Already, Super Bowl expectations are quickly gaining momentum in the Bay Area as the San Francisco 49ers have kicked off the 2023-24 football season with two straight wins. No doubt, Coach Kyle Shanahan wanted the Niners to come back even stronger and faster than they did following last season’s 13-4 record—and there’s been no better physical example of strength and speed than defensive lineman Arik Armstead.
M&F sat down with the ferocious footballer and fast-rising social media star between his torturous training sessions at Levi Stadium to find out what fuels this towering player, and how he trains for success.
A three-time Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, Armstead is a sight to behold. While the San Francisco 49ers official website lists him at 6’7” he tells Muscle & Fitness that he is actually 6’8”. And, while Armstead believes that a certain amount of speed and explosiveness is inherent in the genes, he also feels wholeheartedly that these qualities can be improved greatly by practicing on the field and making regular visits to the weight room.
Still, when the season is underway, the focus shifts to recovery and maintenance so that those hard-earned gains made during the off-season don’t go to waste.
“You know, when you’re younger in high school, college, and stuff, you can kinda getaway off pure talent, but the best of the best definitely are working on their body and taking it very seriously,” he says.
Arik Armstead’s Postgame Workout
After each game, Armstead is back in gym the following day. Here are the exercises that he typically undertakes for a postgame workout session:
- Tibia Raises
- Bulgarian Split Squat
- Elevated Goblet Squat
- Front Squats
- Barbell Romanian Deadlifts
- Hamstring Curls
Arik Armstead’s Postgame Workout Explained
“We have a recovery, also auxiliary portion (at the beginning of the workout) where we’re doing tib raises, we’re doing single-leg split squats, elevated goblet squats, to get the blood flow into the joints,” says Armstead. The defensive tackle works on his flexibility through stretching. He likes to place mats under his knees, so that he can slide them outwards as he stretches out his upper legs and thighs.
Now as the football season is in full force, Armstead says that during the main portion of his workout, he’ll lifts lower weights versus the plates that he stacks on during his off-season. Just like many other tall people, Armstead has a love-hate relationship with the back squat.
“I will switch from front squat or back squat, depending how I’m feeling kinda physically,” he explains. The front squat is often the preferred choice for those with longer limbs since this move makes it easier to hit the desired depth and maintain an upright torso. The front squat is also considered safer in that the load is less likely to deviate to your lower back if the form is not correct. “I’ve been doing a lot more front squat, and when I do back squat I typically do lighter, and heavier reps in the front squat; I load that up pretty heavy,” says Armstead. “I’ve gotten up to doing 385 (pounds in the off season) on the front squat … and that’s for 3 sets of 4.”
The 49er likes to work on his posterior chain, so he utilizes barbell Romanian deadlifts. Armstead exercises his lower body with hamstring curls and glute work. To strengthen his groin and adductors, he puts his best efforts into Copenhagen’s. The Copenhagen adduction exercise (CAE) is a bodyweight movement brought to fame by sports therapists in Denmark and it is perhaps best described as being close to a side-plank. The difference being that the load is focused more at the top of the adductor rather than in the core. Armstead raises his hip up and with the assistance of a partner or a bench, he’ll use the higher leg for support and then drop the lower leg towards the ground, raising it back up again for a repetition. Many researchers believe that CAE’s are great for rehabilitation since they build eccentric strength.
Arik Armstead’s Focuses on Functional Strength
“I wouldn’t consider myself the strongest person in the weight room by any means,” says the 49er. “But, I’ve always been able to move people, or play strong on the field. And, I know there’s guys that can move a lot of weight in the weight room, but you go out on the field and you don’t see that strength, so definitely being functionally strong is very important.” Armstead explains that he utilizes plyometric training to work on his functional strength, executing activities like the box jump to replicate some of the actions that he must undertake on the field while in the gym. The player also tries to fit in Pilates and yoga sessions as he feels that these assist with additional recovery.
It’s clear that Armstead has put his all into off season training by the way that he has come out of the blocks this season, and with a solid work ethic focussed on maintaining those gains during the season, it looks like he’ll remain to be a force to be reckoned with for opposing players. “I think, personally, I had a good off season, and feeling good, and that led into a good training camp, and I think as a team we’re feeling good as well, too. (There was) a lot of sense of urgency this off season for us as a team, and wanting to start the season of the right way, so I think we definitely have done that.”
Off the field and away from the gym, Armstead is still entertaining masses of followers via his TikTok account, and has also just launched his new football podcast; “Third and Long”. He’s also paying it forward with his charitable foundation, providing academic resources to students in the Bay area of California. The gentle giant also provided free youth football camps. For more info visit: arikarmstead.com.