Through the NFL draft, Shutdown Corner's Kristian Dyer will be training at TEST Sports Club in Martinsville, N.J., along with roughly 20 players. All of these athletes are prepping for the NFL combine, different pro days and of course, the NFL draft in April. A former college soccer player, Kristian was a playground legend at quarterback back in middle school but never played a down of organized football. He will be blogging about the life of training for the NFL draft and a career in the league as he lives it firsthand.
MARTINSVILLE, N.J. — It isn't exactly what I thought it would be. Somehow when training for the NFL draft or a pro day comes to mind, the idea of athletes throwing around heavy weights and flipping tires while wearing weighted vests seems to be the image I conjure — maybe even pushing a car up a hill or something like that.
Instead, my first two full training sessions at TEST Sports Club are very much the opposite and are designed to increase strength, flexibility and cardio. No word on if it will help me as a writer. Cue the snarky comments below this article.
Everything is push/pull, whether it is lower body day on Tuesday or upper body on Thursday. I'm given 45 seconds to do as many reps as possible and just enough time to get to the next station. No one particular exercise in and of itself is overwhelming but the total package leaves me and the 20 NFL hopefuls I am training with running for water during our breaks.
Bill Wosillius has been training athletes for most of his life, a former standout at Syracuse who played in the NFL. He's sent dozens of athletes to Division I colleges and is considered by TEST's owner Brian Martin to be very much of a mentor. He works with the combine athletes and now has a training company called Her Edge.
So as I wonder aloud why I'm not trying to max out every exercise like I had imagined when I envisioned my workouts, Wosillius explains it to me. Basically there are three energy systems. The first is the anaerobic which uses energy stores in the muscle known as glycogen or sugar. This system usually depletes itself in about three to four minutes of hard work such as running a half mile. Then there is the lactic acid system which is complicated to explain because it involves the Krebs Cycle and other physiological processes that the body goes through in order to metabolize lactic acid for energy — an example of such an exercise would be wrestling. The last energy system is the aerobic system where the body utilizes oxygen to metabolize fats in the body for energy such as long distance running.
In other words, the athletes at TEST are trying to hit all three cycles during their 90-minute workouts. Football is an endurance sport like none other, short bursts of energy and contact followed by quick breaks. So instead of just loading up and maxing out reps, the workouts are designed to get stronger but also increase endurance.
"Weightlifting is not specific enough to initiate a training response other than getting stronger. Definitely a factor however for what we're doing and preparing for here, but functional strength is more desirable," Wosillius said. "It doesn't matter if you can bench press your house if you can't run from one point to another without falling on your face."
This is funny because that's exactly how I feel midway through my legs workout last Tuesday — ready to fall on my face. Yes, cue more snarky one-liners aimed at me in the comment section. I probably won't have the strength to lift my head to read them.
It isn't just lifting and throwing around weight. The concept is simple — go to a half-dozen different stations inside the facility's 50-yard turf field and do the workout until head trainer Skip Fuller mercifully yells out time. It can range from the traditional such as dumbbell flies and free weight rows to doing pushups on the vibration power plate machine.
Either way, the results are similar. I start at every station and for the first 20 seconds, it seems like everything is a breeze. Then moments later, my body begins screaming at me, wondering why I hate it so much. By the end, I am praying to hear Fuller's voice yell "Next station!"
"It isn't enough to be strong, just flip tires and squat 500 pounds. That isn't football strength," TEST owner Brian Martin tells me during a brief rest when the circuits are done. "You need to be getting stronger but also sustained strength. That's what we teach here."
My shirt is drenched in sweat and I'm gasping for air. My arms feel like they're going to fall off. I ask Fuller if he can include a station that has a firing squad.
So while it may be good to learn how to do it better, faster and stronger — it is just as important to have the strength to do it multiple times — as Wosillius was trying to explain to me. And I'm learning that the circuit training at TEST is doing just that. We're supposed to run to each station — something which after the fifth set becomes a challenge. At one point, Fuller yelled at me for lagging behind.
I was the only person he yelled at the whole morning.
Trevor Robinson, an offensive lineman out of Notre Dame and a guy whose legs are approximately as thick as my torso, smiled at the midway point of the workout.
"Regretting this now?" he says with his smile widening, surely wondering why this journalist nine years older than he is trying to do this. He then runs off to the next station. I walk. Well to be honest, limp.
At the end of 90 minutes we get to stretch, and finally my body begins to stop shaking. I'm carrying a jug of water with me these days and it is nearly gone. I'm still sweating and need a shower.
Can someone get me an aspirin?
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer