Lunch key for lineman

Off-season preparation for defensive mainstay centres on diet

Off-season food intake is essential to the weight goals of Gaels defensive lineman John Miniaci. He hopes to start the 2013 season at 280 pounds.
Image by: Alex Choi
Off-season food intake is essential to the weight goals of Gaels defensive lineman John Miniaci. He hopes to start the 2013 season at 280 pounds.

The road to peak conditioning doesn’t end with the final repetition at the gym.

For defensive lineman John Miniaci, a well-balanced diet is vital to translating off-season work to on-field success. All football players follow a strict diet that consists of lots of protein and complete carbohydrates.

A typical day’s meals might consist of steak and eggs for breakfast; pasta with chicken and vegetables for lunch; a protein shake, more steaks and a large salad for dinner.

“For the bigger guys like myself, we try to get in as much food intake as we can,” Miniaci said. “But at the same time, it’s good carbs and good calories as well.

“We can’t be scarfing down McDonalds every day.”

Miniaci looks to enter the 2013 season at a solid 280 pounds. Careful attention is needed to balance the weight and strength needed to fend off 300-plus pound offensive lineman while remaining quick enough to close the gap with a quarterback on the pass-rush.

“It’s got to be lean muscle,” he said. “I don’t want to carry much excess weight.”

Hitting the weight room regularly is the second sure-fire way to make offseason improvements.

“It’s the combination of being at that heavier weight of 280 but not losing any speed or agility, which you typically have when you’re lighter.”

While individual goals vary from player to player, most linemen stick to a similar routine that focuses on strength, explosiveness and agility. The standard exercises like bench press and squats are essential, but Miniaci mixes in other techniques to reach top-end fitness.

“I try to get in skipping and lateral work, just that quickness on your feet, getting your quick-twitch muscles firing,” he said.

Linemen generally use the 225-pound bench press and 10-yard dash to set benchmarks and track progress throughout the offseason. Miniaci was tested vigorously from March 22-24, when he attended the CFL scouting combine in Toronto. He was joined by Gaels wide receiver Justin Chapdelaine and offensive lineman Josh Prinsen.

“The lifts are much more high intensity compared to during the season where it’s more maintenance,” Miniaci said. “You’re in [the gym] at least four times a week.”

Once spring hits, the week is scheduled into multiple weight training sessions along with team practices that focus on refining and improving fundamental skills.

The strains of a full football schedule begin in the fall.

Weight-training sessions are cut to a minimum — players focus on maintaining mobility and overall strength in between rigorous practices and Saturday games.

This increase in activity corresponds with a jump in food intake. Meals increase to five or six a day, incorporating more calorie-dense foods like bread and nuts.

The increased consumption allows Miniaci to indulge in his university student favourite meal of steak and perogies.

“[I’ve] definitely got to pack [myself] more snacks … just to keep my body going.”


Football, Gaels, John Miniaci

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