Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson is the best ball-carrier in the game, as he was forced to remind LeSean McCoy recently. But Peterson hasn’t gotten there the easy way. He’s currently recovering from offseason groin surgery, suffered a severe tear of his ACL and MCL in 2011 and even weathered an allergic reaction in 2012 training camp that threatened his life (Peterson has since partnered with Ready 2 Go, a group dedicated to spreading allergy awareness and preparedness). Peterson stopped by SI to talk with Edge about his unique workouts, Bruce Lee and his hand-crushing signature greeting.
Edge: You’re known for your extremely firm handshake. Does that come from specifically working on your grip strength?
Adrian Peterson: My dad would always tell me, “When you meet a man, look him in his eye and shake his hand,” and that's just something I've been doing for a long time. Actually there's a machine in [the Vikings] weight room where it works your hand grip. I do it every blue moon.
Edge: How did your knee injury in 2011 affect the way you prepare for the season?
AP: I definitely approach it differently. I've always been a hard worker, a grinder, but coming from an ACL and an MCL really brought something else out in me that was kinda hidden.
Edge: Outside of the obvious, what’s your workout routine look like?
AP: I like to try to mix it up and do different stuff. I don't always stay on the field and do field work. I'll get out and do pilates. I'll get in the ring and do some rounds of kickboxing and grappling and MMA conditioning. There's a lot of unique stuff that I do too that a lot of people wouldn't imagine or think about doing, like box jumps. You get a 42-inch box and dumbbells and practice working on your explosion jumping up on those boxes.
Edge: What’s the weirdest workout in your training regimen?
AP: Starting at the bottom [of stadium steps], hands down, and pushing yourself all the way up, straight legged like a backwards bear crawl. I like just doing unique stuff to work muscles that you don't normally trigger.
Edge: What inspires you to mix up your workouts like that?
AP: A guy like Bruce Lee, I've always been a fan. How he used to be able to move and be so quick. You look at some of the exercises that he did, and it was all majority free weight, like standing on your hands. That works every muscle. Everything is firing. You can sit on a bench. You feel like you're firing, but it's not the same thing. I'm always aware of trying to put my body in different positions to test it and strengthen muscles that you don't get when you do dumbbell press or pulls or weight-type exercises.
Edge: Have you always been outside the box with your training?
AP: I’ve been doing creative stuff forever. I actually had an MCL surgery my freshman year in high school. I remember I had one of those big water jugs. I remember maybe two months after my surgery, filling that thing up with dirt—because I stayed out in the country—then getting some rope and tying it [to the jug]. Pretty much making my own sled, and then working, trying to get the strength back in my leg. I think about stuff like that, it kind of cracks me up.
Edge: Are you as hardcore about your diet as you are about your workouts?
AP: I don't really eat that well, to be honest with you. But I'll get baked chicken before I get fried chicken. I know what fatty foods do to you. As far as the sweets side, I'm still working on that.
Edge: Running backs have been drafted later and later in recent years. How do you explain that?
AP: The crop hasn't been that good. We haven't been able to produce those type of [first round] running backs. You're going to know when that guy comes because they're going to be talking about him going in the top 10. It's not going to be, 'Oh it's a passing league so we're going to let this 2,000-yard rusher go.” It's just been down the last couple of seasons.
Edge: What’s it like being the top running back in the NFL as the league becomes a passing league?
AP: I really don't get caught up in it much because I know that me, as an individual, when it comes to the running back position, I'm always going to be relevant. I just say that because I'm confident in my ability and what I'm going to be able to produce. So it doesn't really bother me too much what they say.