Sports | January 4, 2021 6:19 am

How Jay Glazer Became the NFL’s Go-To Off-Season Workout Guru

When the season ends, Glazer’s work is just getting underway

How Jay Glazer Became the NFL’s Go-To Off-Season Workout Guru
GNC Holdings, Inc.

Jay Glazer is best known as being the NFL Insider for Fox Sports, breaking scoops, busting chops and generally coming across as one of the more likable personalities among the sporting commentariat. But the well-connected caster plays almost as important a role to professional football during the off-season, when he trains the athletes at Unbreakable Performance, his elite gym in West Hollywood. (That is, when he isn’t palling around with friends like MMA legend Chuck Liddell and Hall of Famer Michael Strahan.)

Glazer recently joined InsideHook for an Instagram Live hosted by contributor Charles Thorp to chat about training NFL players, his own personal fitness journey and his new line with GNC. You can read the conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, below.

InsideHook: How did you start training NFL players?

Jay Glazer: I got into mixed martial arts before it really started taking off, and even did some training with [Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend] Renzo Gracie. I started competing because I loved it. I even won a world submission fighting championship in Atlantic City. That was actually the day before I started my gig with Fox covering football. I walked in to work with a busted foot, broken rib and my face was messed up. The head of the network, Dave Hill, told me to never to do that again.

I had to find another place to direct that energy and I decided to do it coaching guys. That is when I created the first mixed martial arts conditioning program for pro athletes. That was myself along with Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, and over the years we have trained around 1,000 athletes, from NFL stars to fighters. It has just grown exponentially. Our gym looked like the Oscars when the Super Bowl came around to Los Angeles.

Jay Glazer training Dallas Cowboys corner back Orlando Scandrick at Unbreakable in 2014
Anne Cusack/Getty

Who were some of the NFL guys that you have worked with?

The first we ever trained was Jared Allen, the long snapper [turned All Pro defensive end]. He dropped a lot of weight, started killing it and these guys started calling us asking to get the same treatment. That was the beginning. Lane Johnson was the model student for us. He came to us before he was at this level. We told him that if he followed our teaching, that we were going to change his grandkids’ lives. We were brought down to New Orleans to work with all of the Saints. We have had Aaron Rodgers in the gym. But I would have to say that Odell Beckham is probably the biggest freak we have ever trained.

Running back Chris Johnson was an interesting story. He actually came in after he had been shot, and he still had a bullet in his shoulder. He came back two weeks later and told ‘em that he was ready to train. His sling was on and the bullet was still in the shoulder. We worked around it. We changed his mentality about the injury, where we actually drilled him to become more aggressive despite the injury.

How does it feel to impact someone’s career to that degree?

It feels tremendous. Chris Johnson wrote me after that year and said how much our work had helped him. I will get calls after games where our guys realize that they have been using some of the techniques that we discussed in the gym in their games. Almost subliminally.

What are you looking to accomplish with the training that you do with these guys?

The way that we do our workouts is unique, bringing fighting into most of our training, and it isn’t just the body — we work to make the mind relentless as well. We coach people not to show when they hurt, or when they are tired. I want to see that same thing from my fighters in the gym. I want you to wonder why they aren’t tired, why they aren’t quitting.

The familiarity that I have with the game has allowed me to impart knowledge to the young guys who come in, about on-field awareness and bringing a fight to the other team. The culture that we have built in the gym is very special too. There is one thing that our gym doesn’t have that every other gym does, and that is mirrors. I don’t want anyone’s back turned to the others that we have in there. I want everyone to feel like a team in there, and to work with each other.

Have any of the players looked to actually spar, since you are doing so much fighting?

That was one of the mistakes that we made early on with our football players. Back in the day we were working with Patrick Willis, and he was really eager to get some sparring in. So we put him in the ring with this guy named Jay, who was probably 175 pounds. Jay beat the hell out of him. That was the last time that we ever let one of our football players spar.

What do you think of this season so far?

This season has been very different and difficult for a lot of teams with new leadership. That is one of the reoccurring themes that I expected, the fact that with these short training camps it is really hard to build a team culture. It is virtually impossible to develop a team culture in three weeks. That is why the old crews are doing so well.

The clientele at Unbreakable has grown well beyond football players over the years. I know a lot of actors and musicians have made it home as well.

I mean the team that we have working out there is a good one. You could run into anyone from Wiz Khalifa to Demi Lovato to Chris Pratt. Or perhaps Michael Strahan or Rob Gronkowski or Sylvester Stallone. But no matter who you are in our gym, we are all in it together. There is zero ego amongst the people we have in there. If you drop something, anything on the floor, any one of those guys would pick it up for you. We are a family in there.

It was my buddy Michael Strahan who told me that I am “selling my immaturity.” I mean we have Sly Stallone walking around there with a cup of water, throwing it on people, just having fun. I think that is so necessary to being at your best and most productive at the gym. That is what I want at least. I created Unbreakable to help people, but it is just as much for my own mental and physical benefit.

How does it feel to have your new line with GNC out?

I am so excited about this whole partnership. You know GNC is the first supplement store I went to. I am not just a brand ambassador here. I worked on every element, and we have more that we are doing together. For me to have my own line there is absolutely ridiculous. I have wanted to work out and get big ever since I was a little man back in school. At the time I thought I was doing it to look good physically, but I realize know it was just as important for my mental state.

What did those early workouts mean to you?

I was dealing with a lot of anxiety, and that was what really led me to the gym, wrestling, boxing and the mixed martial arts. My self-worth was so bad that I thought that I should be the one taking the beatings, rather than giving them out. It wasn’t until later in life when I started training with my friends Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, that I learned how beautiful that brotherhood can be when you are really both giving and taking that energy. That is when I realized that I was worthy of not losing all of the time. I was worthy to win.

Now you’re trying to share that message of self-worth with others, especially our veterans, through your charity Merging Players & Veterans. I have been to a few of your meets, and they are very impactful. How did that organization come to be?

I was sad to see our veterans come back to life as civilians and think of themselves as different. I want them to embrace that difference to a degree. Five years ago we opened up our doors at Unbreakable to combat veterans and bringing them into contact with pro football players. There are similarities, and it is rough when they lose a member of  their team. I have dealt with depression, and I think the best way to deal with it is to build a team and to be of service. That is what we have worked to build.

Our veterans have players they watch and support, and those players have the upmost respect for our veterans. They hear the stories of what they had to go through in Iraq or Afghanistan, and they are floored by it. Of the people who are involved with our program, more than half of them had attempted suicide before, a few of them several times. Since we started, nobody involved with our program has attempted again, which is a huge win for us. My goal is for us to have a serious impact on the suicide rates in this country. I want to make more of the world “unbreakable.”

How have those experiences changed the way that you look at life?

I believe that it is beautiful to have scars. I am proud of my scars. I have a herniated C2, C3, C4 and C5. I have ruptured my L1 and L2. I have nothing left of my L4 and L5 — it’s just bone on bone. I have dislocated my arm and torn my bicep. I have torn my calf, broken my ankle twice. I have woken up during surgery. I have broken my nose six times. My head has been dinged more than you can count. I am proud of every single one of those injuries. I know that I can walk into any room and be different than everyone else in there. That has nothing to do with winning or losing, it just shows that I am willing to get in the ring. 

Check out Jay’s Unbreakable line for GNC here, and Jay’s charity Merging Vets & Players here.