Odell Beckham Jr.’s Trainer Breaks Down His Super Bowl Prep Regimen
Jamal Liggin dishes on sand workouts, sleeping habits and OBJ's last-minute training for Super Bowl Sunday
Jamal Liggin is a performance coach to some of the greatest athletes in the NFL.
Based in Los Angeles, his JLT Performance Gym hosts pros like Joe Haden, Stefon Diggs and Christian Kirk. This week, his state-of-the-art facility is especially busy as he preps long-time clients Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and linebacker Von Miller for their upcoming bout with the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.
The chance to compete on American football’s greatest stage is the realization of a lifelong dream for Beckham, and the acrobatic receiver has spent his time since the NFC Championship sharpening his skillset with his trainer. Liggin gave InsideHook an inside look at the process that got them both here, from their initial meeting way back in 2014 to last-minute preparations for Super Bowl Sunday.
InsideHook: How did you first start working with Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller?
Jamal Liggin: I moved to Los Angeles in 2013, and it really got started from there. I was living and sleeping in the gym. I knew that I had knowledge to give and a service to provide but not how to break in. I looked up to guys like Tom Shaw and Pete Bommarito. I met Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 and things started to steamroll from there.
How does it feel to have been working with Odell for so long and see this moment come?
I was just talking with Odell about it. He came in to put some extra work in and we talked about how this has been his destiny from day one. I’ve been all over the world with him, and he has put in the work in. It means a lot to me that he has chosen to keep me in his corner this whole time. He deserves this.
Going into a big moment like the Super Bowl, what are the gym sessions like?
This is still the season in our eyes, so I don’t want to do too much that will wear him out before or after practice. I want to keep it relatively light. There are a few explosive exercises that we utilize going into this game, where he is pulling me while sprinting. I work with a great company called BlazePod that builds light technology that helps us with reactive and cognitive training. I was able to set up one of their systems in my facility.
Odell came in the space last night and he just wanted to mess with the lights, just to fine-tune those reflexes. They are set up on the wall, and he has to react instead of anticipate. I also had him do a little mobility work and increase explosiveness, but nothing too crazy. Throw some speed drills into the mix and that’s all that we really need to do to sharpen him for the Super Bowl.
How important is recovery and sleep during the end of the season and going into a huge game like the Super Bowl?
Recovery is a huge part of the process for me. I am not going to train a guy if he isn’t running on the right amount of sleep. The first question I ask my guys when I see them is how much they got. I am glad the NFL has a partnership with Sleep Number, because their Sleep Number 360 allows me to see their sleep patterns for myself. They aren’t able to lie or mislead me. I am able to see exactly when they are getting out of bed. I have one myself so I know exactly how it works. I also have an in-house physical therapist, massage therapist and chiropractor. Those elements are just as important as the workouts.
How do these postseason sessions differ from what you do in the off-season?
During the off-season our training is very intense. We are going about five or six days a week. I like to take my guys outside often and into different elements to challenge them. I don’t want them getting too comfortable in one environment. I will have [Beckham] running hills, and then going into the weight room. Or going out to the beach for sprints, and then right back into the weight room. The benefit of having them run in sand is they don’t have the push-off they usually get on the field, and it challenges their ability to find their own explosiveness. Once they get back on the field, there is so much more power there.
What is it like being in the gym with OBJ?
Everybody has this idea that Odell is coming into the gym and just dancing the whole time. Sure he does dance, but he is taking his training very seriously. The grind hasn’t changed much over the years. OBJ has the heart of a true competitor. It doesn’t matter if he is working out with a group at my gym or on his own, he wants to be first.
Both OBJ and Von started off in my group classes. They are one-on-one guys now. They are at a point that they are really trying to take it all to that next level so they need special attention. Odell is also very giving of his time. There are rookies that I work with that will ask him questions, and he will stop for half an hour to share his experience. Everybody knows he’s a player who’s been through a few ups and downs.
How about Von Miller?
Von likes to talk shit. He likes to party and dance. He brings great energy to the workouts. I can feel spent after a full day of training, so having a guy like Von, who brings momentum himself, is fantastic. He is very optimistic about the future. He has been on this Super Bowl stage before and he’s thriving right now. My workouts with him are usually right after I have Odell in, which is great because they will be competitive with each other as well. They are always asking what times the other got on the prints or how much they were lifting.
Given that you have two of your guys going into the Super Bowl, was there any change in the way you guys train that may have had a positive effect on their performance this season?
I feel like one of the big game changers that actually came from my end was getting my own gym. Of course we had other gyms and college facilities that we were welcome at, but it’s just so much easier now that I have my own home for them.
There are a lot of people building their own gyms now, and creating spaces in their home to workout. What were the important elements that you wanted in your facility?
I’m old-school when it comes to strength. All I need is a rack and free weights. There are a lot of pieces on the market, but at the end of the day I like to rely on the classic methodologies. People walk into my gym and ask where all of the cables or air-compressor machines. Getting to put up the BlazePods was big too, because the players have fun with them. It’s nice to have a drill that has benefits while also creating excitement and breaking up the monotony.
I decided to put in colored overhead lights, because I really wanted to create a vibe in the space. I want the guys to show up and feel like they can have fun. There is an amazing sound system in there as well. Odell will come in and throw on his music. I don’t believe it’s a distraction. If anything it helps him focus on the task at hand and not have his mind wander. It keeps him in the moment. These workouts are grueling, and the tunes help with the pain I am putting him through.
OBJ and most of these guys have been training hard since high school while also having innate ability. How difficult is it to find ways to actually challenge them?
Like you said, Odell is a true athlete, which makes it difficult when I am creating drills or exercises for him to do. There isn’t much that he can’t do, so that part of is where the challenge comes in. These guys could train with anyone and still be great most likely. So part of my job is to create a program that they will look forward to in three months, not just the next day. That’s where exercises like the BlazePods and the tennis ball drill come in.
The tennis ball drill videos from you and OBJ have gone viral multiple times. Clearly it looks like a lot of fun, but what is it adding to his game?
I find it funny how much attention it has gotten, but it’s not just for show. There is real strategy behind it. It’s a great drill especially for receivers, since it works on their hand-eye coordination. They have to react to what I am doing with the ball when I through it their way. I think that it has Odell helped solidly with his single hand catches and ability flying around while never losing sight of the ball.
Do you have any advice for people who want to try it out at home or other trainers?
My bit of advice to the trainer is that they have to work just as hard as the athlete. Because if you are throwing it back to them the same every time that’s not helping them get better. You have to throw it to them low and high. I am putting in just as much effort as my players are.
What is the record for throws you have with the tennis ball drill?
I think Odell and I got up to 75 throws one time. The whole gym was going crazy because we were going behind the back and through the legs.
The life of a professional athlete is pretty chaotic, and can have plenty of distractions. Speaking on recovery, how closely are your monitoring their extracurricular activities?
I am not naive to the fact that we are in places like Los Angeles or Miami on- and off-season. There is no secret that people like to go out and have a good time. I just need them to be mindful of how many times they do that a week. They can’t be going out three or four times a week, taking vacations, and expecting good results in the weight room. I don’t want to be their dad, so I am not trying to be on their back, but of course I am going to see their social media. I will notice if I see them popping up in those late hours. All I ask is that they are mindful, and they know that by now.
There is a lot of work that goes into getting these guys ready for the season. Do you go to the games and are you able to enjoy them?
I tell my guys that it’s difficult for me to watch the games, because I can’t help but overthink every play. I try to show up at a few throughout the year just to show my support. Of course, I’m not going to miss this Super Bowl.
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