Why shirtless workouts and sleepless nights help the defensive end challenge his own physiology.
Myles Garrett wants to look like a Greek god.
That’s what he said back in 2019, during a photoshoot for ESPN magazine’s Body Issue. Take just one scroll through his Instagram, and you’ll find—as evidenced by many shirtless workouts—that he’s not far from his divine goals. There is, however, a strategy behind the shirt-free sweat sessions.
“It’s like seeing the results immediately,” Garrett said during an exclusive interview with Tonal. “If you’re a painter, you’re going to look back at your work and see what you’re doing. You’re not just going to paint, focus on this spot, go to another spot, and not look back at it… I’m the painter, I’m looking at these brushstrokes right in front of me.”
These days, Garrett sounds more like a white-coat researcher conducting experiments to push the limits of his body than a paint-speckled artist or one of the league’s most feared pass rushers. He said his thoughts are a series of questions that often challenge what we think we know about physiology.
What if the 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive end could move like a guy that’s 170?
What if he could run like a sprinter, jump like a ball player, and defy gravity like a gymnast?
What can he learn about his body from someone with a totally different build than his own?
“I’m seeing guys half my size being able to move a certain way, being able to bend a certain way,” he explained. “And I think I move pretty impressively for my size, but if there’s a way to take that further, let’s find that. Let’s use it and bring it out to the field.”
Garrett also studies the greats, past and present, from bone-crushing pass rushers such as Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor to TJ Watt and Micah Parsons. And he looks for inspiration off the gridiron from the legends such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Muhammad Ali—all obsessive workers who describe their sport as more of a craft, a pursuit of perfection that borders on chronic.
The best of that work can be done in the offseason, the perfect opportunity to experiment. Once the regular season rush ends, Garrett pays special attention to small muscles and joint mobility in his hips, knees, and ankles. He focuses on staple movements that helped him get to a career-high 16 sacks this past season (think: bench presses, power cleans, deadlifts, and squats to help generate power).
“For me, it’s about finding positions I’m not comfortable in and finding a way to make them be explosive,” he said. “It’s finding positions that don’t feel natural and making them natural.”
That willingness to find new challenges is what led Garrett to explore Tonal. “It doesn’t matter how strong you are, it will test you,” he said. “It’s not lacking in any weight amount. If you’re looking for something that’s going to test your strength and has a little more control and performance, this is perfect.”
What’s not a challenge for Garrett: sleep. He’s just not that interested in logging the prescribed eight hours. It’s not abnormal for Garrett to still be awake at 3 a.m. doing, well—just about anything: reading, pumping out push-ups, or playing buddies in what he called the “Pain Game,” a card game in which cards are dealt to each player to determine a number of exercises. Getting an ace of spades could mean busting out 40 push-ups, for example.
Does the lack of sleep affect his training? “Not at all,” he said while recalling that Jordan, regarded as the best basketball player of all time, was notoriously known for only sleeping a few hours a night. “As long as I’m getting enough sleep to help me function, I feel like I’m going to be alright,” he said.
So far, he’s proven that he is, indeed, doing just fine. His performance at the pre-draft combine— where he ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash at 270 pounds—is still legendary. And he now touts a 99-rating in Madden, the first Browns player to achieve that rating in the 30-plus years the popular video game has been out. When asked about the rating, his answer summed up his approach to his career and his training.
“I want to go beyond that,” he said. “Let’s see if I can get 100.”