Redskins defensive end Adam Carriker is widely considered to be the team’s strongest player, and one of the top forces in the NFL. Last season was a bit of a breakout year for the defensive end, who has steadily increased his production since coming into the league five seasons ago.
I recently chatted with Carriker about his time in the gym, and how he was able to translate that into football success in 2011. According to him, this is a year-round process to exceed his prior limitations.
“Two years ago, I was the strongest I’ve ever been in my life, and last year I was even stronger,” he said. “I’ve been around for long enough and I get tips from other people, so this year it’s my goal to do that again.
“I can tell you that I’ll be stronger next year than I’ve ever been.”
In 2011, Carriker made it his goal to bench over 500 pounds, incline press 450 pounds, dip 550 pounds, squat 600 pounds, and clean and jerk 405 pounds. Check, check, check, check, and check.
“I wanna do the same exact weight and same exact reps–but I wanna do them faster and more explosively,” he told me. “Instead of struggling on the seventh and eighth reps and barely getting them, I want to do four incredibly fast, and then four where I don’t even need a spotter.”
He continued: “I can be a body builder, I can be a power lifter, but at some point with strength, you need to convert it into something else. When I say, I should say ‘stronger,’ I really mean ‘to be more explosive with the same weight.'”
Carriker employed his explosiveness in 2011 by registering 5.5 sacks from the 3-4 defensive end position, an impressive stat that led the Redskins defensive linemen for 11 weeks. He finished the season a half-sack behind teammate Stephen Bowen, but rarely played in nickel packages on obvious passing downs.
Carriker maximized his opportunities on defense, finishing tied for fourth in the NFL for sacks by a 3-4 defensive end.
“Y’know, London can run around and get 166 tackles and lead the NFL, the outside guys get the sacks, and it’s not our job to do that,” he said with a shrug. “We can still make plays, but we know that our job won’t get the numbers.”
Carriker likened his role on defense to what his opponents in the trenches do for the offense–hard work with little glamour.
“It’s not to the extent of offensive linemen, but it’s similar–and linebackers are similar to the running backs,” he explained. “Obviously the running back has to have speed and strength to make moves and break tackles. But the greatest running back in NFL history can’t make plays without a line.
“The 3-4 defensive line is similar to that with our linebackers.”
With that in mind, Carriker said he won’t settle for not making plays. Even if it’s harder to do from his position, he feels like he’s entering the prime years of his career.
“Some of these older players have all the edges, but they can’t physically do it like they used to,” he explained. “Young guys have all the physical advantages, but they’re just kind of running around out there. Y’know, I’m right in the middle of both.
“I’m to a point in my career where I’ve gotten a lot of edges that I didn’t have early on. Physically, I’m only 27, and I’m at the peak conditioning of my career. You put those two things together, and I’m in my prime. This year, last year, and for the next several years, this is the prime for me.”
So how does that translate to on the field success? Carriker has a few numbers in the back of his mind for the 2012 season:
“I guess the goal for me for next year would be 40 or 50 tackles, somewhere between five to eight sacks.”
And in order to accomplish those career-highs, Carriker has done what he’s done every offseason, and tried something new.
“Nobody knows my body better than I do, and nobody knows what I need to work on better than me,” he said. “We have a great strength staff and great strength coaches in Washington, but they need to work on about 60 to 70 guys. Just me working out on me allows me to focus in on exactly my needs.”
One of those ideas was a “detox” or “cleansing” to kick off his offseason.
“Basically, stuff builds up in your intestines and your stomach, so it just gets everything out of your digestive tract: the toxins and the waste that builds up from just being alive,” he said. “Especially playing football, it’s a cleansing that you need to do to keep your body working at optimal level.”
This is a fairly new approach to fitness regimens; one that was used by teammate Lorenzo Alexander, who gave Carriker the idea.
“It’s originally a 21 day detox, but when I started, I knew I wasn’t gonna make it three weeks,” Carriker said. “So I said ‘I know I can do a week. Just make this thing ridiculously hard, and I can make it a week.’ I ended up doing it for 11 days. I think it helped, and I already feel better.”
Carriker said that he’ll build back up to his weight goals as the offseason continues and he prepares for free agency. He originally came to Washington as part of a trade with the Rams two seasons ago.