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Colin Kaepernick calls himself an outside-the-box kind of guy, but it’s more like outside-the-pocket. He’s bigger and faster than most quarterbacks, and he’s just as comfortable running the ball as throwing it—his highlight reel is a mashup of thundering gallops and lightning strikes. His grasp of the game is, in the words of his coach Jim Harbaugh, “savantlike.” Just 25 years old, Kaepernick already commands respect. “If you work hard and perform well,” says Kaepernick, “it doesn’t matter whether you’re 20 or 40. People are going to follow, and you can go in there and run the show.” In 13 games in 2012—Kaepernick’s first year as a starter—he had the third-highest QB rating in the NFL (behind over-35 vets Tom Brady and Peyton Manning). He threw for 1,814 yards and rushed for 415—and carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl. “I’m still trying to improve,” he says. “Everything I can do to improve every part of my game—I’m going to do it.” That process starts in the gym, Ryan Capretta’s ProActive Sports Performance near Los Angeles, where Kaepernick manhandles 100- pound dumbbells on reverse lunges and 110s on the bench press. He flies through agility drills like band shuffles and hurdle jumps—exercises intended to give him a few extra milliseconds of safety—moving with speed and precision that belie his imposing size. Unlike many quarterbacks, who typically train one-on-one with personal coaches, Kaepernick mixes it up in Capretta’s gym alongside elite cornerbacks, linebackers, and defensive
linemen, often beating them at their own game. “I don’t train alone unless I have to,” Kaepernick says. “I like being pushed.” In any given training week in the off-season, nothing pushes Kaepernick like Capretta’s Friday “road trips,” in which he and a posse of players venture out to one of L.A. County’s most formidable obstacles—a sand dune, flight of stairs, or grassy hill—for some Rocky-style speed-and-agility training. Today, a couple of weeks before camp kicks off, the scene is 170 wooden-and-concrete stairs climbing the side of Santa Monica Canyon. A single trip up at a moderate pace is enough to leave most guys’ legs burning. Kaepernick sprints the stairs six times, using various stepping patterns: one step at a time; two at a time; turned slightly to one side, then the other. As bystanders gawk, Kaepernick rockets upward over and over, his churning legs a blur. Some of the other players fade, but Kaepernick finishes strong, accelerating through the top step. “I refuse to take shortcuts,” he says. “I’ll never
take the easy way out.”
Speed Tip: Charge Up Steps
Find a steep hill, stadium stairs, or flight of steps outdoors and charge up it three to six times in succession. Descend at a moderate pace and rest 90 seconds at the bottom. For variety, hop up the steps on one foot (changing feet every 10 steps or so), grab a kettlebell or sandbag and carry it up, or try “skater jumps”— jumping to either edge of each step—as you ascend. “You’ll build strength, stamina, and mental toughness,” says Capretta.
All-Pro Speed Challenge
Speed is a game breaker. Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., the owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego and a trainer for Darren Sproles, Drew Brees, and a cadre of other elite NFL players, created the Terrible Treadmill 10 to forge quickness. “Running uphill at a high incline forces you to drive your legs and knees up, extend your hips back, and explode off the balls of your feet— all skills that increase your ability to propel your body forward in an all-out sprint on flat ground,” says Durkin.
Terrible Treadmill 10
Set the treadmill at a 10 percent incline. Sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds, and then rest for 30 seconds. That’s 1 round; do 10 rounds total. Your goal is to maintain your fastest speed for all 10 sprints. (Be careful: Hold the rails when getting on and off the treadmill.)