When we left off Friday, former Ohio State star Cameron Heyward was laughing ominously about his testing this week at the Gatorade Performance Lab in Dallas.
He and Bleacher Report's Jack Harver were hanging out in the lab, with Jack just a few minutes away from getting tested himself, and the writer was begging the player for tips.
For Heyward, his lab work with Gatorade during Super Bowl week was the start of a year-long journey into professional football. As part of a team of 14 featured rookies, his offseason—from the pre-draft process to his first training camp—will be fueled by Gatorade's personalized training and nutrition and documented by NFL Films for the "Everything to Prove" series.
For Jack, the tests were an assessment of his baseline physiology for a short-term version of the rookies' plan. From now until the NFL Draft, the brains behind the Gatorade Sports Science Institute will be fueling a few lucky writers up for their own athletic successes.
As the future pro explained the tests, Jack steeled himself for a few hours of prodding, flashing lights, and exhaustion (just like the nightlife in Dallas this week, but with more compression shorts, more protein, and possibly less carbohydrates and sweating).
Jack Harver: What are we looking at here?
Cameron Heyward: It's a rigorous workout. It might seem like nothing, but you'll definitely be surprised.
Having linebacker DeMarcus Ware as a celebrity coach, in addition to Gatorade's helpful technicians, probably eased the learning curve a bit. Ware found a few teachable moments for the future pro, like the peripheral vision lesson near the video's end.
Still, as you'll learn in a few slides, there's no cheat sheet for that bicycle.
CH: You'll start off with the BOD POD testing, which will basically measure your body fat.
JH: Is this similar to anything that was available to you through Ohio State's strength and conditioning program?
CH: Yeah, we had the exact same thing at Ohio State.
Less "cheating" than a seven-point pinch test and more fun than forcing all the breath out of your lungs for underwater weighing, the BOD POD is a state-of-the-art tool for measuring lean and fat mass.
Past a minimum amount of essential fat—around five percent of your body weight, on average—anything that isn't lean mass is pretty much dead weight. For athletes like Cameron Heyward who are entering one of the world's most competitive workplaces, that's a clear no-no.
Your humble writer is composed of roughly 12 percent fat, which might pass muster for an NFL lineman if he wasn't also a mere 184 pounds.
CH: Then you'll move over to get measured for the amount of calories you'll need just while resting.
Yesterday, Heyward mentioned that his goal is to add muscle, either by gaining weight and muscle or burning fat while bulking up.
To do either, he'll need to know how many calories he should consume each day.
Aside from the energy an athlete needs during training sessions, his body uses a baseline amount of calories each day. That number is his resting metabolic rate, and it'll get higher as he adds lean mass.
CH: Then you'll move over to the Wingate, which is a very tricky device.
It looks like just a regular bike in the weight room, but once they add some power to it and add some weight on it, you're giving it all you've got. You're doing it for 30 seconds straight to see your constant power and how much you can do. It gets after you after a while.
JH: Did you guys do spinning classes and this sort of thing at Ohio State?
CH: Not like that. That's hardcore.
When the fine folks at Gatorade tell you they're going to measure your "anaerobic capacity," what they mean is that they're going to push you until you can't push anymore—and then they're going to measure how much you can push.
If there's some quit in you, the Wingate test will find it, show it to everyone in the lab, and laugh about it as your legs buckle against the pedals for 15 of the 30 seconds. Putting the cinematic and cliched idea of an adrenaline rush aside, this is one measure of how deep an athlete can physically dig in a game's crucial moments.
CH: Then you move over to these reaction-time things—one that's stationary, one that's a little bit more mobile. For me, that was kind of tricky because I only have one arm, but you get used to it for a while.
JH: Did the Ohio State coaches put you through any reflex testing?
CH: At Ohio State, we did a lot of throwing tennis balls and testing [reflexes] that way, but not to this extent with the great technology they have here.
For defensive players, reading and reacting to information on the field is considered a tangible and crucial part of a future pro's skill set. Most draft sites grade prospects on some variation of "read and react" ability.
As DeMarcus Ware pointed out near the end of Cameron Heyward's testing video, flashing buttons and motion-sensitive lights translate pretty closely to an offensive tackle's punch.
From a quarterback reading coverage to a running back choosing his cutback lane, the ability to process information and act on it is essential for any position in football.
CH: The last thing you end up with is the mile run, and I was terrible at it. I didn't fit on the treadmill—it's small, my feet are big, and, you know, I've been out of shape a little bit.
By checking an athlete's heart rate over the course of a timed mile, the scientists at Gatorade are able to determine how well his body uses oxygen during exercise.
For a defensive lineman, a higher VO2 max can mean the difference between staying in for a fourth down stop or taking a blow on the sideline as the other team's rushing attack keeps pounding.
Measured in milliliters of oxygen moved per kilogram of body weight per minute, elite endurance athletes like cyclists and runners typically score 75 or higher. By comparison, thoroughbred horses are around 180 and your humble writer came in just over 50 after priming with some simple sugars, as pictured.
JH: Judging by this setup, it looks like Gatorade's technology is going to give us a leg up.
I bet Ohio State had bigger treadmills, though.
CH: [laughs] Definitely.
Going forward, both player and writer will be augmenting their training and nutrition with an emphasis on higher aerobic and anaerobic capacity, quicker reaction times and better body composition numbers.
In addition to workouts designed by renowned personal trainer Todd Durkin—the brain behind Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers' strength and conditioning regimen—they'll be focused on fueling up for training according to a thoroughly-researched nutrition plan from Gatorade.
Powered by the G Series products, they'll "Prime" with a blend of simple and complex carbohydrates, "Perform" by keeping a steady intake of simple sugars, electrolytes and sodium, and "Recover" with the right mix of carbs and complete proteins.
Stay tuned between now and the 2011 NFL Draft as sports science, nutrition, and good old-fashioned willpower turns these prospects into pros.