It’s easy to underestimate exactly how much effort goes into becoming a pro athlete. Relentless sporting seasons are sure to take their toll, but once they’re over the hard work doesn’t stop there. Athletes need to keep on top of their fitness, body compositions, reaction times and much more throughout the year to ensure they’re at their peak for next season’s challenges.
At Athletic Edge Sports, Florida, USA, the Wattbike has become an effective and indispensable part of their NFL off-season training program. Owner and Founder, Mike Gough, trains elite amateur and professional athletes from diverse sports to help enhance their performance. This includes NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS and Olympic athletes looking to gain an edge over the competition.
“The Wattbike is a staple in our programming,” says Mike. “Every winter, spring and summer we train NFL athletes, helping them prepare for the upcoming NFL season. We find it very effective in training anaerobic power and high-intensity short burst sprints, along with training the alactic system [a system that works without lactate, focused on short unsustainable bursts of energy] and lactic energy system [when the alactic energy stores are depleted, using glycogen and lactic as a fuel].” These high-intensity sprint protocols ensure their athletes are in peak condition and ready for the rigours of the NFL training camp and season.
Mike also uses Wattbike as an evaluation tool at the start of an athlete’s off-season training program, by spreading out different energy system testing protocols over the first week of training to see where their conditioning levels and peak power is at. This helps to establish a baseline for the athlete’s training programme.
“Post testing, the specific protocols we have developed on the Wattbike allow the NFL athlete to achieve peak conditioning levels, high levels of peak power and take their anaerobic conditioning to an elite level, all while decreasing the load and stress on the body by cycling and not running,” Mike states. This no-impact training modality gives the athlete’s joints some much-needed relief from the pounding they take all season in practice and games.
Training and testing may differ depending on the player’s position. “In the NFL, athletes are asked to perform at peak intensity for a short period of time (3 to 5 seconds of play) and repeat that throughout the game. We want our NFL clients to play with limited to no drop-off in performance conditioning and power. The Wattbike allows us to simulate game-like conditioning demands using the protocols we’ve developed. Depending on the position, protocols are tweaked. For example, an offensive lineman versus that of wide receiver - one concentrates on high power short bursts whereas the other must run routes downfield and jog back to the huddle.”
Mike makes good use of the data provided by the Wattbike to analyse his clients' performance. “It tells us a lot about the athlete’s makeup; average power, peak power and right/left leg balance [pedalling effectiveness] are important data points to analyse. The metrics provided by the Wattbike allow us to challenge the athletes by setting goals related to time, distance, average power and peak power.
[The Wattbike] is also a great motivating tool as athletes are trying to outperform each other and achieve better metrics within themselves and versus their training partners. This friendly competition gets the NFL athletes motivated to push past their thresholds and create a great competitive culture. We have implemented a leaderboard in the training facility with our top five performers in each of the different protocols we use with our athletes to further motivate them to push themselves,” Mike adds.
“Over the course of the NFL off-season, we use the Wattbike for both testing and training with our NFL athletes. All our athletes have a love-hate relationship with the Wattbike, they love the results they get by training on it, and most relish the feeling after being pushed on the bike. Ultimately, they see how it can tax their energy systems all while decreasing the load and pounding on their joints by not running after a long season in a running dominated sport.
“It’s a win-win for us, implementing this conditioning with our athletes.”
Listen to the third episode of Ride to Win with Nic Gill, All Blacks S&C Coach, where we talk about off-feet conditioning and how it allows athletes to reduce load whilst still working at high intensities.