Patrick Mahomes is undeniably one of the most exciting athletes to watch in the NFL. On his way to leading what many are considering the next great football dynasty, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback secured his second ring with a 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Super Bowl LVII. The game was a tense one for fans, with the lead being exchanged often between the two well-matched teams.
Mahomes was masterful in and out of the pocket, throwing his trademark acrobatic passes and scrambling out of pressure from the specialized Eagles pass rushers. The athleticism he displayed would be impressive under normal circumstances, but it was even more so given that only two games earlier he’d suffered a high ankle sprain. Jaguars defensive end Arden Key landed on Mahomes’ leg after a sack, forcing him to miss most of the second quarter of the NFC Divisional Round. The quarterback returned in the second half to lead them to victory, but the injury was one that had fans on edge.
Despite the sprain, Mahomes showed up ready to win thanks to the relentless work he put in with the PT staff of the Chiefs and his long-time trainer Bobby Stroupe, founder of APEC in Texas. The quarterback has been working out with Stroupe since he was in grade school. That work has only intensified as his career has progressed in the NFL. Leading into this latest Super Bowl run, Stroupe worked with Mahomes year round to find new ways to build upon his natural ability.
Men’s Journal sat down with Stroupe to discuss how he develops a training system around Mahomes’ unique mobility, leverages real-time fitness data from WHOOP, and getting him ready to win Super Bowls.
Courtesy of APEC
Men’s Journal: What makes Patrick Mahomes such a dynamic player?
Bobby Stroupe: Because of the other sports Patrick played, like baseball and basketball, his approach to the position is very original. There’s no denying the great genetic pool he comes from either, with his father having played baseball professionally for a number of years. That natural talent, tireless work ethic, in addition to his sheer will to win make him truly special and a real pleasure to work with as a trainer.
If you were to see Patrick running straight down the field, you might not think he’s a world-class athlete. But it’s the fact he can run backwards or laterally almost as fast—if not just as fast—as he can forward. That’s one of the factors that makes him an outlier. t to mention how explosive he is in any of those directions. I was able to see that in him at a very young age. His jumps in the traditional sense may not have been the best, but they were very good, and he’s able to go in almost any direction with it. matter where he’s coming from, he doesn’t lose power.
Did Super Bowl prep look different this season compared to the last two?
Patrick was weighing in around 238 during that first Super Bowl run. He didn’t love how he felt. w that I’m working with him more consistently, we try to have him slimmer and you can see the benefits. That second Super Bowl run, he was in a boot, which meant he wasn’t really allowed to go full force. Being the workhorse that he is, he was putting in extra time at the gym, along with the recovery, which meant our sessions were somewhere around four hours a day—five if he was throwing. That wasn’t ideal either, because of his foot. This time around, the boot was gone, so we were free to train how we wanted, and we felt great going into the season.
What kind of work do you guys put in during the off-season?
During the off-season we’re training five times a week, and during the season we’re doing about three times a week. In the off-season, we’re looking for issue resiliency, pattern stability—all the things we don’t want Patrick to miss a step on when he’s ready to play again. During the off-season we train pretty early in the morning, because Patrick enjoys a bit of golf and wants to get off the tee before it’s too late.
Courtesy of APEC
Give us a rundown of a typical NFL season training block.
During the season, we’re doing about eight to 10 hours of specialized training together [per week], in addition to the workouts and practice he has with the team. On a week where they’re playing on Sunday, we’re training Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. Of course that adjusts if they’re playing on a different day. Once he’s in the flow of the season, training shifts to a dynamic set of days where we can get him ready to hit performance peaks when he needs to—especially during the playoffs and even more so for the Super Bowl.
For that in-season training, we have a general three-day concept going. The first day is mainly mobility that can look like a gymnastics workout with a lot of stretching, yoga, and Pilates. We do lots of poses and positions like backbends. That’s where we’re grounding him, getting him more comfortable in his relationship with the ground—getting him out of cleats and getting his bare feet on the turf and grass. Everything movement-wise we want to cover is covered on this day, making sure his squat and form looks smooth before we introduce weight.
The second day is more of a strength and conditioning workout with targeted loads. We’re toying with maximum strength and power. Patrick likes to lift heavy. We know we want him gassed and we want his testosterone pumping. We want his ligaments tight, hamstrings strong, and we want that density in the muscles. Patrick is crazy strong and we can have him lifting 550 pounds. That training is definitely more traditional and they’re long days.
The last day is more of a neurological ramp-up. We’re looking to de-load, going below 20 percent of the usual load [but moving] at much faster speeds. That strategy goes for any lifts, rotations, or throws we might be doing. The idea is to help the thoracic spine move faster than it will ever need to in the game. We want him to be running faster than he needs to in the game, with full pads on. I want to see explosive power when he’s throwing med balls. If you follow the progression, you can see the ultimate goal is to have him faster on game day.
Can you share more about the medicine ball work and how it translates to football?
Medicine ball training is important because he wants to be able to produce power from a number of different angles. That means we’re doing med ball throws, med ball rotational passes, and shot-puts. They’re a great way to engage the same muscles as the football with a different kind of implementation. I’d say we do some sort of med ball workout two times a week, year round, whether he’s in-season or off.
I’ll even get the radar gun out so I can see the miles per hour in which he’s throwing the medicine ball. I’ll have him move in all sorts of ways before he throws, so his body becomes as comfortable as possible with every scenario. There are over 20 different med ball throws we do, with weight ranging from heavy to light.
Do you ever use footballs in workouts?
I’m not going to get him out there on the field just to throw footballs, because that’s not my place. He has people on the team who can help with that. But we will do locomotion patterning throws, because I need to know how he works in asymmetrical movement patterns. I’m focusing on his movement literacy. Sometimes I’ll have him hold a football specifically for the fact it’s his happy place. The football in his hands is when he’s most comfortable, then it’s my job to get him uncomfortable so I can help him find ways to deal with it.
Are you tracking his holistic fitness and wellness data?
For recovery and monitoring, WHOOP is a huge tool for us. I get a WHOOP reading from Patrick every day. He wears it on his bicep during games. I have access to his info, as well as some more detailed data on the backend. I see how much he slept and how he recovered. He’s been in the green all season long, so he’s been getting a lot of “green battery” texts from me. On the rare occasion I don’t see one of those, he gets a few stern words.
If I wake up and see that his recovery score is in the 30s, that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to work. It could mean that we’re going to spend a little more time with our warmup and cool down, perhaps a few less reps. Perhaps we do a few more minutes with the Hyperice Hypervolt massage gun after the workout. Say on game day we see he only has a 20 percent recovery score. Does that mean we’re going to call the Chiefs and say he can’t play? . It just means we’re going to use that knowledge so he’s in the best possible situation when he shows up on the field.
These guys are performers. Patrick wouldn’t be in the position he’s in if he wasn’t able to perform when it’s asked of him, whether he’s ready or not. I also don’t want to see a 95 percent recovery from him every day, because if you’re doing real work and you’re challenging yourself, that’s not what you’re going to see. We’re looking to push his body forward, during a football season that lasts 25 weeks long. You want a range of green, but you don’t necessarily want a peak every weekend. If you’re going to peak, you probably want it during the Super Bowl.
The hit Mahomes’ ankle took during the Divisional Round was nasty. How did you process that situation as a trainer?
The Jaguars game was not a fun watch for me. We knew they were an underrated team. There were a lot of people who were counting them out, but that’s not how we were preparing for it at all. We knew it was going to be a battle. They got after Patrick really good, and that injury happened in the first quarter, during the second series. It was very stressful, but I have a lot of trust and faith in the staff to do everything needed for him.
There can be a lot of reasons why an injury like that doesn’t come out worse. Some of it’s chance and some of it’s body preparation for those stressors. If you go back and watch the video of that injury, there are a lot of chain-reaction biomechanics happening that prevented him from having an ACL tear or a fracture. I think the Chiefs did a phenomenal job in that situation, especially Rick Burkholder and Julie Frymyer. There’s a whole ecosystem around his development and rehab.
My goal was to make sure he still had maximum strength going into the game and the injury wasn’t going to hold us back from achieving that. I’ll say immediately my mind was working on the training plan that could help him get back as fast as possible if we won the game. There’s still a lot we can do even if he has to be in a boot or keep weight off his leg. I still had to wait for the MRI and everything else, but that didn’t stop me from getting to the whiteboard in my mind.
Did your training plan adjust at all knowing the Super Bowl would be played against the Philadelphia Eagles?
The team we’re playing against isn’t going to take over the way we get Patrick ready. But there’s always going to be that one to five percent of the training that’s specific to the defense across the line. I’m not going to tell you that we have a player chart in front of us and we’re going to bench 50 more pounds because Ndamukong Suh is going to be on the other side of that line. But if we know there’s an active defensive line that will be chasing.
We knew the Eagles defensive line has some specialized pass rushers who are going to get up the field quick. That means Patrick is going to have to move more. And when there’s more pressure on the inside, that means you’re going to have more curvilinear runs to avoid that. So that could mean we theme the sprints and runs more in that direction.
If you have a power rusher, running away from them is a good thing to do. If you have a speed rusher, you’re going to want to run toward them. It’s better to pass a fast train than run from it. So our movement strategies are going to reflect that. There are special considerations to be made if you have an injury to one of your feet, too. If you know you’re going to get rushed on the inside, you probably want to make sure you’re fully capable of running outward in the direction that’s going to cause you less pain in that foot.
Courtesy of APEC
What kind of warmup does Mahomes go through before a game?
Patrick is a really superstitious guy, and he does the same warmup routine every time. So you’ll see him do some Romanov upper-body stretches, which look like wrist stretches. Then he’s going to do his arm care routine, where he’ll start to speed things up. There are a series of different swings he’ll do that look like basketball pivots, trying to get the fascial system woken up. You’ll see him doing skips, backwards running, and jumps. Then he’s going to shoot the football like a basketball, doing some fadeaways and jump shots, which I assure you is not something I wrote up. Then he’ll go to different corners of the end zones to do these little rituals, it could be prayer or it could be a stretch, but it’s unique to him.
Given the many years you guys have worked together, and the incredible feats you’ve seen him accomplish, what’s the key to training like Mahomes?
I think it really comes down to that need to win. Patrick really responds whenever we gamify our training. I’ve found that in the way that we work out or the way we recover. Patrick doesn’t want to lose at anything…beer pong, darts, or Super Bowls.
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