April 20, 2010, 7:00 A.M.
Velocity Sports Performance Center, New York City
I’m not a morning person. At all (which is why I tend to work out during my lunch break, or in the evening). But it was slightly easier to drag myself out of bed this morning because it’s not every day you get to train with Ndamukong Suh-the uber-talented defensive tackle from the University of Nebraska. It’s just two days away from the 2010 NFL Draft Pick, but Suh doesn’t seem concerned about whether he (or Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford) would be drafted first by the St. Louis Rams. Today Suh will be undergoing performance testing conducted by Gatorade scientists. Players like Eli Manning, Maurice Jones-Drew, even Bradford went through similar testing a month prior, and this testing was key to the development of Gatorade’s new G Series Pro line of energy drinks, shakes, bars and powders.
A doctor is on-site to give me a quick physical-to make sure I don’t “keel over” during the testing, he says. That’s reassuring. The Gatorade scientists then take my and Suh’s height and weight, and ask us both for urine samples (no, not to check whether we took any performance-enhancing substances, but to determine how hydrated we are). I’m introduced to Suh, who at 6’5″, 307 pounds dwarfs my 5’5″, 160-pound frame. We both fuel up with Gatorade’s fruit punch-flavored Prime pouch.
Suh and I hop on our respective stationary bikes and start peddling. We’re fitted with these odd-looking (and slightly uncomfortable) headpieces. The scientists clamp our noses and insert a nozzle into our mouths that we will be breathing into during the 20-minute caloric-expenditure test. As we peddle, the scientists increase the level of intensity and we are supposed to signal (with our fingers, on a scale of 1 to 10) how difficult it is. I signal “6”, but for some reason, Suh doesn’t break a sweat.
The test ends…it wasn’t overly rigorous, but the findings one can glean from it prove beneficial. The scientists could tell how many calories you burn, how your body works during a workout, even whether you ate breakfast prior to the testing. Afterward, Suh and I take a quick paper test that measures our reaction time. The test is simple: read the list of words and see how many you get right in one minute. On the page are columns of words: red, blue, green. Some of the words are in a different color than what they read (for example, red would be in green lettering).
Suh takes a quick shower and changes into jeans and a dress shirt. His garb is monogrammed “NS” (perhaps Suh has designs for his own clothing line in the future?). I get my 15 minutes with Suh to see what he learned from testing. Suh seems so intimidating on the field, but in person, he exudes a quiet confidence. “This is the first mechanical testing that really dissects what you’re going through during exercise,” he says. “It was awkward to have the head piece in your mouth, and it made it difficult to breathe, but overall a good experience. I’ve seen it done before. I’m glad I got to do it.” So what did Suh learn? “How you burn your calories, how you use your energy, whether you’re burning fat or carbohydrates. It’s good to know if you’re burning a ton of carbohydrates right off the bat, then you need to carb-load before a game. Things like that definitely help. I didn’t think I was in that good of a shape because it’s hard to get quality workouts in hotel workout facilities. But [the Gatorade scientists] say I’m in pretty good shape, so that was good to hear.”
How Suh Prepped for the Combine
Suh elevated his draft status with a six-week, six day-a-week regimen. Here’s a snapshot of his training week, provided by Michael Johnson Performance’s director of performance Lance Walker
The game plan: To ensure the continuity of success Suh had in the Nebraska weight room, Walker coordinated with the Cornhuskers’ strength coach to bridge what Suh has done in the last few years and what he will be doing at Michael Johnson Performance
The day starts with a 7:30 AM “prehab” session, working things like ankle mobility, followed by a two-hour workout session: Active mobility exercises for 30 minutes, then reactive plyometrics, then the speed component of his regimen. On “linear days,” Suh would work on his vertical jump and 40-yard-dash. On “non-linear” days, things like L drills and specific multidirectional drills (like “cutting” on the field).
60 minutes working on position-specific drills with the position coach
30 minutes of regenerative hydrotherapy in the pool
Nutrition shake, then lunch
90-minute “forced” afternoon nap
60 minutes of “interview skills,” learning how to utilize the media to tell his story and field tough questions
90-minute weight-training session, with a four-day split routine
Mondays and Thursdays: Focused on lower body. “Suh was a beast on the squat rack,” Walker says. “Which is scary, considering he just had ACL surgery a year ago.”
Tuesdays and Fridays: Focused on upper body (the 225-pond bench press test, horizontal rows, one-armed dumbbell rows, one-armed cable rows)
Wednesdays: Recovery day of film review and underwater resistance training in the pool
Saturday: A “walkthrough” rehearsal under Combine situations