The diet and training routine that keeps steer wrestler Blake Knowles in NFR contention year after year
BY BRETT NIERENGARTEN
Five-time NFR steer wrestler Blake Knowles is 38-years-old now and has been rodeoing since 2002. He knows he’s not as young as he used to be which means he does everything he can to stay on top of his diet and fitness to compete with an incredibly talented group of steer wrestlers rodeoing right now.
While he readily admits he struggles with portion control (he can eat a large pizza in a single sitting), Knowles is trying to focus on eating as much meat and salad as possible.
As for his exercise routine, Knowles is in he gym three or four times a week from November-May focusing on being explosive and his core strength. That’s in addition to his steer wrestling routine, which involves constant movement and keeping his heart rate up even when he is not running steers.
Knowles says even throughout his own career, there have been so many advances in the understanding of how to train.
“For the guys that want to be consistently at the top, I think (commitment to fitness) has increased tons,” Knowles said. “It used to be the norm was guys not going to the gym. Now it has switched......Just as other sports are realizing the benefits of being in shape and understanding the importance of agility and core strength, rodeo is no exception. There is more money up for grabs today in a rodeo season than ever before, how many more reasons do you need?”
TCC: What are your overall thoughts on fitness, practice and striving for success as a rodeo athlete?
BK: Look, I do not want to come off as some guy that gets in the gym every day or even every other day for that matter 365 days a year. There are plenty of times in a season I may go two weeks and not accomplish a “formal” fitness workout. I also hope you realize I had a donut for breakfast this morning and I love a double-double cheeseburger from the nearest In-N-Out. Life sometimes just gets in the way. But the point I always try and drill into an upcoming rodeo athlete’s head is YOU MUST FIGURE OUT WHAT THE EQUATION FOR SUCCESS WILL BE FOR YOU!
I have rodeoed for nearly 20 years now and have witnessed guys that are flat studs. Especially when talking steer wrestling, there has been a ton of guys who do not worry a ton about fitness or diet and are multiple-time NFR qualifiers and even probably some World Champions.
What competitive habits will you need to implement to maximize your success? I have always been the guy that needed to practice a little more and work a little harder on being a better athlete. Once I stopped worrying about someone else not going to the gym, yet still winning or not practicing and still winning and I focused on the fact that when I didn’t workout, I didn’t win, it became easier to commit to doing whatever it takes.
If you are lucky enough to just show up and win; awesome! Enjoy it. And if you’re the kind of guy that has to put in 120% to every aspect of the sport; get to work. If you do, you’ll get to hang out with that other guy when you both accomplish your dreams. Identify what “your” athlete type will be and get after it!
TCC: What muscles are you trying to target in the gym and why?
BK: Core strength, agility, cardio, and some leg explosion type stuff. Power cleans, jump squats, anything to work on explosion in my hips. I guess I do that stuff because I think it most relates to steer wrestling. Agility is the first thing that goes as an aging athlete. I want to make sure that if my feet do not hit the ground perfectly, I can quickly and automatically adjust, getting back to a solid foundation. Core strength is an absolute must in any activity. Shoot, I don’t think you can’t bowl without good core strength.
Lucky for me, my wife’s family was raised in a gym. They own a family gym in Oakdale, CA and are true fitness experts. Much like I have tried to help teach her riding and arena skills, she has helped me with my workouts.
TCC: Do you find it difficult to eat properly when on the road?
BK: Absolutely! So I try not to sweat it too much and make sure to get at least one “sit-down” meal a day. My philosophy is I can only control what I can control so I put extra emphasis on the time spent at home, when I have the choice to eat McDonalds or go home and eat a healthier meal.
TCC: What’s something diet-wise you would tell your younger-self?
BK: I relate everything diet/fitness in my life to my age and my pursuit of my rodeo goals. It’s a ridiculous stacked field of talent and so I have to think of anyway possible to stay sharp. I am not that young anymore, so I do not get the luxury of not caring or doing whatever it takes which means fitness which includes your diet.
TCC: Do you do anything to prepare yourself mentally?
BK: Being mentally tough, having a pregame routine, practicing methods such as visualizations and positive self-talk is ultra-important. You need to develop this part of your game every chance you get and continually strive to learn more. If you have a strong mental game, you become a more efficient competitor. If you feel you lack at this aspect, you need to work at it. With social media these days there are tons of outlets for peak performance education.
TCC: What is a typical breakfast for you?
BK: Not a huge breakfast guy, usually just some coffee, a banana (any fruit) and roll. My wife tells me often that it is not healthy to do that but I seem to be hungry by lunch regardless so I go light in the mornings.
TCC: What is a typical lunch for you?
BK: Varies. Sandwich, soup, salad, leftovers from the night before.
TCC: What is a typical dinner for you?
BK: My wife is a tremendous cook! My favorite is a steak cooked Oscar style, broiled asparagus, and salad.
TCC: What’s your favorite snack?
BK: I always keep a can of dry roasted peanuts in the back seat of my pickup.
TCC: Do you have a certain amount of calories you are trying to eat a day?
BK: No not really, but I would say that it crosses my mind. I think it is way easier to exceed your daily need than it is to stay at or under your target. I mostly focus on a balanced diet. So I do not worry too much, but because I’m aware, I think twice about a soda or donut.
TCC: Is there a food you are trying to eat more of?
BK: I like the idea of meat and salad only. I do not necessarily achieve that diet goal, but I think it provides an awesome healthy dinner. I am not one that is anti carbs or sugar by any means, but I think less is more in that category.
TCC: Is there a guy on the road notorious for his exercise routine?
BK: Jacob Talley is an ANIMAL. And by the way, he’s been a mainstay at the last several NFRs and had big wins all over the map, including a quick $100,000 a couple weekends ago at that rodeo we call The American. From doing nothing more than working out and rehabbing like a complete freak, he even cut several months off a muscle injury that required surgery so he could be ready at the 2019 Calgary Stampede The guy is crazy strong.
A close second would be Jesse Brown. He is an athlete through and through. He uses his experience as a high-level college football player and transitioned that same workload into his rodeo routine and workouts. For him there is no question of “will I work out today” or “will I run some steers.” He finds a way.
TCC: Is there anything you think would surprise people about bulldogging workouts?
BK: No not particularly. I did see Luke Branquinho working on slide strength and technique while standing on frisbees on a treadmill. It was pretty wild and looked to be surprisingly effective.
TCC: Anything unhealthy you’ve tried to cut out recently?
BK: Not really. I am sure a cold beer after a long day at work or in the practice pen would be better to do without, but I am not there yet….
TCC: Of all the bulldoggers going right now, who can take down the most food?
BK: Not sure on that one, however, did I mention I have zero portion self-control.
THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY