Duke Manyweather Talks NFL Player Nutrition and the End of 360-Pound Linemen
In the first part of our Q+A with Offensive Line Scouting and Development Consultant Duke Manyweather, we focused on his OL Masterminds Summit, where he and All-Pro Eagles tackle Lane Johnson huddle up with more than 30 of the NFL’s top linemen each summer to prepare them to handle the new generation of prolific pass rushers. Duke has much more to say in this second installment, riffing on everything from ideal playing weight to how protein supplements have progressed to the way powerlifting informs his mindset training.
What’s something you wished you’d known during your own playing career that you know now?
Everyone kept telling me that I had to be at least 300 pounds, even though I’m shorter than the typical lineman. So I bulked up to about 305. But then I started dealing with plantar fasciitis and all these other injuries. I wish I hadn’t listened to others and had stayed around 275 or 285, knowing that I could still be effective at a lower weight. So now I tell guys that your body works optimally when it’s at its leanest. If you can do everything your coach is asking you to do and that you know you’re capable of, you shouldn’t be trying to add extra weight just for the sake of it. That’s just going to reduce your longevity in the game. The direction the NFL is going, you need to be leaner and more mobile. I wish I’d known that because it probably would’ve prolonged my career.
What are some of the basic guidelines you give to players so that they eat well?
It starts with eating natural food. Get a lot of green leafy vegetables, and vary your protein between beef, chicken, lamb, and other meats. Not everyone is a Paleo kind of guy, but for most linemen, I advise that they have a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb diet. And when they do have more carbs, that they make sure these are things like bread, rice, pasta, and other whole grains, rather than just a bunch of artificial ingredients and simple sugars. These contribute to inflammation, take you out of a parasympathetic state, and compromise your immune system.
What’s one lesson that you’ve learned from competitive powerlifting and transferred into your coaching?
You’ve got to train your mind. You can train your technique and get your body strong, but when you get on the field and are in the heat of battle, something is going to happen that you’re unprepared for. I’ll give you an example. In my most recent powerlifting meet, I was feeling great going in. I did what I wanted to do in the squat, and felt confident going into the bench press. But in my third warmup set, I felt a twinge in my pec and knew I’d hurt something. So then it became a mindset thing. I had to think fast and decide what I was going to do. I could’ve dropped out completely, or sometimes you might skip the bench entirely, but then you’re not going to get the kind of total that will qualify you for nationals. I had to think fast and in that moment, decided to at least get something on the board in the bench.
I put up 135 – pounds, not kilos. That’s nothing in the scheme of things, but it helped me up my total. Then I went into the deadlift with a clear mind knowing I’d done everything I could up to that point. I ended up pulling 735. Even when I had that weird sensation in my pec, I had no doubt that I would finish the meet. I knew I could do what I was capable of in the moment on the bench, and then do what I wanted to do with my deadlift because I’d already pulled that big weight mentally beforehand.
What changes have you seen in protein supplements over the years?
When I was in high school and using protein and weight gain powders, they always stayed clumpy whether you shook them, stirred them, or put them in a blender. It was like drinking thick paint. Then there seemed to be a time when everything started tasting way too sweet, and companies were marketing their products as dessert on the go. After that there was a swing the other way, and you had these unflavored powders that tasted bland. The focus then seemed to be on how many grams of protein were in each scoop, but when I started looking into it, I found that they often exaggerated the numbers by adding extra amino acids.
Thankfully, there are now companies like Momentous, who are putting the money in to get the best ingredients, do their research, and produce high-quality products that do what they say they’re going to do, put what’s on the label in the bottle, and still taste great. They work equally well for elite athletes and soccer moms. The best protein is the one that we can all benefit from. People are more educated about supplements now and that has forced companies to create better, purer products.
Why did you decide to team up with Momentous?
Momentous is raising the bar for supplementation and we’re trying to do the same for player development. It’s crucial that guys are putting the right things in their bodies. Everything they’re doing on the field and in the weight room is important, but they’ve got to fuel well for it all to come together when it counts. It doesn’t matter how much work you put in physically or how well prepared you are mentally if you’re not eating correctly. Your body is going to break down. That’s the last thing we want. One of the biggest things is keeping players healthy, because that’s the only way they can be at their best. The NSF Certified for Sport certification that Momentous has gives me confidence that players are protected and aren’t taking in any heavy metals or other contaminants. Momentous products help guys get in a parasympathetic state and recover well, which is key to the longevity of their careers.
Speaking of recovery, where does that fit into your coaching philosophy?
We always want to be preventative in everything we do. That’s why we spend a lot of time working on ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders. We want to do the small things to help prevent injuries. But stuff happen and you also need to put in time on the other end. So we have guys do mobility exercises to make sure they’re getting rid of adhesions, we do fascia stretch therapy, and make sure players are staying limber. We also use neuro-muscular reeducation to reprogram any movement dysfunction that we identify. That’s where my business partner, Patrick Brennan, really excels.