What does it take to become a professional athlete? Some competitors luck out in the genetic lottery, towering over opponents from an early age, usually fueled by their parents' desire to re-live their mediocre glory days (we are looking at you LaVar). Others spend hours upon hours in the weight room, building up the strength and confidence to perfect their craft. Whatever their path, to get to a professional level, athletes must dedicate their lives to their sport!
But, once these guys get to the top, where else is there to go? All of their peers put the same amount of time and effort into reaching the pros, forcing some athletes to think outside the box. Sure, they hit the gym just like everybody else, but they also add wrinkles into their regimes that give them that little extra edge they feel they need in order to surpass their peers.
To write their legacy, these athletes resort to some out of the ordinary workout routines and activities. While this may inspire some of you to try them out yourself, we'd like you to keep in mind these athletes reached peak physical condition before trying these out. Let's start to experiment with 15 athletes with the most bizarre training techniques!
15 Jerry Rice: Brick Catching
Hall of Fame wide receiver, Jerry Rice, was nothing but dominant during his years in the league. So much so, the NFL's all-time receiving touchdown leader has a comfortable 51 TD lead on second-place, held by Randy Moss. Even new Raiders coach, John Gruden, flirted with the idea of bringing Rice back on the field at 55 years old. Obviously, it was a joke, but we can't help but think the 'man with the hands' could still do some damage on the outside!
How does someone become as legendary as Rice? Well, according to number 80, he has an insane work ethic, which includes an odd training technique of catching bricks. While he never practiced it during his playing days, Rice credits his vice grip hands to his days laying brick.
"...My brother and I, we had developed this technique where you throw the bricks up, they were separated, and I was snatching them in the air. So, the myth about me learning to catch footballs from catching bricks, that's where it came from."
14 Rickson Gracie: Head Pulls
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master, Rickson Gracie, is an absolute beast of a man. With an undefeated 11-0 record in the MMA, you don't want to meet this dude in a back alley. The key to Gracie's success? A strong neck. That's right, forget about doing hammer curls in front of the mirror, or trying to push out that one extra rep on the bench, it's time to make every day at the gym, neck day!
Gracie used the age-old technique where he would strap a bungee-type contraption to his head, pulling weights around behind him!
With a combination with other resistance-based exercises, Gracie is a beast on the mat. Think we are kidding? People are writing articles about his muscular neck! Jeeze, I have to see the chiropractor for sitting at a desk for too long, so I can't imagine dragging a weight sled with my forehead!
13 Johnny Manziel: Ocean Workout
Before he his short tenure in the NFL, prima donna quarterback, Johnny Manziel was just a spoiled rich kid who was good at football. He won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt Freshman at Texas A&M, and looked to have a prominent career at the next level. To gain an extra edge on his competition, Manziel hired QB training guru, George Whitfield Jr., back in 2013.
As you can see, Whitfield had 'Johnny Football' splashing around in the Pacific. Apparently, the knee-deep water provides physical resistance and mental stress, allowing quarterbacks to improve their focus while outside of their natural element. While Manziel did get selected in the first-round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Browns, his alcoholic tendencies caught up to him, and he quickly fizzled out of the league. Maybe he should have been investing in addiction training instead of prancing around in the ocean.
12 Troy Polamalu: Barefoot Iso-Kinetics
Potential Hall of Fame safety, Troy Polamalu, brought an insane amount of energy and leadership to the Steelers defense. During his time in Pittsburgh, the 'Tasmanian Devil' notched eight Pro Bowl nods, took home two Super Bowl Championships, and had one of the most luscious hair games in the history of the league.
Unlike many other NFLers, Polamalu didn't get his strength and agility from lifting heavy weights in the gym.
Instead, he focused on a training technique called iso-kinetics. Instead of grueling lifts, the All-Pro athlete would focus on movements that mirrored his motion on the field. The theory is the bigger you are, the slower you are. Polamalu perfected this method, using it to improve his overall performance in the secondary. Oh yeah, he liked to do everything barefoot too!
11 LeBron James: Cryotherapy
It takes a lot of work to be the king. One of the top NBAers of all time, LeBron James, is no stranger to putting in the long hours in the gym: lifting weights, perfecting fundamentals, and maintaining his fitness. After all this training, as athletes get old, their recovery time for muscles and joints increases. James has discovered a technique that helps him speed up his post-workout rehab: Cryotherapy.
While King James isn't the only athlete to utilize this recovery technique, he was one of the pros that popularized it. Pretty much, you get into a chamber and they blast you was with liquid nitrogen at temperatures below -100 Farenheit. Supposedly, your body goes into survival mode, aiding in the replenishment of oxygen-rich red blood cells. These athletes have to be careful though, as there have been severe complications linked to the unconventional treatment.
10 Frank Shamrock: Exercise Ball Wrestling
Former UFC Middleweight Champion, Frank Shamrock, rounds out our top-ten list of odd training regimens. During training, the fighter proceeds to roll around like a child on a Swiss ball. Obviously, this whole technique looks utterly ridiculous. Could you imagine some dude taking up already limited gym space to flop around like a fish out of water?
Even though he looks crazy performing this technique, we can't doubt that Swiss ball wrestling worked out for Shamrock.
To him, fighting is all about balance and stability, and the awkward bounce of the ball mimics movements in the ring. I guess if he was once ranked as the number one pound for pound fighter in the world, than this odd training technique really works! Still though, you won't see me doing this in public anytime soon!
9 Michael Phelps: Sleeping In An Altitude Chamber
Like LeBron's chilly recovery technique, 28-time Olympic Medalist, swimmer Michael Phelps, has his own odd rehab method. After he's done ripping the bong at college parties, Phelps lays his head in an altitude chamber at night. According to the Washingtonian, the tent-like bedroom structure simulates a high-altitude environment, allowing for the body to create more red blood cells in the since the chamber has less oxygen. Does it work? The jury is still out, but if we use Michael Phelps as the crowning example, every athlete should be sleeping in one of these.
The altitude chamber isn't the only odd recovery technique Phelps employs. In Rio, the 'Flying Fish' had circular hickies all over his body, stemming from a cupping session. With this method, medical school drop-outs attach suction cups to the athlete's skin, supposedly supporting blood flow to key areas of the body. Still, the rehab technique is unproven, and makes you look like you had one bad hookup!
8 Chelsea Footballers: Swiss Ball Headers
Remember the day in gym class when the hungover teacher would scrap the day's plans, and you would actually have fun? Maybe they would bring out the dodge balls, or perhaps the beloved multi-color 'parachute'. Well, in the fall of 2017, footballers on Chelsea had one of those days, as the training staff broke out the over-sized Swiss balls in practice.
While the whole session looks bizarre, it was meant to give a fresh face to the ever-boring practice.
The squad looked ecstatic as they prepared for there match against Arsenal. Players used teamwork to hold the ball on their backs as they attempted to dribble, and they even performed a header drill on the rubber balls. One guy would hold the other's legs, as they laid on their back on the ball. The coaches proceeded to throw soccer balls, while the athletes stabilized their cores, returning the balls with their heads! Looks like fun, but it's odd to say the least.
7 Manny Pacquiao: Stick Beating
You don't get to the level of success of 'Pac Man' without experimenting with some bizarre training methods. The number four pound for pound boxer of all-time wakes up every morning to a multi-mile run, sometimes with his dog, and proceeds to partake in basic agility drills, all before 8 AM. He fuels up for the long-training days with a special Philippine bone-marrow soup, Bulalo, which sounds absolutely disgusting. But that's not why Pacquiao graces our list.
The famed boxer adds a ridiculous nerve-stimulation session to his grueling workout regimen. Members of his camp beat him with a Thai stick all over his body while Pacquiao just clenches his fist and absorbs the pain. We understand the point that MP is trying to achieve, but this desensitization technique is truly out of the ordinary.
6 Conor McGregor: Dangerous Noodle
Dangerous noodle is what we shall call this technique pic.twitter.com/wCsrzwLeTe— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) August 11, 2017
Currently second in the UFC's pound for pound ratnkngs, MMA fighter turned boxer, Conor McGregor, went through some ridiculous training techniques to prepare for his fight against Floyd 'Money' Mayweather last August.
As seen here, in front of a mob of cameramen and reporters, the Irish hero is doing some kind of movement drill, flailing his arms all over.
Despite the crazy techniques, McGregor did make it to the 10th round against the undefeated boxer, but we can't help but think he should have been focusing on more traditional boxing methods, rather than trying to perform his own version of the Haka.
While 'Mystic Mac' has been seen using some insane preparation and recovery methods in the past, even wrestling with 'The Mountain' from Game of Thrones, this rubber arm drill is by far the most bizarre.
5 Japan Men's Soccer Team: Huh?
In today's sports world, teams are willing to do anything to gain an edge on the competition. Japan's national soccer team can be seen here performing some out of the ordinary drills. One guy is tied off to the goal post, the other is performing stability drills, while the last one is doing some crazy shoulder presses with a 45 pound bar. Maybe the techniques on their own are useful, but knowing Japan's status in the world rankings, shouldn't they practicing their footwork with a soccer ball?
Honestly, this just makes me think of every aspiring fitness guru on Instagram. These wannabes are poorly providing tutorials to unnecessary workouts! You know exactly who I'm referencing. The guys and gals who try to superset lunges and pull-ups for no apparent reason. Stick to the basics! You never saw Arnold do CrossFit.
4 Michael Jordan: Strobe Light Glasses
The greatest basketball player ever wasn't always that way! Through hard work and dedication, MJ has gone down in history as one of the most dominant, clutch NBAers ever. One odd technique that 'Air Jordan' employed was the use of strobe light glasses. That's right, those seizure-inducing flashes from the club made him into a better basketball player. The real question is: how?
Well, according to Jordan's former trainer, Tim Grover, the bright flashes of photographers behind the hoop are a major issue in the clutch.
Even if these bright blasts of light are not consciously recognized, nerve endings in the eyes can be distracted, causing players to falter in crunch time. MJ recognized that if he used the glasses in training, that his eyes would get accustomed to the sporadic flashes, intensifying his game. Now, NBA superstars, from Kawhi Leonard to Steph Curry, utilize this odd, but effective, training technique!
3 Lynn Swann: Ballet
Before Herschel Walker was prancing around in the dance studio, Pittsburgh Steeler great, Lynn Swann, popularized ballet as a training technique. The four-time Super Bowl champion credits part of his successful career to his odd dance training. Ballet allows football players to become more fluid on the field, increasing flexibility while improving self-awareness. In a 1981 interview on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Swann can be seen not only dominating on the field, but twirling in the Pittsburgh ballet!
While you may not think that waltzing around on your tip-toes is beneficial in athletics, Swann's dominance on the field should make you think twice! According to Roni Mahler, a ballet teacher who has worked with NFLers, the graceful art helps to strengthen non-traditional muscles that are hard to improve in the gym. Even famous bodybuilders like Franco Colombu and the GOAT himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been seen plié-ing in the studio!
After his playing days, the Hall of Fame receiver continued his love for ballet, even starring in a few productions on stage. We can't help but think he would be a perfect lead in 'Swann Lake'.
2 Olympic Athletes: VR and Brain Training
VR isn't just for scaring old people anymore! Olympic athletes, such as skiers Lindsey Vonn and Laurenne Ross, are utilizing the new technology to gain an edge of their opponents. Ross, who suffered an ACL tear in training a while back, uses the controlled virtual environment to minimize risk, while remaining mentally prepared for competition. She stated in an email:
"It's so easy to forget some of the tiny details about preparing for a race that can really make a difference. VR has been a big part of keeping me focused and ready to return."
The augmented simulation isn't just being employed in the winter sports either. All major sports leagues are using VR to improve their athlete's mental preparation.
From running through NFL playbooks to simulating opposing pitchers, training the brain to compete is the next big technological improvement that separates the Pros from the Joes!
1 Tom Brady: The 'TB12 Method'
The top spot on our odd training technique list goes to none other than the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Tom Brady. At 40 years old, even though the New England Patriots leader floundered in Super Bowl LII, he still looks to continue an unprecedented NFL career for the next few years. So, how does the future Hall of Famer do it? He created his own training program: TB12.
While it may just be a ploy to sell cookbooks, apparel, and supplements, the 'TB12' method has kept Brady at the top of his game for nearly two decades. With 12 core principles, including balance, moderation, and nutrition, many of these steps seem borderline obsessive. Brady believes that 'soft muscles' allow him to stay healthy, absorbing hits from pass rushers. Obviously, the whole thing seems like a hoax, pandering to Patriots' fans, but hey, it seems to be working like a charm for Tom!