breathe, and relax the hands and face. (2 sets, 20 sec. each)
Wall March Drill: Start facing a wall, leaning into it at about a 45-60 degree angle with your arms supporting your body. Stay on the balls of your feet at all times and simulate acceleration by bringing one knee up, then driving the leg back down and under your hips. As you drive down with one foot bring the other one up to the starting position. (5 sets, 5 reps per leg)
Lean-Fall-Run: Begin by standing with the feet together. Rise up on your toes and lean forward until your balance is lost. At the point where you feel like you are going to fall pick up one leg keeping your body as straight as possible and drive that foot down and back under your hips. Accelerate through the first four to five steps then maintain speed for 20 yards. This will help enhance quick leg turnover at start and teach proper acceleration lean and foot placement. (3-5 sets per foot, 20 yards each)
III. Agility Drills
4-Cone Drill: Start in a two-point stance. Sprint five yards to the first cone and make a sharp right cut. Shuffle right five yards and make a sharp cut back. Backpedal five yards to the next cone and make a sharp cut left. Shuffle left through the start/finish. Need a challenge? Try using multiple foot patterns for this drill, as follows:
2 x Sprint – Sprint – Sprint – Sprint* 2 x Sprint – Shuffle – Sprint – Shuffle* 2 x Backpedal – Karaoke – Sprint – Karaoke* *Each direction
Alpine “M” or “Z” Drill: Position three cones on two lines five yards apart such that the cones on line 1 are at 0, 10, and 20 yards, and the cones on line 2 are at 5, 15, and 25 yards. Start in a two-point stance and sprint diagonally five yards to the first cone, plant the outside foot and run around the cone. Continue to sprint diagonally to each cone, running around each. You can also incorporate a sprint/backpedal combination.
2 x Sprints* 2 x Sprint to Backpedal* *Each direction IV. Speed Drill
Resisted Sprint With Tire Sled: Place the band/sled or parachute belt around waist and run as fast as you can for 25 to 30 yards. Use good form (drive your knees, hands and face relaxed, maintain the proper lean and focus on your breathing). The resistance should not change your form and should only slow you down about five to 10 percent of normal speed. Repeat four times, 25-30 yards each.
V. Cool Down and Stretch Cool down with a moderate 5 to 10 minute jog and a combination of dynamic and static stretches. To learn more about Curtis, his group classes, and personal training, visit www.curtiswilliams17.com and follow him on Twitter at @CAWilliams17. Tried the speed and agility workout? Let us know how you did in the comments below!