Many players in the NFL have unorthodox methods of improving their game. Some will take up yoga to increase their flexibility, while others will completely cut out all forms of dairy and meats in an attempt to improve the overall health of their bodies from the inside-out.
Then there's Miami Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch, who mentioned on Tuesday that once mini-camp ends, he has his own idea and combination of methods on how he can improve his game during the three week break.
“MMA training three times a week, strength training five times a week, boxing four times a week." Branch said. "I have a chef that I eat very, very healthy. I only drink water and coconut water. PT (physical therapy) twice a week. A chiropractor three times a week. Pilates three times a week and yoga twice a week. Steam room every day.”
Eating healthy and staying hydrated are givens in life, not just the NFL, but when it comes to MMA training, Branch states that there's a very distinct advantage to investing time into mixed martial arts.
“I think you get to know your body. Well, boxing of course, is hand speed. That’s all it is when it comes … I’m going against a guy who’s bigger and stronger than me every play. So hand speed and leverage, that’s where the MMA comes in. Just knowing your body and knowing what position you can put your body in – no matter how big or strong they are – you being able to just leverage them and get them off of you.”
Branch, who will turn 28 in mid-July, had a career year with the Dolphins in 2016, eventually taking the starting job opposite Cameron Wake when veteran Mario Williams repeatedly failed to show what made him a star with the Buffalo Bills several years ago. With that starting job, he put up 49 tackles, 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, and that led to Miami rewarding him with a 3-year, $24 million dollar contract.
The work that he's been doing for the past few seasons is a big part of why Branch has improved to the point of earning a big money deal.
"I think around Year 2, it was like, ‘we need to do more.’ I just kept building from there. I’ve been doing MMA for three years, boxing for about three also. PT (physical therapy) and chiropractic work and all of that type of stuff, I do that every day. That didn’t come just right when I got in the league. I didn’t start getting in the cold tub until my second year in the league because I didn’t think it worked, because I just thought it was freezing me. But it definitely works.”
While it is unlikely that Branch will take up MMA fighting when he retires from football - which he himself stated - the improvement was obvious last season, and he will be looking to improve upon his career year in 2016, and prove that he's worth the contract he was given.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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