Drew Brees knew he wasn’t finished yet.
Just prior to the start of the 2017-2018 NFL season, the 38-year-old New Orleans Saints quarterback sat down with STACK and expressed a confident belief that his best years of football were still ahead of him.
“I feel like I’ve got some good years left. I’d like for them to be my best years. I feel like I’m at the point now where I certainly have all the physical skills—I don’t feel like that’s diminished at all. Yet I have all this wealth of experience I’ve gained throughout my career. I feel like this is the culmination of all those things—it makes it the perfect time to go out and try to win another one.”
In the season that followed, Brees led the league in completion percentage (72%) and yards per attempt (8.09) and finished second in passer rating (104.7). In the Saints’ recent NFC Wild Card triumph over the Carolina Panthers, Brees racked up 376 passing yards and flummoxed the defense with his surgical precision.
How is Brees, after 17 NFL seasons and thousands of bone-crunching hits, still so damn good? He takes care of his body like none other. Since 2003, Brees has entrusted Todd Durkin, owner of Fitness Quest 10, to keep him in elite physical shape. Below are three select exercises Brees has utilized over the years to help him build a bulletproof body and defy Father Time.
A strong, stable core is the engine of a healthy, explosive athlete. For a rotational athlete like Brees, core strength is even more vital.
“[Core training] is one of our keys to success. I believe about 65% of power is generated from the trunk,” Durkin says. “If we lose [energy] through our core, we’re not going to be able to maximize velocity or performance.”
Multidirectional Ab Rollouts train the abdominal muscles the way they’re meant to be trained, as they’re what’s known as an “anti-extension” exercise. As his body extends, Brees’ abdominal muscles must work to prevent his hips from sagging and his torso from collapsing onto the floor. By mixing up the direction of the rollouts, Brees hammers his core from all angles—a tactic that translates perfectly to the chaotic nature of tackle football.
Sets/Reps: 2×15-20 Total Reps
Brees spends an immense amount of time on what Durkin refers to as “joint integrity” work. This entails strengthening small stabilizing muscles in different areas of the body. For Brees, no area is more crucial than his right shoulder. In 2005, he suffered a complete 360-degree tear of his right labrum and a partial tear in his right rotator cuff. Brees says it the toughest thing he’s overcome in his career, as some experts told him he’d never play football again. The esteemed Dr. James Andrews surgically repaired Brees’ shoulder, and Brees has since started 133 of the Saints’ last 135 regular-season games.
Though Band Splitters (also called Band Pull-Aparts) might be a rather simple exercise, they’re one of many key movements Brees utilizes to strengthen the muscles around his shoulder and ward off aches in his throwing arm. Considering he leads all active NFL players with 9,294 career passing attempts, that’s pretty darn important.
Sets/Reps: 3×10-20 Total Reps
Saints linebacker Craig Robertson said Brees “killed everybody” in the team conditioning test prior to this season despite the fact he’s at least six years older than any other player on the Saints’ roster. That’s a testament to the fact that Brees is still willing to do the dirty work—most guys his age would rather retire than endure that stuff. There’s nothing fancy about 300-Yard Shuttles. They’re an agonizing test of conditioning and endurance, and the simple fact that Brees is still willing to punish himself with these types of drills is a huge reason he’s remained among the NFL elite. In the past, Brees has performed three 300-yard Shuttles following his workouts with Durkin.
“I’m tired, my legs are heavy, and I’m exhausted,” Brees says. “But I know that I need to stand tall, keep pushing and get this little bit of extra work. That’s what a leader does.”
Sets/Reps: 3 Total Reps. One shuttle equals running from the goal line to the 50-yard line and back three times. Rest two minutes between each shuttle.