With New York languishing at 3 wins and 5 losses midway through the 2012 NFL campaign, and a quarterback controversy swirling in the Meadowlands, fans are looking for positives in this rough season. One bright spot is
defensive lineman Muhammad (Mo) Wilkerson
, an aggressive, physical player who has elevated his game and is getting better week after week.
A 2011 first round draft pick who immediately seized the starting role in his rookie season, Mo was called upon to help make the defense stronger. Standing 6'4" and weighing in at 315 lbs., the Temple graduate was expected to dominate opponents' offensive lines with athleticism, speed and power right from the start. But Mo didn't live up to his own high expectations.
"I had a pretty good year," he says of his 49 tackle, 3 sack rookie performance, "but I knew I could play better. Stats aren't important to me, especially if we're not winning."
To increase his strength, mass and performance as soon as the season ended, Big Mo turned to
legendary strength coach Joe Carini
. The Pine Brook, NJ based strength expert is regarded as the man who helped propel Tiki Barber to superstardom and helped make Chris Snee the NFL's strongest man. Carini works with numerous pro football stars who all share the same goal -- to become the strongest, best conditioned players possible.
"Joe is a great guy and he helped me out last year during the lockout," Wilkerson says of Carini, who he first hooked up with in the 2011 offseason. "He helped me increase strength coming into my first year in the league and made me more powerful coming off the ball."
For 2012 season preparations, it was back to Carini's House of Iron in Pine Brook, NJ for Mo. The emphasis was on increasing his upper body strength and improving the explosive quickness in his legs. Carini's training prescription centered around a four day weight training week, where Mo would hoist heavy iron two days in a row, take a day off and then finish with two more lifting workouts. When he wasn't scheduled to hit the weights, the Livingston, NJ native would concentrate on cardio, agility and skills training.
Wilkerson would start each morning workout at 8 am. Big Joe -- a world class powerlifter himself -- would push Mo through 90 minutes of hardcore lifting, followed by 30 minutes of sled work and various strongman exercises. With Carini barking out the weights to use and helping to load the machines, Mo never knows what he's in for. The 22-year-old will do 20 reps with 500 lbs. on the leg press and move up to 1,200 for 4. He does shrugs with 600 lbs. for triples, shoulder presses 295 for 5-7 reps, incline presses 405 for doubles, pushes 1200 lbs. for triples on the front squat machine and does hammer curls with 90 lb. dumbbells for 3 reps.
"Mo is much bigger and stronger this year than when he first came to me," says Joe. "He's hungry and trains in the gym like he plays on the field -- like a friggin' animal!"
To fuel his all-out practices and hardcore gym workouts, Wilkerson uses an instinctive diet plan, eating only as much as he feels he needs to keep his weight up and provide energy for growth. Mo eats 3 big meals a day, starting off with egg whites, turkey sausage or bacon in the morning and 1-2 tuna sandwiches and a salad for lunch. His dinner consists of steak, chicken or fish, plus rice or potatoes.
"My biggest meal is at the end of the day," he says of his somewhat unorthodox dietary program. "But I always watch what I eat. I go by my weight and make adjustments from there. I still weigh about 315 lbs., but I'm much more muscular and leaner than last year."
A major part of the reason why Wilkerson has already registered 36 tackles halfway into the season and has been a force on the D line is his affiliation with supplement powerhouse MHP. Carini introduced Mo to MHP president Gerard Dente right after the New Year and put his prize pupil on an
regimen. "I have all my pro athletes using
," Joe says. "I have used them for years and know they work great."
have helped me out a lot," Mo explains. "Last year I felt like I was out of shape some. But now that I'm taking these supplements my conditioning is better. I feel stronger and more effective now in the gym and on the field. I'm able to play harder and longer."
With eight games still to go and the AFC East division title still within reach, Mo Wilkerson is pushing his team to the top by example. He's hungry, angry and tired of losing. Watch for him to will his team back to playoff form before the 2012 gridiron campaign ends.
"Talent can only take you so far in football," explains Mo of his dedication to pushing himself in the gym and on the field. "I work for a living!"
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