Aidan Hutchinson's Leg Workout for Power and Brute Strength


Not to be histrionic, but Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson‘s leg workout is the reason why he’s able to steamroll through offensive lines.

When Hutchinson came onto the scene, he quickly made his mark, with his quickness off the line. In fact, the second overall draft pick had one of the most productive rookie seasons by any first-year pass rusher in NFL history. Now, only a few games into his sophomore year, Hutchinson has already earned an NFC Defensive Player of the Week performance with two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and two passes defensed against the Atlanta Falcons. 

“If you look at Aidan’s sacks from his first year, most of them were accomplished with agility or speed runs around the offensive line,” says strength coach David Lawrence, who works with Hutchinson during the off-season at MECA gym in Michigan. “There weren’t a whole lot of plays that were the result of a bull rush or heavy hits. There’s no question how athletic Aidan is, but the goal of our off-season workouts were to give him the power to add those kinds of attacks to his skillset.”

And that’s exactly what they did. Despite most teams in the league putting more than one body to block Hutchinson, his brute strength and power have been hard to slow down.  

At 6′ 7″, 268 lbs, Hutchinson is a force to be reckoned with.

Courtesy Image

Aidan Hutchinson’s Off-Season Program

During the off-season, Hutchinson does four days of training in the gym, as well as two days dedicated to speed work. 

“To be honest, helping an already gifted player achieve more power is the easiest possible problem for me,” says Lawrence.

Following an initial scan of Hutchinson to check how his muscle and body fat was distributed, Lawrence built a program to add strength while maintaining the player’s explosiveness.

Related: Jonathan Majors ‘Creed III’ Workout: Upper Body Bulk-up

Recovery Tactics That Help Aidan Hutchinson Bounce Back for Game Day

“Getting regular massages is something I recommend to all my athletes, but also anybody who trains at any level,” says Lawrence. “I was connected with Aidan through a massage therapist who he already worked with, so it’s something he already had on lock.” 

In addition to massage, Hutchinson is a big proponent of meditation before and after games to keep his mental state right.

Aidan Hutchinson’s Leg Workout for Brute Strength and Explosive Power

This is a pared-down version of a workout Lawrence does with Hutchinson in the off-season to bring additional power to his natural athletic ability. You’ll need access to a full gym. This will bulk up your quads and hamstrings in no time.


Do 6 rounds of the A block and 4 rounds of the B block before moving onto the finisher. Follow the specific tempos written for each exercise to increase time under tension. Rest for the given amount at the end of each exercise before moving on to the next.

Note: Image depicts heels flat—not elevated on weight plates.

Hirurg/Getty Images

1A. Heels-Elevated Safety Bar Squat x 4 reps

Why It Works

When you elevate your heels during squats, it places greater tension on the quads and helps you sink deeper into the movement. If traditional back squats aggravate your low back, this is a great variation because you can lift heavier but stay in a more upright position that reduces strain.

How to Do It

  1. Set a safety bar with a moderate-to-heavy load at shoulder level in a squat rack, then position yourself underneath so the bar rests against your traps. Place your hands on the handles with a neutral grip, to start. 
  2. Inhale, brace your core, then unrack the barbell and walk back several steps, keeping your feet at shoulder-width. Step your heels onto weight plates. 
  3. Hinge at your hips and lower down until thighs are parallel to the ground or hips sink below knees, depending on mobility. 
  4. Follow a 4210 tempo: Take four seconds to lower, pause for two seconds, lift up explosively, then immediately begin the next rep. 
  5. Rest for 2 minutes.
Don’t have a glute-ham machine? Do Nordic hamstring curls instead.

Courtesy Image

2A. Glute-Ham Raise x 4 reps

Why It Works

This is one of the hardest bodyweight exercises for men to do. Because your hamstrings, glutes, musculature of the low back, and calves work in tandem to lower your body up and down, it’s an incredible strength builder. It’s also the perfect move for football players who need their posterior chain to work smoothly in unison on the field. If you want to hammer your hamstrings, this is the way to do it. Glute-ham raises also work knee flexion and hip extension at the same time—something leg curls and kettlebell swings can’t.

How to Do It

  1. Adjust the glute-ham machine to a comfortable position. The foot plate should be far enough from the pad so when you get onto the bench, your knees hang below the pad. 
  2. Begin with your torso upright, arms crossed in front of your chest, lower legs in the machine, shins parallel to the ground, to start. 
  3. Keeping your torso straight, slowly uncurl your knees, using your hamstrings and glutes to slowly lower your body down until you’re  parallel to the ground. 
  4. Engage your posterior chain, flex your knees, and extend through your hips to rise. Don’t crumple or round your loe back.
  5. Follow a 5010 tempo: Take five seconds to lower, don’t pause at the bottom, lift back up in one second, then immediately begin the next rep. 
  6. Rest for 2 minutes.

Pro Tip

Since there’s a risk of injury with this exercise when done improperly or without proper warmup, perform an assisted variation. Loop a resistance band through both of your arms at the shoulder and the back side of the machine. This will support your body weight and help you through the sticking points. 

Start with a small elevation, like a weight plate, then move up to a step.

James Michelfelder

1B. Front Foot-Elevated Dumbbell Split Squat x 5 reps

Pro Tip

This is an excellent split squat variation for tall men. By elevating the front foot, the legs are able to move through a greater range of motion—especially the front leg’s hip before the back knee touches the floor. 

How to Do It

  1. Hold moderately heavy dumbbells in either hand and place one foot on an elevated surface, to start. 
  2. Step your non-working leg back. Keep your torso upright as you bend both knees. Stop when your back knee is hovering a few inches off the ground.
  3. Drive through your front leg to stand. 
  4. Follow a 4110 tempo: Take four seconds to lower, pause at the bottom for one second, lift back up in one second, and immediately begin the next rep. 
  5. Rest for 90 seconds.

Pro Tip

You can start with one plate, then add a few more. To advance, use a small step or box.

Keep your spine and neck neutral by looking at a spot on the floor ahead of you.

James Michelfelder

2B. Romanian Deadlift x 7 reps

Why It Works

Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) are more taxing on the hamstrings and glutes, helping to build muscle and strength. Yet it’s a better alternative to the traditional deadlift if that spurs knee pain. Note: This is not a stiff-legged deadlift. You’ll keep a soft bend in your knees throughout, which mitigates risk to the low back.

How to do it

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, grasping a barbell with an overhand grip, to start. 
  2. Engage your glutes and hamstrings to lift the barbell off the ground so it hangs just in front of your thighs.
  3. Hinge at your hips to lower the weight while keeping your back straight and knees “soft,” not locked out. 
  4. Stop when the weight is past your knees or in the middle of your shins. You should feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings, but not pain. 
  5. Drive through your heels and extend through your hips to bring the bar back up.
  6. Follow a 4010 tempo: Take four seconds to lower, don’t pause at the bottom, lift back up in one second, and immediately begin the next rep.
Prowlers and sleds replicate the effort of pushing an object that doesn’t want to move (like an offensive lineman). 

Justin Steele

Finisher: Prowler Push 10 Yards x 16 reps 

Why It Works

This is a terrific dynamic movement that loads the body without undue force. The pattern mimics jumping and sprinting, developing speed and explosive power. It also promotes hip and knee extension, which is great for rushing.

How to Do It

  1. Load a prowler or sled on turf with heavy weight, somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of your body mass, with at least 15 yards in either direction. 
  2. Grip the high bars firmly, with your upper body at a 45-degree angle to the bars, to start. 
  3. Brace your core and drive through the balls of your feet as you push the prowler with maximum force using small, quick steps.
  4. On the return, quickly go to the other side and push using the low bars.  
  5. Follow a X0X0 tempo, which means you’re explosive through the movement and don’t pause between pushes. 


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