Jor­dan Hen­der­son ex­clu­sive

Jor­dan Hen­der­son has earned a rep­u­ta­tion as not just one of the best mid­field­ers in the Premier League but also one of the fittest. He tells MF how he trains to be a win­ner – and hopes to lead Liver­pool and England to suc­cess

Men's Fitness - - Contents -

We quiz the Liver­pool and England star for his top fit­ness tips

Jor­dan Hen­der­son knows how to dominate matches. With a pow­er­ful mix of ex­plo­sive runs, ro­bust phys­i­cal­ity, pin­point pass­ing and re­lent­less stamina, the Liver­pool man has es­tab­lished him­self as one of the Premier League’s fittest and most ef­fec­tive box-to-box mid­field­ers – not to men­tion an in­spi­ra­tional cap­tain who leads by ex­am­ple. Ac­cord­ing to player-track­ing ser­vice Opta, Hen­der­son is of­fi­cially the hard­est-work­ing player in the Premier League, cov­er­ing 11.8km per game, mak­ing an av­er­age of 88 passes and win­ning 70% of his tack­les. As cap­tain of Jür­gen Klopp’s high-fly­ing Liver­pool team – and skip­per of the England na­tional team for their au­tumn 2016 games against Slove­nia and Spain – the 26-year-old is prov­ing that nat­u­ral lead­er­ship skills fused with supreme fit­ness make a pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tion.

Hen­der­son joined Liver­pool from Sun­der­land for an undis­closed fee (be­lieved to be around £16 mil­lion) in June 2011 and went on to suc­ceed Liver­pool icon Steven Ger­rard as club cap­tain last sea­son. He is now in the form of his life, or­ches­trat­ing Liver­pool’s high-tempo per­for­mances, al­ter­ing the course of matches and driv­ing his club into the Premier League ti­tle race. By the end of Jan­uary, Hen­der­son had made 1,824 passes this sea­son – 302 more than any other player in the league.

Hav­ing won the League Cup with Liver­pool in 2012, and nar­rowly missed out on the league ti­tle in 2014, Hen­der­son is now aim­ing to har­ness his ath­leti­cism and stamina to power his teams to more suc­cess, with Liver­pool in the race for the Premier League ti­tle and England pur­su­ing World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion. He met Men’s Fit­ness to dis­cuss the art of lead­er­ship and ex­plain why strength, en­durance and good nu­tri­tion can make the win­ning dif­fer­ence for any ath­lete.

Some men en­joy the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lead­er­ship. Others suf­fer from the pres­sure. Does cap­taincy suit you?

Yeah, I think I do en­joy tak­ing more re­spon­si­bil­ity. I like try­ing to help the play­ers around me and try­ing to do the best I can for the team. Ob­vi­ously when things are go­ing well that is much eas­ier. But we have a lot of lead­ers in the [Liver­pool] team so I feel as though we lead this team to­gether. We have re­ally good morale and to­geth­er­ness in the dress­ing room, and I think you can see that on the pitch in the way we all work for each other and fight for each other.

How do you en­sure the team re­main united?

It’s about mak­ing sure ev­ery­one in the team knows what they need to do. As cap­tain I try to make sure ev­ery­one’s feel­ing good, pre­par­ing the right way and work­ing as hard as they pos­si­bly can on the train­ing field to be­come a bet­ter player. If ev­ery­one

is do­ing that, we will au­to­mat­i­cally have a bet­ter team. We also do things as a team, like go­ing out for food or play­ing golf to­gether for a bit of team bond­ing. We are a very close group.

Are there any par­tic­u­lar cap­tains you ad­mire?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of great lead­ers in foot­ball, both man­agers and play­ers. I’ve learned a lot from ev­ery­one. But the main thing I’ve learned is to al­ways put the team first and try to do what you feel is right for the team.

In what key mo­ments do you speak to the play­ers?

Be­fore the game a few of us might say one or two things. At half-time it is mostly the man­ager who will talk about dif­fer­ent things we need to work on, such as what we can do bet­ter go­ing for­wards or de­fen­sively. If I have any­thing to say it will nor­mally be be­fore the match.

Do you have any pre-match rou­tines?

I’m pretty re­laxed about get­ting my­self into the zone. I just con­cen­trate on what I need to be do­ing in the game so I stay fo­cused and feel ready phys­i­cally and men­tally.

As Liver­pool cap­tain do you hope to write your­self into the club’s his­tory?

Per­son­ally, that’s not my aim. My aim is for the team to write it­self into his­tory – that’s all I’m both­ered about. If you’re suc­cess­ful as a team then of course you will be re­mem­bered. That’s what we’re try­ing to achieve this sea­son and in sea­sons to come.

What are the main phys­i­cal qual­i­ties you need as a box-to-box mid­fielder in the Premier League?

You have got to be ro­bust and you have got to be able to cover the whole pitch, be­cause it’s about both at­tack­ing and de­fend­ing.

You have also got to be able to get about the pitch quickly be­cause it’s a high­in­ten­sity game, which means you do need a good level of fit­ness, but we had a great pre-sea­son so we are pre­pared to stay in good shape. We play a very in­tense game at Liver­pool and we run a lot – whether we have got the ball or not we’re al­ways work­ing hard, mak­ing op­tions for each other and try­ing to win the ball back quickly. Be­cause of that fit­ness lev­els are very im­por­tant.

What is your main fo­cus in the gym?

It is mainly core work and a bit of up­per­body work now and again. Be­cause we do a lot of train­ing work on the grass and our train­ing is so in­tense, we don’t do many leg-spe­cific ses­sions or it can lead to in­jury and fa­tigue. We all do in­di­vid­ual work too – if a player has had an in­jury they might do spe­cific stuff to make sure they are stronger in that area.

How do you boost your speed for those high-in­ten­sity sprints?

We have a speed ses­sion dur­ing the week where we use speed lad­ders and prac­tise short-dis­tance sprints. We of­ten do that as part of our warm-up.

De­scribe how your body feels af­ter an in­tense 90-minute match against, say, Ever­ton or Manch­ester United.

The body aches af­ter ev­ery game - not just derby games. Af­ter ev­ery sin­gle game you should be com­ing off the pitch ex­hausted. Men­tally. Phys­i­cally. Ev­ery­thing. This sea­son when­ever we’ve got back to the dress­ing room every­body is ex­hausted, but that means you’re do­ing some­thing right and giv­ing ev­ery­thing in ev­ery sin­gle game. You feel drained but that’s a good feel­ing, when you know you’ve given ev­ery­thing.

How do you re­cover in time for the next match?

Re­cov­ery is a big part of foot­ball, es­pe­cially when you are play­ing ev­ery three days. You have to re­cover very quickly and as best you can. That might in­volve ice baths or a jog or just mak­ing sure you eat the right food. We have a lot of pro­tein af­ter matches to help our re­cov­ery and to make sure we’re ready to go again as soon as pos­si­ble.

Nu­tri­tion is key for any ath­lete. Are you any good in the kitchen?

[Laughs] I’m OK. I don’t do much if I’m hon­est with you! But when I need to I can put on a de­cent meal for my­self. Nu­tri­tion is a big part of foot­ball and we have to make sure we are eat­ing and drink­ing the right things. Are any other play­ers good at cook­ing? Well, I haven’t met any yet… But I’m sure they must be out there! Ev­ery­thing is done for the play­ers at the train­ing ground so we’re very lucky in that re­spect.

What is the main nu­tri­tional les­son you have learned in your ca­reer?

The big thing about nu­tri­tion is va­ri­ety. You don’t want to be eat­ing the same things all the time. So for break­fast

I’ll of­ten mix things up, so it’s eggs on toast, or por­ridge, or fruit and muesli. It’s im­por­tant to have dif­fer­ent things be­cause dif­fer­ent foods sup­port your body in dif­fer­ent ways. I also aim to eat as much nat­u­ral food as pos­si­ble be­fore and af­ter matches to get max­i­mal nu­tri­tion.

What is your pre-match meal?

Be­fore a game I nor­mally carb-load with pasta and rice, but that can vary as well – I will have dif­fer­ent carbs and dif­fer­ent pro­teins. But in gen­eral be­fore each match is the one time I will tend to have a very sim­i­lar meal – pasta or rice with chicken. At that stage we are just try­ing to get as much en­ergy into the sys­tem as pos­si­ble.

What is the main thing you have learned from Liver­pool man­ager Jür­gen Klopp?

We learn some­thing ev­ery day, not only on the pitch but off the field as well. He’s very close to the play­ers and wants to help them in what­ever way he can, whether that’s tac­ti­cally on the field or mak­ing sure they are do­ing the right things off the field. We are all learn­ing from prob­a­bly the best man­ager in the world ev­ery day – it’s an hon­our to be play­ing un­der such a good man­ager and in such a good team.

Is win­ning the League Cup in 2012 your ca­reer high­light so far?

Ob­vi­ously when you win your first tro­phy that is a big thing for any­one. The game that re­ally sticks in my mem­ory though was the Borus­sia Dort­mund game [the Europa League quar­ter-fi­nal sec­ond leg in April 2016, when Liver­pool came from 3-1 down to win 4-3]. I was in­jured so I wasn’t even play­ing but it just sticks out be­cause of how the team went be­hind, came back and went on to win the game. The at­mos­phere and ev­ery­thing about it re­ally stands out.

Fi­nally, was your 30-yard won­der­goal against Chelsea in Septem­ber the best you’ve ever scored?

Yeah, that was prob­a­bly… one of my best goals! It was an amaz­ing feel­ing to score but even bet­ter to win that re­ally im­por­tant game. Hope­fully I can get a few more like that for the team this sea­son.

Jor­dan Hen­der­son is a Max­imus­cle ath­lete. Max­imus­cle’s new range of raw in­gre­di­ent pow­ders is now avail­able at max­imus­cle.com

Hen­der­son with his club man­ager Jür­gen Klopp (above) and na­tional coach Gareth South­gate (left). He says he’s been “lucky enough to work with a lot of great lead­ers in foot­ball”

“Af­ter ev­ery sin­gle match you should be com­ing off the pitch ex­hausted,” says Hen­der­son, pic­tured play­ing against Scot­land in 2016

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