Train Like The Claymaker: Clay Matthews' Off-Season Workout

Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews forged a career out of hard work, football genetics, and love of iron. This straight-set workout helps him rip through double-teams to terrorize quarterbacks!

On paper at least, it was inevitable that Clay Matthews would end up thriving in the NFL. His grandfather, Clay, Sr., played for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950s; his father, Clay, Jr., was a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker; and his uncle Bruce, a Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman, is considered one of the best ever to play his position. If anyone should have received a scholarship based purely on genetics, it was Clay III, but this physical late-bloomer had to walk on to the USC football team and didn't start until his senior year.

Matthews raised a lot of eyebrows when the Packers moved heaven and earth to select him with the 26th pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, a move based more on potential than performance. Those eyebrows stayed up when the young linebacker lived up to that potential dramatically, immediately, and repeatedly. The results: four Pro Bowls in four years, runner-up MVP in 2010, and a tendency to be a flat-out stud when it counts, such as during the Packers' 2010 Super Bowl run. His 42.5 career sacks already rank him fifth on the Packers' all-time list.

This off-season, Matthews saw his efforts rewarded with the largest contract ever given to a linebacker, a 5-year, $66 million deal, including a $20.5 million signing bonus. If you think the money changed how this 27-year-old approached his tried-and-true training, think again. He gave us a look into how he prepped this year to help his team get back in the chase for the Lombardi Trophy.

What does your off-season training program look like?

After the season I take a few weeks off to help me physically and mentally overcome the rigors of the season. Losing is never a fun deal, so you take some time off and hopefully get away a little bit to re-focus yourself coming back for next year [and] set new goals for what you want to accomplish.

For me it's been very much the same offseason: working out, dedicating myself to the weight room and field work in the hopes of bettering my game.

Do you set any personal goals in the off-season?

My personal goals are always to improve upon my game from the year before and to improve statistically: sacks, TFLs, interceptions, whatever it is—big, game-changing plays. At the same time, I try to better myself as an all-around player, being a leader, being more vocal, and making big-time plays to really make an impact on the field.

Clay Matthews was born to play in the NFL, but his intense training made him a star.

It's [all about] understanding where I am in my career and where I need to be as a leader, especially with the turnover we've had in Green Bay. Fortunately, with my new contract extension, the coaches and organization have shown that they believe in me in being a leader and leading this defense.

Now it's time to continue to raise the bar and make plays out there, be more vocal, and be a leader.

After two All-Pro selections and four Pro Bowls, how do you go into an offseason trying to get better?

It's a commonly asked question: "How do you continue to stay hungry?" It's not just about the individual accolades. Fortunately for me I was able to win a Super Bowl in my second year, and it's been a blessing and a curse—a blessing in that I've been able to accomplish the ultimate goal in football at such an early part of my career.

Yet at the same time, every time you don't make the Super Bowl, or you lose in the playoffs or don't make the playoffs, it's a disappointment of a season. For me, it's working toward the ultimate goal of winning another Super Bowl and along the way trying to outdo myself from years prior. In 2010 I was runner-up to MVP, so maybe it's winning MVP. It's always trying to find things to work toward.

What's a typical off-season day for you?

I work out six days a week, Monday through Saturday, with Sunday being my day off. My days consist of everything from field work, to being in the weight room, mixing in yoga and Pilates, boxing, and sometimes MMA. We're always mixing it up. We're always developing our craft and improving upon our training technique.

NFL rosters are loaded with the toughest, most dynamic athletes on Earth. Clay cannot rest on his successes. He must dominate to earn more.

I always start off the day with a big breakfast: eggs, bacon, oatmeal, and fruit. In between workouts I'll have a snack, whether that consists of some type of fruit, cottage cheese, nuts, Muscle Milk bar, or Muscle Milk shake.

I get lunch almost immediately following my workout to refuel my body. I try to eat six meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with snacks in between, which seems to be a good recipe for what I ask of my body during training sessions.

Do you count calories or just do what feels right?

I do what feels right; you kind of know what's good and bad for you. I try to stay away from the fast food as well as soda and candy, but at the same time, I'm not going to sit here and say that I count calories when I go to the store. I try to eat what is deemed healthy or what I perceive to be healthy.

What's your favorite workout or variation of workout?

My favorite day is Saturday, where I'm just in the gym. But I understand that there's so much more than just being in the gym and lifting weights, whether it's field work, working on my explosion, pass rush, and changing direction, or working on my core, glutes, and flexibility with yoga and Pilates.

Boxing and MMA helps work on my hips, full body, feet, and my hands, which correlates directly with being a pass rusher. They're all so beneficial, but I think every football player loves being in the weight room.

Do you wear yoga pants when you do yoga?

Ha! I don't wear yoga pants. I just wear what I normally train in, which is just shorts and a T-shirt.

"It's about winning games when it counts, and that's obviously the playoffs. Getting there is one battle; once we're there, that's when we really need to make it count."

How do you feel about the team so far this season?

I always feel good about our team, especially with the players we have: arguably the best QB in the league, and a fantastic offense that has broken many records. Our defense has shown that we have the capability to be a top-five defense, and over the past four years that I've been there we've made the playoffs each and every year.

It's about winning games when it counts, and that's obviously in the playoffs. Getting there is one battle; once we're there, that's when we really need to make it count. Unfortunately the last two years we haven't been able to do that.

We have a renewed focus on what we're trying to accomplish, a younger team that's becoming more mature, and I think we drafted really well this past year. We always feel good, but it's about winning when it counts.

Clay Matthews Workout

This workout is performed as straight sets, meaning you do one set of each exercise, resting as little as possible before moving on to the next movement.

Upper Body
Lower Body

Note: A slosh pipe is a 4-8 foot length of PVC pipe partially filled with water. The "sloshing" of the water inside the pipe adds an element of instability to traditional barbell movements.