MATT HAGAN AND THE SHAPE OF MOPAR® RACING
Athletes of all genres have become more informed than ever of the importance of diet and training to maximize their potential. And, if you know anything about Matt Hagan, you know that he goes all out in all parts of his life. It’s obvious on the race circuit. But, for Hagan, it’s become obvious on the training circuit as well. His current training approach has been a journey. From his teenage years playing high school football (and other sports) to his current occupation as World Champion Funny Car driver, staying physically fit has always been an integral part of Matt’s success.
During college, aside from his studies, competing in amateur drag racing took a lot of Matt’s time. As he made the move to professional drag racing, first in Pro Mod and then in Nitro Funny Car, he started realizing the payoff of training and dieting.
Once in the NHRA Nitro Funny Car world, Matt recognized that he would have to take every measure possible to meet his goal of being a world champion. This, of course, meant pushing himself to the limit with physical health, forcing his focus on dieting and training to evolve tremendously over the years.
“WHEN I FIRST STARTED RACING THESE 11,000-HORSEPOWER BEASTS, I REALIZED HOW PUNISHING THIS SPORT IS ON YOUR BODY AND MIND.”
“If I wanted to compete with Force, Capps and some of the other top-level drivers,” said Hagan, “I needed to find places where I could get an advantage over their decades of experience. I decided that my diet and training could be something I could improve upon to get ahead of those guys.”
Matt’s first approach was to lean out. He had been a football defensive lineman in high school and this involved bulking up. Therefore, his initial plan was a very low carb diet with an emphasis on cardio for his workouts. He was extremely focused and lost a lot of weight. After a couple of years, he decided that this approach left him feeling a little weak as the draining 20-plus-event schedule for the NHRA wore him down.
So, Matt started to investigate incorporating more weight training into his routine with the intent of adding more muscle. This plan would assist in developing endurance for his season long grind.
After reading and talking to a number of professional weight lifters and body builders, he found experts who were especially good mentors. One was seven-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath. The other was a 10-time Arnold Classic Champion. They remain very good friends to Matt and their approach to training has become second nature to him. In addition to dedicating more time to weight lifting, Matt’s farm in Virginia has also become part of the training regimen. Matt spends full days on the farm working with his staff bailing hay and performing strenuous manual labor during the hot Virginia summers.
“I used to have a very specific routine toward my weight training for the first couple of years when I added it to my approach,” says Hagan. “Now I try to mix it up. I would say I try to get to the gym 4 or 5 days a week to lift. But some weeks the farm takes priority and I can get the same benefits I would at the gym on the farm. I have also started to put more time into longer distance cycling. I think that I am at a good place with my muscle strength and now I am building up my cardio again. For me, it’s about being in prime condition to compete for race wins.”