Which is more impressive about Philadelphia Eagles tight end James Casey: his massive arms—some of football’s biggest—or the fact those pythons have fielded balls in both NFL and in big league baseball? Casey, who pitched for the Chicago White Sox for three years before retiring in 2006 to play football, says his baseball career only improved his hustle on the gridiron. “I think it’s great for guys to play multiple sports, especially at the high-school level,” says the former Texans fullback. “It’s just going to make you more coordinated in any sport you end up in.” As to how he got those colossal biceps, Casey says he used to do arms every other day in the weight room. “When I was younger, I wanted big arms so I could work out all the time. And you want to look good when you play.” Fast forward, and the 29-year-old still looks good—and still goes hard in the weight room, waking up at 5 a.m. in the off-season to fit in double daily workouts. “I still get comments about my arms, especially from my teammates,” he laughs. “But I’m happy about that, because I’ve worked extremely hard.” To see just how hard—and get his advice for bigger biceps—keep reading.
Hometown: Azle, Tex.
Weight: 240 lbs.
Nickname: Thor. “They called me that in college.” We see why.
Years as an athlete: 23. “I started playing football when I was six.”
Hours spent training per day: Four hours in season; Three hours in the off-season. “I usually get up at 5 a.m. and work out for two hours and then I go home and take a nap. And then I get up later and go run for another hour.”
Days per week training in the off-season: Six. “I don’t go hard every single day, but I go hard four or five days at least.”
Days per week in the weight room in the off-season: Six
Go-to exercise: Core work. “I used to do arms all the time, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve switched my focus so I don’t get injured. Now, I always start off doing some sort of abs, because I feel like that’s the most important thing to keep up my core strong.”
Secret workout: Grip work. “I think I do more grip stuff than anyone else in football, especially in my collegiate days. I play a lot of special teams, and when you have to hold guys, it’s all about your hands.” Casey says he does a lot of plate pinches, holding two plates together with one hand for an extended period of time to fire the arm muscles.
Secret to bigger biceps: Single-arm concentration curls on a bench to prevent elbow movement. “You can’t move your elbow at all, and you have to really squeeze at the top as hard as you can to get full range of motion. That’s the single best thing you can do for big arms.”
Calories consumed per day: “I really don’t have any idea. I don’t keep track. But I do weigh myself every day to make sure I’m where I need to be.”
Typical pre-workout meal: Oatmeal. “I like something that’s a slower-burning carb so that it lasts longer.”
Typical post-workout meal: Protein bar or shake. “I try to eat right away, because I’ve heard it’s important to your muscle recovery to eat within a 15-minute window after a workout.”
Must-take supplement: Creatine. “I’ve done it for so long, I feel like it helps me recover and get stronger.”
Favorite pre-game meal: Chicken breast with spaghetti and a baked potato. “The worst thing you can do is go into the game with your stomach messed up. I know when I eat this, my stomach will be fine for the game.”
Favorite celebration meal: Pizza. “If I had a really good game and I feel good about myself, I might have a pizza.” Jeez, don’t go crazy.
Biggest dietary vice: Strawberry ice cream. “I rarely eat it at all, but I really like it. But I try to be disciplined enough to stay away with it.” Isn’t it enough discipline in one day to wake up at 5 in the morning and work out for two hours?
Biggest physical challenge: Staying healthy. “I try to do as many preventative things as I can for my knees, ankles, and shoulders. If you have something nicked up, you’re going to have it so much harder trying to make the team.”
Best injury prevention tip: Wearing recovery tights. “I wear them when I sleep and work out. Because if you have any swelling, it’s going to be worse if you don’t have any compression on it.”