Kurtis Shultz supervises the Vikings as players work through the relentless weekly offseason Jailhouse workout.
David E. Klutho/SI
Workout For Jailhouse Day
Fifteen-minute cardio warm-up (includes jump rope, squat thrusts, push-ups, high steps, cariocas, step overs and duck unders with hurdles.)
Lower Body Lifting (weight varies by individual)
Squats or leg press: Two sets of 10
Duck Squat Deadlift barbell or dumbbell: Two sets of eight
Leg Curls: Two sets of 12
Leg extensions: One set of 20
Outer hip: One set of 12
Jailhouse circuit (intended to be done with no rest between stations. Weights on lifting exercises vary by individual.)
Bike stand with high resistance: One minute
Alternating push-ups (with one hand on small medicine ball): Four on each side
Medium bar row: 12 reps
Physio ball push-ups: 12 reps
Negative pull-ups, taking six seconds to lower body: Five reps
Step-over push up: Six on each side
Bike stand with high resistance: One minute
Band reverse fly: 12 reps
Cable row: 12 reps
Dumbbell reverse row: 15 reps
Nautilus fly: 12 reps
Hammer band bench, 5-second negative: Eight reps
Sandbag bench: 25 reps (weight of bag can be 75, 100, or 125)
Quick feet (stepping on and off small riser quickly): 12 times each leg
Bike stand at high resistance: One minute
Avenger Row: 15 reps
Nautilus Incline: 15 reps
Hammer Pulldown: 15 reps
Push 275-pound sled back and forth across width of practice field adjoining the weight room
Sandbag clean or curl (50 lbs.): 10 reps
Barbell curl: 12 reps
Band curl: 15 reps
Bench dips: 15 reps
Band kickbacks: 20 reps
Roller up and down (a 10-pound pipe with a 15-pound weight attached by a rope, you roll the weight up and then down by turning the pipe)
Gripper hold: 60 seconds
Rope curl: 15 reps
Tricep pushdown: 15 reps
By Bill Syken, SI.com
Darren Sharper is new to Minnesota this year, having come over from the Packers as a free agent, so he didn't know what Mondays meant in the Vikings offseason conditioning schedule. "No one warned me," he says. He found himself thrown into the Jailhouse, a relentless circuit workout that is the trademark of team strength trainer Kurtis Shultz. "I've never been one to regurgitate," Sharper says, "but I nearly didn't make it."
Sharper has since found the pain from these workouts, which he and others say are tougher than any other teams' off-season programs, has indeed resulted in gain. "This is the best condition I've ever been in at this point in the year," Sharper said when interviewed as the 12-week program neared its end in early July.
Shultz, a 33-year-old former basketball forward at the University of Maryland, is in his second season with the Vikings after a year as an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Bengals. But more telling about his intensity is what Shultz did for the three years before that: He was the personal trainer to Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. The two would go to Oregon Ridge, a ski run outside of Baltimore, take 45-pound plates, walk them up the hill and do squats; they did parachute runs on beaches in Miami; they even sparred in the boxing ring.
At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, Shultz is imposing physically, but he is also a self-described computer geek. He provided a printout detailing the first eight-weeks of the Vikings' off-season program, which was as thick as the St. Paul white pages. He meticulously plans each workout, down to the way the players will run around the cones. And while days of the week have specific plans -- Monday is Jailhouse, Tuesday is strength and agility, Wednesday is upper body lift, Thursday is agility and lower body lift and Friday is boxing workouts or an open gym -- Shultz believes in constant variation of the routine. Each Monday is different from the previous Monday, and so on. "We constantly try to shock the muscles," Shultz says. "Otherwise you become stagnant. And your muscles remember. You keep doing the same thing in the weight room, you're not going to improve. So we try to shock you every time."
The common theme of each jailhouse session is weight work done at an elevated heart rate. For some players, the jailhouse becomes a form of sparring with Shultz. Offensive linemen Adam Goldberg and Mike Rosenthal make a show of telling Shultz they aren't intimidated by his workout schemes. "You can see those little veins come out in his head," Goldberg says. During the jailhouse workout, Rosenthal, as if issuing a challenge, finishes a reverse row exercise and throws the 30-pound dumbbells a few feet across the room, showing he has yet to be challenged. Shultz responds by adding extra weight or resistance to their exercises -- for example, throwing a 100-pound sandbag on the sleds they have to push back and forth across the width of the field. By the time Rosenthal, who is catching the worst of it, nears the end, he is dropping the weights instead of throwing them and barely crosses the finish line. But he's not an unhappy man. Between heavy breaths, Rosenthal says being pushed this way is the whole point of the workout. "You can't get this kind of workout on your own," he says. After Goldberg and Rosenthal have caught their breath, they leave the gym, and Goldberg calls out behind him, "Better luck next time, Shultz."