What would strength training and conditioning with a pro be like? How do workouts of professional football players differ from the non-pros? Aaron Wellman knows, he’s been with the New York Giants since 2016 as their head strength coach and has significantly decreased the number of season-ending injuries for the team. Before joining the Giants, he spent 20 years in the collegiate Division I level, including Indiana University, Notre Dame and Michigan.
Today on Awesome Health, he tells us some of the basic tenants he has found that make the most difference to the players on his team. We talk about a typical week in the life of an NFL professional strength and conditioning coach. Aaron says his team practices Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and they play Sunday. Monday is a weight training day, and Tuesdays are their days off. Saturdays are walkthrough days to prepare for the game on Sunday.
So there are four days of physical activity out of the seven, which means these athletes’ nutritional needs are very different from the general public’s needs. This is pretty obvious, but what wasn’t so obvious initially was how the physical impact of the game on Sunday was affecting his players’ ability to stay at a healthy weight. A lot of his guys were losing weight during the season, and it was from the blunt force trauma of the hits they were giving and receiving during their games.
That was one of the tenants he found to make the most difference: adjusting the players’ nutritional needs. Another was adjusting their sleep, players can volunteer to wear sleep trackers and share it with their coaches but it cannot be mandated they do so. There are about 20 guys on his team who wear trackers and talk to him about their sleep, how deep their sleep is and how much REM sleep they are getting, details like that and he helps them adjust as needed.
Aaron breaks down the other tenants he has found to be most valuable, including different recovery modalities and why strength training and conditioning matters to the longevity of a player’s season and career. We wrap up with Aaron sharing his experience adopting a keto lifestyle, his thoughts on how it might (or might not) benefit professional athletes, and what the future of strength training and conditioning will look like. Join us to hear strength training insights and more from Aaron Wellman on this edition of the Awesome Health show!
Read the Episode Transcript :
Wade Lightheart: Good afternoon, good morning and good evening wherever you are. It's Wade T Lightheart from the Awesome Health Podcast and oh boy - I have been waiting for this interview for quite a while. We have the head strength coach with the New York giants, Mr Aaron Wellman and before we get introduced to the cause I want to talk about, he joined the Giants back in 2016. He did a lot of changes to the off season in season training routines. He's got a 20 year career at the Division 1 college level. He's a graduate of Indiana university, spent three years as a full time assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Hoosiers, and was probably involved with football, baseball and softball teams as well as developing individual nutrition programs for student athletes for the Giants. He was assistant director of strength and conditioning coach for the university of Notre Dame and he's the, he was the director of strength and conditioning, the university of Michigan and implemented athlete monitoring systems including GPS and neuromuscular fatigue assessments. I'm very curious about that. He has a wife and a son and a daughter. And what's an interesting, he follows a ketogenic cyclic or a cyclic ketogenic diet and he's always looking for ways to upgrade that. Aaron, welcome to the show. Aaron Wellman : Yeah, great, great introduction Wade. Appreciate you having me on. Wade Lightheart: Well, I see I'm fascinated by this interview. So for, for people who don't know, I studied exercise physiology back at the university in new Brunswick. I was a good athlete, not a great athlete and thought well maybe I'll get an opportunity to be a strength and conditioning coach. Life took me in a different direction and I ended up, you know, owning a supplement company. But today I'm excited because I want to know just the process first of how you got to become a strength and condition coach. So walk me backwards, like was you on an athletic career or is this something you always wanted? How'd that begin? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, I've always been involved in athletics and I think to your point, I wasn't a great athlete. I was a good high school athlete, played small, division three, college football. And I think a lot, I think a lot of coaches, particularly strength coaches, are guys who really weren't, weren't the best athletes but really had to work. And, and so we developed our own kind of training methodologies and, and really researched ways to get stronger ways to get faster and I think, and then, and then we grew to love that. We love the application. Then it's kind of let us, you know, just intimately down this path and the athlete development. And so I grew up as an athlete and, and got done play as I mentioned, division three, college football, Manchester university, little school in Indiana. And then from there decided I did an internship, had an internship experience at the university of Notre Dame my junior year in college. Aaron Wellman : And, and that's when I really got the bug for performance and, and really everything related to performance nutrition included and decided to go get a master's degree and became a graduate assistant at Indiana university with their football team and strength conditioning and really kind of gone from there. That was, I was hired in December of 1996 at Indiana. And so my career began there and as you mentioned, spent 20 years at the Division 1 level at six different universities. I've been very fortunate. You know, I think that, you know, luck has a lot to do with it and the people you surround yourself with. So a lot of people have helped me get where I am today, but I also like to think there's a lot of hard work that goes involved with it. There's a lot of hours just like any other profession that you want to get to the top of. And but it's, it's something that I'm not, I, I'm a continual learner, a lifelong learner, and I'm still learning every single day on the job. Right. And still making mistakes. I just like to think that after 20 years my mistakes are fewer and far between or less intense. And then they were, you know, 20 years ago. Wade Lightheart: So tell me, you know, at what would be.. I'm going to start, go right into this and then I'll ask some other specific questions. Is what is a day in a life of a strength coach at the professional level, which you are. Cause I mean it's very hard to kind of get into a professional team, especially one as well known as the Giants or something like that. I mean, I can't imagine the amount of hoops you got to jump through to get that position and also how demanding that position is. So walk us through, what's it like in the day of a life of a strength coach or as a week or how does that schedule workout on a year? So I'd be, I'm fascinated with this topic. Aaron Wellman : Yeah. And so we're in an end season right now, we're in week 11 of the NFL season. We began a Mar players reported the camp July 22nd, 23rd, something like that. And so we're pretty much seven days a week. From the beginning of the season to the end. We just had a five weeks a week. I got a Sunday off and, and we'll get some time post-season. But, but as you mentioned, it's a busy schedule, but it's just like, you know, I don't look at it as having to get to work every day or having to go to work every day. I look at, I have them get to work and I say I say this all the time that I've got the best job in the world. Not only do I get to pursue my passion, but I get to do it here in New York city with the New York Giants. And so I'm very fortunate. Aaron Wellman : I don't take, I don't take the position for granted. Certainly there's a lot of other people in the world who've worked as hard who are much more intelligent than I am, who can put together training programs that communicate with athletes who, who won't get this opportunity. So as you mentioned, there's, there's been some, some key points in my life that have kind of led to this. But, but a day is typically this, and I'll, I'll kind of walk you through the week. And so Sunday is obviously game day for us. And typically we will get to the stadium four to five hours prior to the game starting and players will start arriving and we'll just go through and players have some of their own routines or warm up routines and work systems with that. From, from early on in the locker room to pregame warmups all the way through the end of the game and part my staff, our director of performance nutrition, part of his role is, is that fueling process which begins, which you know, obviously doesn't just begin on game day, but since we're talking game, they begins that morning with the pregame meal and continues on through the conclusion of the game and really post game, you know, as you know, you're well aware of what they consume immediately. Aaron Wellman : Post-Game post-activity to begin the recovery process for the next week is critical. So, so we kind of oversee all that. We get through the game and certainly guys are banged up. It's an NFL game. There's, it's not a contest for, it's a collision sport. And so there's bumps, bruises, and he'd come out, some guys banged up. And so we get that injury report typically late at night. So I'll look over that and kind of prepare for the next day for the workouts. And so Monday, Monday our players are all in, every player. We all lift weights, we train, we meet, they watch film - our biggest hurdle on Mondays is administering a workout. And we do, we do our lower body workout on Monday. Some, some of the surprising and I think we can make arguments both ways for Tuesday's - a player day off, one day week has to be off for the players and across the NFL, most teams take Tuesday off and that's kind of, it's kind of been done for a long time and that's the standard most teams set. Aaron Wellman : So Monday, Monday's a big training they force cause there's, there is no practice, there are no other competing physical demands on Monday with, except for the weight training. So we get as much, we can't out them. But like I said, the, the biggest hurdle is, is these guys are banged up. So, so Monday becomes a day where we have to find a lot of alternative methods of training for certain guys. And so we get, we get the whole team in the weight room, practice squad included and certainly, and first thing I do when I get on Monday mornings, I look at all of our external loading variables from the game. We need primarily GPS variables. Wade Lightheart: What is a GPS variable? Can you explain that to people? Aaron Wellman : Global position systems we use every, every NFL city. It was outfitted with, with a radio frequency devices that determine max velocities on players, distance ran. Aaron Wellman : We look at number of plays, things like that. And so just, just markers, general markers of external loading from the game. Right. and so that's the first thing I do Monday morning. Who, who had the most plays on offense, on defense, on special teams, what kind of velocities that we hit that they, one of our receivers who they knew maximum velocity, where we know that there's going to be more eccentric stress on the arm stress from that we know there's going to be greater time to recover from that. And so, so we kind of, I kind of get a general gestalt overview of, of the entire team. And so I'll, I'll sit for the first two or three hours in the morning. Our first group comes in about eight o'clock and so Monday mornings, early morning we, I cover the data and I start making adjustments based upon the previous science into report and the numbers that, the number of plays and the, and the demands of the game the day before and kind of making just some best guesses on how certain guys are going to feel when they come in. And so when they come to the room, I try to have some alternative plans for those players. And I, and right when they come in the room, I grab them and we talk it over and we find out where they are physically from the game. And so that, that's, that's the, that's the challenge on Monday. How do we, how do we make it any efficient training day without setting back their ability to recover and working around any physical anomalies that have presented themselves from the previous day game. Wade Lightheart: That's got to be, I mean, now you've got all of the starters and all the backups and then you also have the practice team. Are you in charge of both sets of those? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, so we, so NFL teams have 53 active players and 10 practice squad. As we've got about 63 guys that come in that day. And yeah, so we oversee the training program of all those players and, and a lot of my time during the week and we individualized training programs. I mean that's, you know, not only by position but by chronological, chronological age within the position, previous injury history. And as I mentioned how many snaps were played on a Sunday. And so a lot of planning, the planning of the training program takes a lot of time throughout the week for, to individualize for that number of athletes. Wade Lightheart: There's so many variables here that you're dealing with. My mind is going off like all these different things. What is some of the differences that you notice between say the positions and then the effects of age as people go are, are ways of mitigating it? Cause we hear these stories, you know, with people like I, I saw an interview with James Harrison of course was the oldest linebacker ever was spending like $350,000 on his recovery program as he aged, you know, Tom Brady with the TV 12 story and all the stuff that he's got going on there. We do know of particularly in, in such a, as you say, a collision sport as the NFL age plays a big role in how successful they can. How does that, how do you deal with that or how do you manage that? Or what typically, do you see where athletes have a hard time keeping pace with the kind of level that you have to maintain rational level? Aaron Wellman : Well, the first part of the question positionally we see, we see the, well, we, when we turn the skill positions, the wide receivers and demons or backs certainly have a large amount of neuromuscular fatigue following games, but that net fatigue is built differently for those guys that's built through high speed running, through high intensity accelerations, high-intensity decelerations. Whereas linemen the offense alignment, the defensive line with some of the linebackers, they engage a little bit that high-intensity acceleration, but a lot of their fatigue stems from blunt force trauma, right? Just, just physical contact with the opponent, physical contact with the ground. And so, you know, as we know neuromuscular fatigue results every bit as much from blunt force trauma as it does from trauma sustained through heavy East center contractions of musculature evolved with high-intensity excels and decels and sprints. And so, so that's, that's a big difference. Aaron Wellman : So you see kind of a couple of different kinds of fatigue that come into the room on a Monday following a game, right? Age wise, you know, it's, it's I think all of us can attest, all of us that have grown older over the age of 40 can attest that our ability to recover just is diminished as we age. And so that's just, that's just part of the game. And the NFL is a young man's game. But we do have certain positions where we have 20 year olds and we have 35 year olds playing the same position. And so those 35 year olds training protocol is going to be completely different on a Monday following of game than, than the 20 year old. Also we see as we age, our ability, just the overall training program, our ability to maintain maximum spring diminishes, but it doesn't diminish edit as quickly as our ability to express force fats. So our rate of force developments are our speed and power diminishes a much faster than our maximum strength. We can hold on to those qualities longer. So again, you may have in season around season you have a young guy where the window of adaptation for maximum strength is still open and we can still gain somewhere that for the older athletes is closed down and now the window is becoming greater for rate of force development activities for power and speed activities simply because of the age of that athlete. Wade Lightheart: Yeah, that's what they, you know, of course they'd talk about that in boxing. It's like the, the powers is the last thing to go, but it's the speed, you know, and it's like, it's always a challenge with the, with the older athlete is, is the brain fires. But it's like the brain writes a check that the body can't cash. They're just that microsecond slower there that, you know, they're, they're half step behind a person. And of course that's the difference in that sport. Aaron Wellman : I mean this is when we lose our ability to move as athletes, we lose our ability as athletes. I mean that's, this is a movement game sure. There's a lot of strength and power involved in this, but, but simply being strong and powerful won't keep you performing at a high level. And, and the older guys are talking about and they, they, these are still the elite of the elite, but relative to younger guys, that's when you can see some of those detriments. Wade Lightheart: I, I was watching Shannon Sharpe on the Skip Bayless show and he was talking about his own career as he, he, his, he aged and it was dawning on him. He's like, yeah, yeah, I can't do this as fast as I used to or I can't recover as fast he said. He remembers that dawning on him and, and, and the impact on his psychology and how he approached the game stuff. So how do you approach the game with, Wade Lightheart: As people agent, how do you think that applies to maybe the real world if you know people who are just looking for maximum performance? Because right now we see this, there's this, all this energy particularly with males. And the biohacking stuff is like, how do I be a superman at 45, 50 years old? Right. And, and, and they're, you know, using some of the technologies that were developed in pro sports and stuff like that. Well, what's your real world experience in the bottom line? Aaron Wellman : Right. Yeah. I mean, I think there's a lot of crossover between a real world athletic population and real world, real world general population. I'd say, I still think the two biggest levels we can pull as athletes and non-athletes alike are nutrition, sleep. I don't think, you know, there, there's, there's, we talked about in training, there's very few absolutes, but there are fundamentals, right? And I think that's the same across the population is that there are very few absolutes, but the fundamentals are those two big levels of nutrition, sleep. You've got to make sure we're taking care of those first. Right. then, then after that, now that we can get into intricate details, but I would say that with an older athletes, they don't handle volume of training as well as younger athletes do. And again, I think that's a generalization we can make to a 40 year old bodybuilder versus a 20 year old bodybuilder, a 40 year old cyclist versus a 20 year old cyclists. Aaron Wellman : I think, I think those are, I think that as we age, our athletes can handle intensity and they need the intensity because when one of our athletes changed directions on the field, he's going to put three to five times body weight on single leg and have to change the rest and go the other way. So the training has to be intense to support the physical demands associated with playing the game, right? But the volume of training is what we have to be very careful of not only what we do in the weight room, but what we do in a conditioning setting and, and quite frankly, how much they do within a practice. And so, so we're always tracking and keeping an eye, particularly on an older players or guys who have have a significant injury history. Now they all have injury histories because it's football and we know that the greatest predictor of future injuries, previous injury, right. And so and so we keep a close eye on these guys and we, it compounds that risk with age. But, but, but the, but the volume lever in addition to nutrition, sleep is critical for those guys. Wade Lightheart: And with that, when you talk about nutrition and you talk about sleep, what are some kind of basic tenants that you've, you've found that make the difference, if you will? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, I think, and again, not now. I think there's a delineation between athletes and general public, right? Primarily with nutrition, right? The nutrition that I need for my daily job tasks and performance is different than what our athletes need. And we, and we just like, we have a whole spectrum of ages and abilities and recoverability within a position group, we have a whole spectrum of nutrition practices and education within a position group within the team. Because you've got several players who look, if we can just get them to have something for breakfast prior to practice, that's a win. Right? Right. And we have other guys on the complete opposite of the spectrum where they're, they're dialed in completely and they're just looking for what's one more thing I can add or what do I need to change my diet to give me a one percentage? Aaron Wellman : Right. And so to speak in general terms on athletes, it's tough because we have all, we have a broad range of number one education in nutrition depending on what college they went to. How much, you know, and a lot of, and a lot of times athletes, we've heard Kobe Bryant talked about this, is that, you know, as you age in your career, the nutrition is the one thing that I haven't locked in. And that's my, that's the last level I've gotten. I'm going to pull it now I'm older. Whereas if these athletes focus on this early on we don't have to wait until they're 35, 36 years old to pull that level. But yeah, so that's so, so we've got a lot, we have the nutrition, it's kind of meeting guys where they are and then moving them forward from that point. Wade Lightheart: That's great. Now I suspect also the calorie requirements of these types of athletes must be significantly higher than the general population. What would you say would be, or, or, or the variants between, I can imagine what an NFL lineman that over 300 pounds and you know, involved in hundreds of collisions every day, like what's his nutrition requirements to say someone like a speedster on the outside would, would, would they be significantly varied. Aaron Wellman : Yeah, significantly different just for simple, simple math of thermodynamics of just maintaining body weight. Right. So a 300 pound or that, that's 20% body fat, that has 240 pounds of lean body mass. It needs significantly more calories simply to maintain his weight and then 185 pound defensive back that we have. Right. But you mentioned something critical that, that I didn't have a great understanding of till I say five, six years into this profession, was that the blunt force trauma requires increased caloric needs. Wade Lightheart: Wow. Wow. And what, is there a like a kind of a scale about how much damage they have and how much food they'll need, you know, there probably isn't an order? Aaron Wellman : The only way to determine that as it's a real look at creating a kinase levels, which we don't look at because it requires a blood drop, but it hasn't been looked at in Division 1 football, creating kinase levels. And this has been a study well over 10 years ago where they looked at creating kinase before training camp at the end of training camp, then about every three weeks throughout the season. And they saw me creating kinase three weeks into camp, but really leveled off as the season went. However, it's anecdotally, right? We see this all the time every year with players who say, I don't know why I can't put the weight on. I don't why I can't keep weight on where they feel like they're doing less activity in season because we practice on it. I didn't even get through. I only got to Monday and we haven't got it right. Wade Lightheart: Yeah, we were all, we're all on Monday for pizza! Aaron Wellman : We practice Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and they play Sunday. So, and then Monday's a weight training day, Tuesdays - day off, Saturdays kind of a walkthrough day. So you've got four days of physical activity out of the seven. And so they feel like, jeez, I'm in the off season, I'm training five, six days a week. And it's easy for me to gain weight. Well in season that blunt force traumas added, added to that, that, that that is an increased caloric demand that must be accounted for with these guys. And we don't, you know, most of our athletes aren't. And we've got a Pratik Patel, our director of performance nutrition, he's outstanding. Best I've ever been. He does a great job, but even with that, we don't count macronutrients with our players. Because they're not that as interested in, we're trying to make healthy choices. And so we, we add and delete things from the diet, from the menu, from their post-workout shake as we see fit. Aaron Wellman : And and then you'll have certain guys who maybe you're a practice squad player and maybe someone gets hurt. Now you're called up tags a roster. Now your workload doubles, right? Well, your caloric demands increase too. And players have to understand that. And conversely you're a starter, you get injured and you're in a walking boot for three weeks. We'll look ahead and start caloric demands. Right now our core demands decrease. We cannot put on body weight coming back from a three week lower body and drusen. Now we have to focus in and educate them on taking some things out of their diet. And so it's a constant educational process. Wade Lightheart: You're constantly just readjusting to, you know, wow, that's, it's a, it's an incredible amount of work. You mentioned sleep. We'll get to Tuesday and Wednesday and beyond. What's the, the sleep requirements I think is fascinating. And I know Matt, my co-founder, he's, he's so far gone on sleep. What are you noticing as far as requirements for sleep? Is there variance between athletes and, but what are kind of the bedrock of things that you've observed as far as sleep or grade recovery? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, great question. And again, I think that there's individual various with, with all of these things, right? Some guys do great on seven hours and they've done very well on seven hours for five, six years, all through college and through their NFL career. Other guys, when they get seven hours, really feel rundown and require 8 to 10. A lot of our guys are able to take naps. You know, they're usually doing a long day. They're still done out of the building by five o'clock. And a lot of our guys would go home and take a nap from 5.30 to 6-6.30 and then, and then be in bed by 11. So I think guys handle it to varying degrees. But inevitably, if we're going to, if that's a lever that we think is important and we do nutrition, sleep, again, that has to be talked about every day. Wade Lightheart: Do you do you mind, do you have devices that you monitor the sleep cycles for people like you? Do you have technology that attracts deep sleep, REM sleep, all that sort of stuff? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, we used to. And the collective bargain room, the players used to have, have outlawed the players can do it on their own. I'll say that if they, if they are interested in their own sleep, we will, we will get them sleep trackers and they'll be able to do that and we'll point them in the right direction. We cannot provide a sleep tracker and then look at the data every day. Wade Lightheart: Oh, I see. Because that could, that could be a way of tracking them outside of work, I guess. Did they go to sleep at 3 in the morning or did they go to sleep at 11 or something? So they don't want to necessarily reveal that unless the player's comfortable doing that. Aaron Wellman : Right. I mean, I think they look at it and rightfully so. I was a freshman on their privacy. However, we do have 10 to 20 guys on the team who has sleep tracking devices who track their sleep each night. And again, it's, it's a conversation, Hey, how'd you sleep last night? And then they'll, they're happy to come in and, and have that conversation. Talk about how much deep sleep they've gotten, REM sleep they've gotten and that we make, try to make the adjustments and make some recommendations on how to improve those areas. Wade Lightheart: So we got to Monday, what happens after Monday? So we've done the individual workouts for people and made the adjustments based on injury or damage or how much load that they had. So let's take us through the rest, the next parts of the week for you. Aaron Wellman : Yeah, so as I mentioned, Tuesday's a day off, right? The day off for the players. So they offer us, so, and typically on Mondays we're going to be in here and I'll back up. We're going to be in here 6.30 on a Monday morning. Oftentimes we may not get home from a Sunday night game. If we have a, we may have a West coast Sunday night game and we may land at 7:00 AM as coaches. If that's the case, then we go on the bus and come right to the facility and just start work. So we, you know, whatever sleep we get on the plane is our sleep for the night. But on a home game, you know, we're in at 6.30 or 7 Tuesdays. They offer the players, that's the day for them to any, any appointments. They have any errands they need to run. Aaron Wellman : You know, guys on the team are married and have kids and they want to take their kids to school and spend, have lunch with their wife. And those are all great things. We do have a mandatory treatment session for guys that are injured. And so those guys will have to be here with our medical team to get evaluated, to have to get treatments. We give our players the option. If they want to get their Wednesday upper body lift in on Tuesday, they're welcome to do that. So, so the guys that want to work can still come in and work. But there is nothing mandatory on Tuesday. It's a time for them to get, stay out of the building, to rest, relax, to recover. A lot of them have own recovery modalities at home. They may get a massage. You may see guys come in and do a little sauna session or cold tub-hot tub contrast bath, some infrared light, an infrared light bed session. Aaron Wellman : So there's a lot going on on Tuesday and some guys take advantage of that day and some guys just use it to rest, relax and relax our mind at home. And then Wednesday now, now we're back at it and a players would start arrived in the building at 6.30 or 7 in the morning. We bring our offensive linemen and defensive linemen and all of our big skill and big scale determine big scope for us means linebackers, tight ends and our long snappers, our fullbacks running backs. Those guys come in and out. Now they do the lower body session, primarily lower, a little bit upper on Monday. Now they're heavier. Upper body session is on Wednesday and Wednesday, Wednesdays and upper body lift. It's a little bit of a hip mobility works and thoracic spine mobility work. You know, some proprioceptive activities to try to try to get on the front end, some ankle injuries. Aaron Wellman : It's about a 45 minute workout and those guys can come in and they have to be in the room by 7 o'clock that day. So you, we, again, we have guys on their own. A lot of guys like to come in at 6, workout, and they like to get in the sauna or they like to eat breakfast at 6.45 and watch some films. So we're available as a staff. Our staff usually gets in about 5 o'clock in the morning on Wednesday. We have a weight training session, we have team meetings, position meetings. We're on the field around 11 o'clock on Wednesday. They also have the opportunity to live post practice if they choose to. So the guys that don't lift in the morning, a lot of guys, you know, and, and we're fine with that because as much as we talk about sleep it would be contradictory for us to say, Hey look, sleep's important, but being here at 6, right? Aaron Wellman : So guys get enough sleep and our morning people that come in the morning, guys that aren't and want us to get another half hour sleep - great. We'll let, we'll get your way. Training session and post practice and we're usually done with the physical part of the day by 2-2.30, then we have, we have position meetings and staff meetings and typically my staff and I will get out of here around 5.30 or 6 on Wednesday night. So I'm at 5 out of here, 5.30 or 6 on Wednesdays, Thursdays kind of re repeat of Wednesday except a different position group list. So all of our skill players are wide receivers or defensive backs and our kickers and quarterbacks all get their second way training session on Thursday. And again, it's an upper body weight training session. We'll do it. Just a touch, you know, I spoke before about volume and how, how important is to manage volume, but also we want, we want, you know, this, this concurrent approach to workouts where yeah, we're developing max strength but we're also touching some power and certain guys aren't going to ever hit max strength throughout the week and older and older athlete for example, he will be geared more towards rate of force development activities, maybe some single leg activities if we've detected some asymmetries between the lower limbs, right and left. Aaron Wellman : So we do just a touch of explosive work on Thursdays. And when I say touch, I mean three sets of three sets of two of some explosive lower body activity. And again, that varies by individual, right? We've got, we've got an individual who's got some chronic knee tendinopathies or hip issues or low back issues that exercise changes, but inevitably we want to hit a rate of force development, higher velocity power movement on that Thursday. Okay. Just brief three sets of two. And then, and then we're on in quarterbacks, always looked after practice on Thursday. We don't want to fatigue upper body musculature prior to an on the field practice where they require a lot of throwing. So our quarterbacks always come in post practice on Thursday and again, kind of same thing, practice lifting meetings, staff meeting at the end of the day. And again for us as as a strength set, another coaching staff there, continued on into the night right there. Aaron Wellman : They're working on, on the, the tactical aspects of the game, preparing for the next opponent which requires firm mark and, and a lot of things. So those guys may be here till 9, 10, 11 o'clock at night. Our strength conditioning staff, which we try to put things to bed by 5.30 or 6 and, and get out of the building. Friday now are our big scale offensive defense. We'll, I'm going to have now looked at Monday, Wednesday and Friday they come back in for their third lift of the week, much briefer, 30 minutes, upper body lift, primarily nature some work for some core work. And then they're out of there in about 30 minutes. All of our players do have mandatory weigh in. We weigh in every Friday. So that we're tracking body weights. We also track body fats on a number of guys. Wade Lightheart: Do you use the DEXA scan for body fat? Aaron Wellman : We don't, we use a bod pod and we use combination bod pod and calipers. We don't use DEXA. Wade Lightheart: Can you explain why you don't use DEXA and you use the bod pod cause they have DEXA as being advertised as used in the NFL. So I'm curious about that. Aaron Wellman : Yeah. So at the NFL combine they do two measures. They do actually a bod pod and DEXA. And so every, every athlete becomes the NFL combine. I get both measures on so we can kind of see the differences between the two. Wade Lightheart: What do you see the difference? What do you see the difference between, what do you see in the difference between the bod pod and could you explain to people what the bod pod is? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, the bod pod is a really, looks like an egg shaped device, a big oval. Aaron Wellman : And the player sits in there with limited clothing and usually just compression shorts. And I'm kind of a tight beanie on to cover the hair. And it's about two 45 second measurements. And it really the calculation that uses Boyle's law of gas exchange to the terminal to differentiate lean body mass from fat mass. And the DEXA and the, the drawbacks of the bod pod are you shouldn't really should eat or drink too much within two hours of the measurement. If you do a workout and the surface of the skin is warm or damp, it does impact the reading. And so, so the drawbacks are typically that lends itself to our players having to do it first thing in the morning prior to eating, prior to physical activity. It takes about five minutes total from the time you begin an individual till the time they get out of the bod pod. Aaron Wellman : And so the number of players you can give in that short window prior to breakfast and practices is limited. Right? DEXA we can give an anytime a day. We can differentiate lean body mass from fat mass. We can look at bone mineral density, a lot of different things. The, the reason why we don't have DEXA and a lot of teams are going to the NFL combine is simply because state laws in New Jersey require us to have an extra technician or on the DEXA machine. Most States don't. The strength conditioning coach of the director of performance nutrition is performing DEXA stands. So that's, that's kind of the limitation for us. I think we'll work towards that. Wade Lightheart: Um, but right now do you see a difference between the two as far as readings? Are there variance between the two? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, there, there is a lot of variants and I haven't ran a statistical analysis on what that exact variance is, but you can kind of go down and listen. Typically DEXA measures body fat percentage a bit higher than a bod pod does. At least from the data that I've been able to look at from the NFL combine. Wade Lightheart: That's pretty much what we've seen. Also, like I've noticed it seems almost everybody comes out a little higher on DEXA than they anticipate. I don't know if that's a variance within the DEXA or it's actually it's more accurate in determining maybe fat a little bit lower or like brown fat or things like that. Aaron Wellman : Yeah, it's tough to say. I think you know, the validity is the validity on all. You know, we have so many technologies coming up that the validity is so critical to these, but with the body, with the, with the bod pod or any of these other measures, if it's the validity is a little bit off. If the equity's a little bit off, that the reliability is good, meaning meaning we take five measures, the reliability between measures. So if, if you've lost 2% body fat and indicates a 2% loss, even if the body fat, the absolute percent is a little bit off, we leave to know the athletes leaner or he's gained body fat or lost body fat. So that's, that's important. Wade Lightheart: Yeah, you're, you're, you're long as you can track the variance. That's the most important part in changing. And then you say you still use calipers as well? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, it was. So we still use calipers and we ISAK as a certification, so we're able to differentiate fat mass from bone mass, from lean muscle mass. Again, that, and again, the benefits of calipers are if you get an experienced person with calipers, it's fairly accurate. If you eat breakfast before, it's okay if you just worked out before, it's okay. The downside is, is the athletes who have larger skin folds, particularly in the abdominal areas, that's, that's tough when you have 320 pound line when you're trying to skin falls on the abdominal region, those guys generally have higher skin folds. If you're doing skill guys and and linebackers that are fairly, I mean our SCO guys are 5% body fat, 6% body fat. That's a pretty easy skinfold. Wade Lightheart: Oh yeah. There's not much there. Right. That's, that's, that's, well now when it comes to the training you mentioned, I think that's kind of interesting you're doing, I don't know if this is all a lot of, but you're mentioning like doing to set or to rep exercises as power step or what would you say is different about say how you train an NFL athlete versus how someone who's just trying to be bigger or leaner in the gym, what, what is the biggest difference between those? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, I mean I, I think, I think there's a lot, I think as an NFL athlete they're wired differently than the general population, right? Yeah. Yeah. When I say wired, I mean just, just neurologically neuromuscularly the ability to produce high levels of, of neuromuscular contraction a very short amount of times to produce fluid athletic movement. That's, those statements can't be made about most of the general general population. Certainly there are people in general population and we may term fast-twitch and more explosive than others, but we're talking about the elite of the elites. And so a lot of our athletes as high school athletes never had to train and they were still the best athlete on the field. Wade Lightheart: Right? There's just genetically superior, right. Aaron Wellman : Yes, genetically superior. And so and then in college they had to train because it was mandatory, but they didn't have to train extremely hard to be extremely disciplined eating because again, they were the best athlete on the field. Now, now in the end, now you're in the NFL, now there's a bunch of guys like you. Wade Lightheart: Yeah, everybody. Aaron Wellman : Everybody. But it's all relative. Right now in the NFL pond, there are some big fish. They're just outliers. But generally now you come to the NFL. If you want to have a long productive career, now you've got to dial some of these things in more. But again, it's like in your career as a bodybuilder, a career as a power lifter, as we come more advanced in training, you know, a power lifter may may only need to use 80 to 85% of his one rep max because he can call upon so many fibers. Right? And if he consistently trains higher than that, there's a, there's a certain level and now not only a central fatigue, but peripheral fatigue associated with training though. So neuromuscular fatigue our athletes are much the same way. They've got such high outputs that we don't need to see. Aaron Wellman : We don't have to see high outputs in the weight room as well. Their outputs, particularly in season, all their highest outputs are going to occur on Sunday. Right. And so what we do in a weight room is, is the things that we're doing here are means of supporting those outputs. You know, traditionally, you know, I spent 20 years in college and a lot of times in college our wide receivers and kind of our skilled players really don't see the value in training their lower body. All I have to do is run. I don't want to get tired. And one of the things you see in the NFL is those guys have an appreciation and will say, look, I have to train my lower body. They, they may not understand the implications of why they have to, but they understand that I feel better and I'm a better player when I do. Aaron Wellman : And how we explain to how we reconcile it is again, if I'm a, if I'm an Olympic sprinter and I'm spraying to full speed, I've got three to five times body weight every stride. So a 200 pound athletes, 600 a thousand pounds on every foot contact. So the weight training is a means of just supporting their, their position, specific demands on the field, right? Are stronger athletes will recover faster at a given workload than our weaker athletes. Because if you take those same athletes and we, you and I both undergo whatever 20 hard changes direction in the right leg, in 20 on the left leg and the same sprint distance at the same velocities, and I'm a stronger athlete, I can support those and recover quicker from those. It doesn't cause the muscle as much muscle damage and myself as it does. Does that make sense? Wade Lightheart: Yeah, that's, that's, that's that's an interesting point. Aaron Wellman : And, and so that's kind of how we explain that. Look, look, we're not, I'm not suggesting as a strength coach that if we improve your squat max by 20 pounds, you're going to be faster athlete. You're already a fast athlete. What I am suggesting is by getting stronger and maintaining your strength at season, we will support performance the entire 17 weekend FLCs right? And so, so that's kind of, that's, that's the angle with training training guys at this level. Right? And, and so it's so much different than general population, right? In general population, their workout is, they're tested today. Right? That's it. And so they, they have to recover from that. And, and of course stress that we know is stress. So psychological stress, emotional stress, physical. We only have one bucket to recover from stress. So the, the, the a 45 year old man or woman who doesn't like their job and spends 12 route hours at their job as a lot of stress from that. And it's tough to recover and just like an NFL player recovering from a game, but what the games are, are physically the most demanding days of the week. And, and so everything we do supports their ability to perform on those days. Wade Lightheart: That's, that's a pretty interesting. Now on the recovery side of things, what are some of the, the things that you guys utilize or leverage to kind of, cause it seems like recovery is such a big factor on that. I met, I think a lot of people are familiar, I remember years ago here in Vancouver I believe the Vancouver Canucks is one of the first teams to start using hyperbaric chambers and things like that. And it's kinda like, to me that was kind of when biohacking, if you will for quote unquote started to creep into professional sports. That was quite a long time ago. What are some of the things that you can talk about that, that teams are using in the NFL or the Giants are using or that sort of stuff, which are kind of common that definitely make a difference for them cause people would like if it makes different at that level it's tried, tested and true and I can trust that in my own life. Aaron Wellman : Yeah. And again, it's again, once the two biggest levers are pulled, we've got to pull those first nutrition and sleep right beyond that. Okay. I think there's, there's as much individuality with recovery modalities as there are with training modalities. Wow. you'll have certain players who love the cold tub. Other players got the cold tub and said, I just feel stiff for the next 24 hours now again. And I've found that the really high wire fast-twitch athletes don't do well in cold tubs. Um you know, and I always go back to this, I mean recovery, when all the dust settles, when we look at recovery, what, what systems in the body mediate the recovery response, primarily mediated by the autonomic nervous system, right? The sympathetic and parasympathetic branch. So if we take a sympathetic dominant athlete and put him in a cold tub and produce a higher level of sympathetic dominance and make the parasympathetic system withdrawal even more, is that what's best for them? So a lot of our players intuitively would just say, coach, you know, I, I, I just don't, I've never liked the cold tub. Okay, let's try something different. Right? So, so how can we leverage parasympathetic nervous system to promote that, to promote that recovery response? And so I think there's some, some general modalities and most teams use and most seems to have a hot tub and a cold tub. We have a sauna here. There's a lot of good evidence research on sauna use. Wade Lightheart: Do you use infrared or high temperature or combination? Aaron Wellman : We use, right now we have high temperature. Wade Lightheart: Yeah. Cause that's what kind of creates the shock proteins that seems to be temperature. Wade Lightheart: I appended on that. I know Dr Rhonda Patrick is talked about it extensively and she says the heat's a big factor. Aaron Wellman : Yeah, heat is a huge factor and actually you can, you can seem like he shock proteins and cold too. And Rhonda talked about that and I think the difference between infrared and high heat saunas is the duration you have to be in it. So an infrared sauna may take 45 minutes to to get the same response as opposed to 25 in a high heat sauna. We also have a near infrared light bed that I don't know if you, I don't know if it goes red. Wade Lightheart: The red belt chargers? Yeah. Those are great. Those are amazing. I was just on one a little bit ago. My skin is still a little red cause it was built in with a suntanning set. Aaron Wellman : It's phenomenal. I feel amazing on that thing. Our players love that. Our players love it. Pre-Practice pre-workout. They also love it post-breaks and post workout. And we've got a lot of coaches who, who use that as well. And I think right now that's probably the most utilized recover modally we have in the building is the infrared light light therapy. Some teams have sensory deprivation or float tanks. I'm sure you're familiar with those. We do not have one. But again, it's, it's what, you know, what are we doing that we're promoting a person but static response, right? I think if you're, if you're eating well and sleeping well and you focus on breathing, some breath work, some meditation, I think that can be just as powerful as any other recovery modality. Wade Lightheart: So the big thing is just flipping people, you want people flip that as sympathetic to parasympathetic. Is that the, is that the goal that you're after? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, and I think you'll hear people say, well, what if you're, what if you're too parasympathetic dominant? Okay, okay. We don't see that too much. Right. You know, when we, when you look at just some subjective markers of, of what sympathetic and parasympathetic dominance looks like. Most of our guys are, you know, strong guys to compete in a violent sport and a context sport and, and ufollowing games or practices. We just want to promote that relaxation response. Right? For some guys that might be, might be going out to dinner with their wives, other guys may be a hot tub, other guys that might be a and might be some breath work, some meditation. Ubut again, I think the, the, the responses of these modalities are as individualized as anything else. Aaron Wellman : I think when we, you know, in college we used to make like all of our players get in the cold tub after training camp practices. I mean, whenever you do, whenever you, it'd be like programming a weight training program for the masses and you're going to capture 30 to 40% of those and probably do what's about right for that. But the other 60 are going to respond to you. They're not respond or respond unfavorably to your recommendations. And I think, I think that's what, that's what, in my opinion, a good performance programs from, from great performance programs is that ability to, how much going to individualize not only the training response and the dose of loading we're getting our athletes, but then also on the backend, how do we individualize that recovery response to do what's best for that athlete. Wade Lightheart: That's it. That's fantastic. So what, any, any other recovery modalities that you find helpful? Aaron Wellman : You know, there's a lot out there. All right. I mean, a lot of our guys have their own, I mean, just touch physical touch, massage. Yeah. We offer, we offer massage store athletes. We offer breathwork and meditation for athletes. We offer acupuncture to our athletes. A light bed therapy, sauna, hot tub, cold tub. I think that's about it and a lot of our guys, but you have guys who have hyperbaric chamber. Yeah, yeah. You mentioned the term biohacking. A lot of guys on their own like this and, and so even some of the stuff, the science isn't strong on, right. But the placebo effect is so powerful that if you that if you feel better it works. Wade Lightheart: Right. So, so, so would you say that these high, many of these high performance athletes seem to have a better awareness of their biofeedback than say general population? Aaron Wellman : I think they do by large,I think they do. I've had athletes really high level skill players who, and I, and one of the things that differentiates NFL programs or my program in the NFL from colleges is I think in the NFL we really lock arms with our athletes, right? In college we have 18 to 22 year olds and we're making best practice decisions in the NFL. We're making best practice decisions, but I'm also going to lock arms with the athletes. Okay. Let's talk about how you feel in the field. What I can do to help you improve in those areas where you feel like you're deficient, you are running a running back to when he plans off his rifle. It doesn't feel as powerful as when he just left for example. But I've had these high level sprint athletes, skill athletes, they can describe what they're feeling. Aaron Wellman : They don't know what it is, but they're just, they're describing part of their anatomy that bothers them at high speeds for any, and they can point right to it and they can tell you exactly when it hurts. They don't know why it hurts. And then, and then if we dig, and if we worked with these guys, if we dig and dig and dig, we can usually figure this thing out. But they are so perceptive with how their body feels. Now, some guys are really perceptive to a fault, right? Right. They're going to, they're going to perceive everything and everything's a problem. But other guys are perceptive and just, Hey, look, how do I fix this? And, and, and we, we help them correct that. But, but I, I think you're right. I, I would, I would generally say that these, these athletes are much more in tune with their body. It's just like having a Indianapolis race car versus, you know, a 1970 Corvette you just driving around on the weekends. Wade Lightheart: You know, this brings up another topic on performance I think is I'm curious about and that is one of the things that you hear them talking about in sports is an athlete's vision. Their ability to see the field or see how plays are developing or are accompanied. And then I know a recent trend in the NHL is goalies taking different vision training. There was about four or five, four years ago there was a, a bunch of second string goalies that all became starters cause they went to these particular visual training stuff. Do you guys do any training on that or is that an end season or an off season thing or do you have any experience with that? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, that's a great question. I am not an expert in that area. We do, we have, we have several modalities. They would fall into the category of quote unquote vision training. Like a lot of things. I think that the evidence is strong for some and completely lacking for others. You know, there, there's a company that makes these glasses that kind of like stroke glasses where they flash in and out. So you can see. And so Claire, my stand Clare, my catch balls. So is it, is it the glasses or is it the extra half hour a day you spend catching balls that you didn't do before? Right. So I think, I think, you know, I like to refer to myself as an open minded skeptic. Wade Lightheart: Okay. Aaron Wellman : I don't have any answers. Right. You know, I have more than I used to. I don't, I don't have all the answers, but I am open to the idea that much of this stuff works, that we've only discovered maybe one or 2% about human performance and the things that we can do to improve. So, so I don't discount anything. And particularly the athletic things that works in when it works. I just don't know how many of these devices are, are validated and if we were to, would, would stand up to kind of a double blind placebo controlled trial. And I don't think a lot of them have been undergone this scrutiny. Wade Lightheart: Couple more questions around the training. So two things that come to mind is one of the things I'm so impressed about just, well just this sheer athletic ability of the NFL. I mean, I, I watch it. It doesn't matter who's playing, if I'm into the teams, just, just watching some every day that I watched that game, I'm, I'm just blown away by what somebody does on that field. You know, it's just mind boggling. But two of the things that I think is pretty interesting is the grip strength. Wade Lightheart: That some of these athletes have enabled to grab a one handed catch and you know, like, you know, hold onto the ball with a 300 pound man slamming the ball directly. That's a, that's a fascinating thing. And then the other piece I'd like to look at is the training in the off season. How that differs from in season? Aaron Wellman : Yeah. So the grip strength priests, do we train grip? Yeah, we do. I would never be I would never say the reason why they're able to do this cause we do grip training, right? These guys, again, are, are wired completely differently than the general population. And I've seen guys with their five foot 10 with enormous hands, right? And so obviously you're building to hold on the ball. Largely can be predicted by hand size with these players. And, and again, these, these guys physically physically are different, are mentally different, are, I mean they're, they're the elite of the elite, right? They're the Navy seals of the military, right? These, these guys are the best of the best. And so they are wired completely differently. So we do, we do a lot of group training, particularly with our offensive and defensive linemen because they're, they're handing in combat athletes essentially. Aaron Wellman : But what you're referring to are some of these catches, some of these skill guys are making. And it's, it's really a, it is a grip strength thing. It's a skill because they practice these don't, let's not underestimate the impact skill has on this, right? So big hands and strong hands doesn't mean you can make one handed catches. Correct. If it did, then we would just get bigger, recruit players with the biggest hands and train their grip and we'd move making these miraculous sketches. So skill is always going to trump strength and speed and power and so, and these guys put enormous amounts of time practicing one hand to catch. This isn't, this isn't an anomaly that you see on game day. I mean it's uyou know, the balls thrown outside the framework of the body and they've got to go get it. And that's, that's something that's a skill that has to be practiced and learned just like any other skill. Wade Lightheart: Well, and now going into off season training, how, how does that change change for your athletes and how much do you interact with the athletes? Cause you know, maybe they're not even in the city that you're in or they're outside or new people are coming in from other programs and all that sort of stuff. So what goes on there? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, it's a great question. And it's one that's, it's, it's a, it's one, it's a difficult obstacle with our yearly calendar here in the NFL. So I'll, and I'll kind of walk you through a week. Our last game was December 29th if you're not a playoff football team, the players usually there's a meeting the next day and I'm, I'm allowed to give them a 14 to 15 week. It's about a 14 week off season program. Ours is about 160 pages long. It got nutrition, all their speed work, their conditioning, all their weight training broken up by position. We'll have 10 to 20 guys who want individualized training programs. So we do that for them. But dictate that we, we are not to contact our athletes and have a conversation with regards to train. Right? So essentially an athlete may leave and you may not see him or, or speak with him regarding training for 14 weeks. Aaron Wellman : That's a huge obstacle. Right? Wade Lightheart: Can they reach out to you guys? Aaron Wellman : They can reach out to us. Uwe cannot, we cannot initiate the conversation. Our, our training facility is open every day throughout the off season. And our players can come in and train. We cannot,umandate they come in. We cannot mandate what they do when they're in the room. We cannot conduct the workout. We can simply supervise for safety, right? If the guy's bench press and we can spot and make sure he's not hurting. So, but we can't say, Hey, let's, let's do four sets today or five, or let's do this exercise. Uso they, so when they come in, our athletes bring in their off season program and work right off of that. Uthe other thing we cannot do is, is,uyou know, the, the weather in New Jersey in January, February is not sunny and nice. Aaron Wellman : So you're not going outside to run. So we have an indoor facility. Our athletes can go in there and run, they can use the facility. We can't go in there with them. Right. So, so we're loping hamstring. So, so the focus is on the player to, to quote unquote be a professional and take care of their body. And so, and that, that period goes from the end of the, the from the last game of the season until the beginning of a, what we term the off season program, which would be around the middle of April. Right? And so in the middle of April arise, most of our players come back, and again, this is not a, the off season program is not mandatory. It's an optional program. However, most guys are back and, and really the first two weeks of that program, I get the players. It's strength and conditioning. Aaron Wellman : I give them two hours a day, I give them four days a week. And that's kind of our time too. And then when they come back, you know, kind of put yourself in our place. When these guys come back, you're trying to program running loads, sprint distances to get them ready for two weeks from now when the coaches get them. But what you don't have is information on what they've done for 14 weeks. Right? So consequently you get a mixed bag, right? You got our guys, our guys are great, very professional. So they're all going to have done something. But some of them have been running four days a week for the last four weeks. Some have run one or two days a week, some have done high-speed runnie, some have just, you know, stable condition. And so the first week we're really trying to feel out where we are as a team. Aaron Wellman : If day one becomes heavy sprint work, we're going to have problems. Yeah. Right. Those, those, those chronic loads, chronic running loads have not been established with the athletes. And, and there's a, there's a lot in the research on these acute to chronic workload ratios. But it's common sense that, and I, and I use the analogy of, of being in the sun with our players. So there's no problem with being in the sun for three hours unless you've not seen sunlight for the previous eight months. Now you're gonna have a problem. Right. But if you, but if you go in the sun 10 minutes today, 20 minutes tomorrow, and that's no different with training and with sprinting that, you know, if you haven't sprinted for 14 weeks and we bring you back when we do ten one hundred yard sprints, certainly there's going to be a price to pay for that. Aaron Wellman : Yeah. And so, so we're very careful. We almost under-traine them in week one because we really don't know what we're getting and we just, all season program is only eight weeks long. We just can't afford to have the soft tissue injury. And for a guy to miss four or five, we should try. And so we're, we try to be very smart. We try to meet them where they're at. I have several conversations, just honest conversations. Talk to me about how you've trained particularly the last four weeks. Have you followed the program we've given you? Well, no, I did this. Okay. And so it kind of gives us an indication on where our players are and we want that. We want that communication to be open and honest. I, if you've done nothing, tell me. Tell me. You've done nothing. So it's so that I can make the best decisions for you. That's all. That's what this is, is that how do we put our players in a position to have, to have a long career, to stay healthy, to perform every Sunday. And how do we serve our players to meet their needs. Wade Lightheart: So for our younger listeners who may be aspiring to a career in professional sports or professional football, what would you say is maybe some of the patterns that you've observed or like early on that translate well to become a professional. And what would you say, would you say the most successful professionals or the people who have the longest careers or more durable careers are the most reliable? What would you say that they do different than say people who don't seem to make that cut? Cause I mean the average NFL career is what, three and a half years now. And then when you had some of these guys that are in for 10, 12, 15 years, what do you think is the difference as a, as a coach or a player? Well as a, as a, as a player, as an athlete per say, and then I'll take both sides of the coaches. Interesting as well as an athlete. Aaron Wellman : I mean, obviously you have to have the innate ability and genetic potential. And I don't like the word genetic potential because I think you can overcome genetics, but, but, but if you look across the board, the majority of our players are genetically wired a little bit different. I've said that several times and it's just so true. And so that, that's step one. And, and so from a young age, and you can see those genetic, I've got a 15 year old son, but when he was eight on the basketball court, you can see the eight year olds who are a little bit different than the other eight year olds. Um and so I think certain, certainly often, I mean all the cliche things up because like, like I said, I've been in college for 20 years of several different levels of college football and the guys that are consistently high character players who are disciplined with their work ethic and discipline. Aaron Wellman : To me that word is thrown out a lot, but that's, that involves everything from a college athlete, making sure he's a class on time from taking it from taking notes in class to how they handle their sleep, how they handle the nutrition. You know, in college we would get the players for eight hours a week in the off season as certain condition coaches. Well what about the other 160 hours a week, right? So you can be really great in those eight hours, but if you're not living clean and the other 160 you're just not going to make the progress. And it's no different as a 45 year old or a 30 year old or 50 year old who wants to get in shape in the gym, what you're going to work out maybe hour, hour and a half a day, maybe five days a week. So five to eight hours again, the other 160 become a part. Aaron Wellman : How are you sleeping? How are you eating? How are you spending your time? Who are you spending your time with? Right? Those are all, because when I was in college, I would have NFL Scouts come in and they wouldn't ask me about that. They'd ask about 40 times and all that. And that was a very quick conversation. The conversation was what kind of guys, what kind of kid is he? Is he a hard worker? Does he, when the training session is over, does he stay after and do extra? Right. How many times has he been in trouble for not going to class? So we're, we're gathering information on who you are as a person. And so the, you know, and, and I think we can probably, you can look at ESPN 30 for 30 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/30_for_30) and a lot of athletes who had the ability and had all these, the physical requirements necessary to be an all or an all American and did, why didn't they will most, most of the great fairs and history of and character failures, right? Aaron Wellman : From athletes to politicians. Where is it? It's a, it's a character failure. So that's an important part of it. And then when they get to our level, I think it's, you know, now, now they've done the required work and now they're an NFL football player and now it becomes, as you mentioned before, the average NFL career, and you mentioned three and a half years. I think that's about right. It's somewhere around there. How do you take care of your body now? Right? Because now, now requires more than, more than you've done in college, right? You're eating, your nutrition program has to be a little bit better, right? You have to pay a little bit more attention to recovered because every year you get older, a risk goes up. Every year you accrue another injury. Again, risk goes up. So, so longevity at this level is, but it's a lot of the same things. Aaron Wellman : I mean it's, it's that, but it's also character and your work ethic at this level, right? We talk about being a professional. Being a professional means you're taking care of your body. You're, you're here on time, you're here to work. You watch extra film. I mean, what do you do? What in, in our profession, it's, I tell young guys, given a profession that what you do off the job will determine how far you go on the job. We're all going to be in the building for that, for a set amount of hours in a day. Right? But what do you do? What do you listen to on the way home or you listen to podcast and as a, as a young coach, are you listen to podcasts? Are you just listening to radio? Right? On the weekends you watch a Netflix? Are you watching training documentaries? Right? You know, I mean, how do you spend your free time and how does that contribute or detract from the goals that you have set for you? Wade Lightheart: Yeah, that focus is a big factor, I think. And, and, and, and in a competitive sport and you're at the very elite of the elite every, every half hour makes a difference. Right? So you're, you're never off. Speaking on recovery and training things, I think this is a big topic and one I think that interesting enough, the, the NFL brought to attention and there's a lot of people is concussions and how that impacts people and their functionality and recovery. And what are some of the things that you could share around concussions of how you go and approach that when an athlete has a concussion, what are some of the common recoveries? Because it turns out that concussions are much more prevalent than they originally thought to the general population, let alone an NFL football player where the risk is extraordinary high because just because of the nature of the sport. What, what are you guys doing around that? Aaron Wellman : Yeah. The talk around concussions is as you mentioned, much more frequent today than it was five, 10 years ago. And I think, I think that's a good thing. I think bringing awareness to that as a good thing because ultimately what we care about is our players. Health number one, health always comes first as coaches, it should be just the same oath of physicians take a do no harm. Right. And so the player's health comes first. Performances is a second. So, so that's always in the conversation now as a strength conditioning coach. And I'll be honest with you, that is, that is a hot topic that I don't get involved in too much. Wade Lightheart: I see. It's more the medical side, the staff. Yeah. Yeah. Aaron Wellman : So that's a medical side and I think that's, I think, yeah, I think that's how it should be. I don't think that coaches, strength coaches, performance coach should, should, should get involved in that. I think that should be medical experts making this decision on what's absolute best for that players, that player, excuse me. And we jumped in when they give us the green light to say, okay, he's good to start training again. So I see you know, that that's one that, that that I don't touch. And, and again, if it was my son, I would want a medical expert, not a coach or even a strength coach overseeing that I'd want, I'd want the experts in the field working with him doing the cognitive testing and giving us the green light when he is healed enough to return the train. Wade Lightheart: Um so one other question I want to be mindful of your time is so someone who is aspiring to be a coach, maybe they're listening to this and saying, you know, what is, how did you track through this? Wade Lightheart: You know, getting your own education and then getting started in a university, you know, athletic program and working your way all the way up to the New York Giants, which is kudos to that. There's a lot of people that like to be in that position. That's a hard go. You get there. That's a lot of hours and effort. What, what were the key points that allowed you to make that trajectory? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, I think my, my start in it. I would say that the, I dunno if I earned it any more than anyone else. I think I got lucky at the beginning. I started with a handwritten note to a football coach at Indiana university named Cameron. And uyou know, this was in 1996 and the handwritten note he responded to and I interviewed and I got a graduate assistant position from that point on though, I like to think that certainly there's more luck involved, but, but I like to think that a lot of us create our own luck through. Aaron Wellman : And let me say this, that football was like a lot of other business. It's a people business, which means, which means that, and I probably undervalued that, to be honest with you, my first 10 or 15 years, it's a people business requires great communication and great collaboration. My, my track into this, I think if you look back, I mean, and I quite honestly, I tried to talk people out of the profession only. And the reason why I do that is not because I, I love the profession. It's plan A and I have no plan B. So I am, I love what I do. I wouldn't want to do anything else. I try to talk people out of it. So I don't want our, I don't want our profession devalued. Right. And I want, I want to make sure the younger generation coming in understands the a, the enormity of the impact you can have on the lives. Aaron Wellman : Particularly at the high school and college though. Cause the high school strength coaches are doing some of the best work in the country. Yeah. Right. In the formative years of the athlete. You know, just building the work ethic and the, and the character of these players. But I don't want to devalue our, our profession. I want people to understand that it's a certain type of person that gets into this and I think you have to understand, it's like every profession, why are you doing this? Is it because you just like to lift? Is it because you like to play football because your career is over? Or are you really doing it to pour into the lives of young men? Right. And again, that's something that took me some time to figure out. And when you discover why you're doing it, it really doesn't matter if you have to work 16, 18 hours a day because you've got work. Aaron Wellman : If you've got to work seven days a week, eight hours a day because you're, you're living out the goals for your life, you're living out why you want to do it. And, and so that's your why. How are you going to, how are you going to insert yourself in the lives of these guys? And so for me, it was, I've always been, I, and I tell my wife, you know, the the a man's ability to suffer I think is so critical, right? And so my ability to work, you know, and I was up at for 15 years up at 3:00 am most days a week and then in the office by 3.30 or 4. And not because I wanted to be the first one that I was because I still to this day I have a really passion for learning and that gives me an hour on the front end of the day where I can do some research and get and get ahead of a little bit. Aaron Wellman : And I think the field is so saturated now with strength coaches, trainers, performance centers that how do you, how are you going to differentiate yourself as someone getting into this field from, from everyone else. And that one thing I've tried to do is consistently learn. And so I did a master's degree in, in sports science at Indiana university. I got hired full time. They would pay for schooling. So I did a master's degree in nutrition science. In 2014 I started a PhD, finished that in 2018 and so how do we consistently learn and, and consistently improve our program and ultimately not for the, not for our sake or to have more letters after her name, but for the sake of our athletes. Right. The more when I live at my knowledge, all I do is limit the ability of my assets. And so, so for me it's, it's, it's learning everything I can consistently trying to put together constantly the best program for athletes. Aaron Wellman : And I think, and I think that's, that's a challenge, right? That's a challenge to do every day. And so that's why the, the, the young men and women get into the profession. There's a lot of great young strength coaches, but I just want them to understand the value of this profession and the impact they can have on lives. And let's look, let's not take this lightly as a coach or as a teacher, as a high school teacher. These are, these are, these are great professions where you can make a lifelong impact on, on young men and women. Wade Lightheart: I love that. That's, that's, that's a great message. Before we wrap up now, any, any new things or any things that you want to give a shout out to in regards to your own work or how you go about things or anything else that you want to mention that we haven't covered? Aaron Wellman : No, I don't think so. You know, I'm a, again, for me it's just about our athletes and what can I do every day and in these, whatever, 12 to 14 hours, I'm here and then, and then when I leave here it's trying to be the best dad I can be with my two kids and husband and my wife. And if, if that's the focus I don't have time for, for much outside. Wade Lightheart: I forgot to ask one, one other question in that was, I found this fascinating is that I believe you follow a cyclic ketogenic diet. And so I'd like to just inquire and I think we're going to get you back to kind of dive deeper on that cause it's, it's a passion of my co-founder Matt. Do you see the ketogenic diet being something applicable inside of speed and power sports? Cause that's kind of the knock that a lot of people think about it or, and, and why have you incorporated that in your own life? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, I think again, I'm, I know enough about nutrition to be dangerous. Certainly not the authority. Right? But I, here's what I, here's my opinion on this right now. And, and as long as you'll allow me freedom to change my opinion a year from now is that learn more and sure. And progress. Wade Lightheart: I think that's a very empowering, I think that's a very powerful statement is that you stay flexible. I think you said an open minded skeptic, which I thought was really a great way. Yeah. Aaron Wellman : And, and you'll hear a lot of people, I think the reaction is saying no. And speed and power sports that are typically characterized by anaerobic activity. There is no place for the ketogenic diet. I think it can be done. I think it's very difficult because I think the, the amount of time it takes to adapt and athlete would have to be really, really interested. For lots of reasons and maintaining a ketogenic diet for a long time for him or her to adapt in a high intensity repeated sport. I really believe that. I think, I think it's maybe easier in some endurance sports, long distance sports. Have we said that? Can it be done? I think it absolutely can be done. I just don't know that the, the interest in the athletes is high enough where they can become completely quote unquote fat adapted and that's their primary source where they're not. Aaron Wellman : You know, my first introduction to ketogenic diet was we had a player at Indiana and he said, coach, I'm on a ketogenic diet and I said 'you are'? And I knew what it was and this was 20 years ago. And he said, I said, what are you eating? He said, I'm all, it means ice cream and bananas. And I said, hold on, I cream and bananas. He said, yeah. And so that, that kind of, that gives you an indication of some of the, you know, the education and ideas of, of some people who read some things. Right. Certainly it's much more prevalent now than it was 20 years ago. But I, so the short answer is I believe you're, I believe where athletes can do with it. I think it's very difficult for them, for people to stay on it that long and maintain that state to, to see the performance and gains. And I don't know, quite honestly, I don't know if performance will be better in our sport. I think you can probably be maintained if you're really diligent, but I don't know if that would be better. Wade Lightheart: Right. And then for your own self though, you've incorporated, and what are the reasons that you've found that a applicable for you? And what are the benefits that you've noticed and maybe how long it took you to adapt to that diet? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, I mean, I, I first started really dabbling in ketogenic diet in 1997. Wow. Yeah. A guy named Dan Duchaine wrote a book called Body Opus (https://www.amazon.com/Underground-Bodyopus-Militant-Weight-Recomposition/dp/0965310701). I'm sure you're familiar. And so that was a very stringent program, not only with the, with the five days a week of, of ketogenic type eating, but the two days a week where, where he would go on a higher carbohydrate. And there was, there was 24 feedings over 48 hours. And so just to, just to, but at that time I was in graduate school and I had, that was my life. Right? And so I did that for eight to 10 weeks. And so that's when I first got introduced. And, and I've always, since then, I've always been fairly low. I would characterize myself as low carbohydrate, low, a hundred grams a day. And then when I run across Dom D'Agostino research, Wade Lightheart: Just had him on the podcast a couple weeks ago, just had him, great researcher. Fantastic. Aaron Wellman : And this was early 2012 or 13. And the health, you know, as we age, I just think the health benefits as we age, when, when you combine some, a ketogenic type approach with some, with some restricted time restricted eating that's, and I've tracked macronutrients on almost every day of the year from probably 12 to 14 years, right? Of what I have my own personal diet and a lot of people think that's too much to do and that's just, I'm just interested in doing, I'm interested in how I feel. I'm interested in what blood work looks like. I'm interested in my blood glucose readings, my ketone readings several times a day, depending on what the item on. That's just one of my, it's one of my interests. And so, so the ketogenic diet for me, so lately I've been doing a cycle of ketogenic diet as you mentioned, and that that involves, I've done it both ways where one day a week is a primarily a higher carbohydrate day and I try to minimize fat as much as I can on that day. Aaron Wellman : Or I'll do a, I'll cycle in and out of it on a daily basis with a, you know, 40 to 50 gram carbohydrate feeding immediately post workout. And then, and then be right back into ketosis by by the time I go to bed at night. So these are just things I enjoy and I, I think that the bottom line is I've stuck with it because I feel great. Right? I feel great doing it. And, and the research and I think that there's so much research out there and there's, so depending on what you read, people get overwhelmed. But I think with making decisions on what's best and so I've kind of taken everything, I've read everything, I've researched how I felt, both, both subjectively and objectively through blood work can really develop what I think is best for myself. Wade Lightheart: How long did it take you to kind of go through the adaptive phases? Cause I know there's like a couple week adjustment, then like a three month adjusted. And then Matt, the co-founder, he, he said that he found another adjustment about a year later about how quickly he got back to ketosis when he does you know, in big ingest of carbs, he'll still be in ketogenic, you know, he'll still be in ketosis the day after he's right back in. Have you noticed similar type things or what's been your own experience? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, I haven't, it's a great question. When I first started, like I said in the late nineties or I had a hard time because I was primarily, and I think the, the amount of carbohydrates you take on a chronic basis and when we switch and say, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go to this ketogenic approach. I think your previous history of carbohydrate intake really determines how quickly you're going to adapt. And so the first time I had a hard time, but then as a really low carb eater for several years, when I went back to it, it was fairly easy. And within two, I, you know, I never had the, I never had the, you know, I've heard this term keto flu. I've heard, I never experienced that. I felt great immediately. Digestive issues cleared up immediately. I felt, you know, we described this thing as a, you know, some brain fog and, and I had mental clarity quicker. Aaron Wellman : And so I adapted fairly quickly now. I didn't start producing ketones that quickly. That took me, you know, it took me a month or two if I really get consistent ketone ratings and then really about a year before I could start eating carbs and getting back into ketosis quickly. Right. so I, I think that I, I would echo similar to what Matt said with regards to the ability to return to ketosis fall into carbohydrate feeding. And again, that is a one experiment, but I think, but I think we all, all of us should be doing experiences to find out what's best for each one of us. Wade Lightheart: That's great. One last thing. Do you ever do any testing on genetics or epigenetics or methylation in regards to various athletes and how well they do on different diets or foods that you do avoid or allergy testing or anything like that? Aaron Wellman : We don't do that specifically. We do have a partnership with quest diagnostics and they run a a panel called blueprint for athletes and our athletes have, it's not mandatory, but they have the option to do that four times a year. We're testing, not methylation, but vitamin status, food allergies markers of muscle damage or we're doing that and it's more of a it's more of a basic, basic labs that you would, you would associate with athletic performance than it is with, with longevity and methylation and, and things like that. But, but our athletes have the ability, have the option to do that is to choose. Wade Lightheart: One last question and that would be, do you, where do you see kind of the future of training with all the tech coming and all this kind of like where do you see things say maybe in 10 years as a strength coach, what do you, what do you anticipate will be more integrated or coming down the pipe? Aaron Wellman : Yeah, I think, I think too, I think it's hard to say in 10 years because I think we've made so many strides in the last two. I think there are things that are happening now that no one saw five years ago. I think, I think two things I think, and this, I don't want to sound contradictory, but I think here are my two thoughts on this that I think the pendulum will swing back a little bit. We're developing all this tech and there's a lot, we get a lot of streams that day that come in. I think the pendulum will swing back. We will, as coaches or performance staff say, okay, here are, here are the big rocks for us. Here are the three or four data inputs that we want to look at, give us, are our biggest predictors of whether it's injury risk or performance. Aaron Wellman : And we're going to put our focus here, but I also think as we go, I mean, I think you're gonna see a lot more, you know, right now we go into practice, we slide a GPS in their global position system unit in New Jersey and we track what they do on the field. I think 10 years from now, those things, if an athlete wants to have it embedded, that they're going to have them embedded, and we're going to, we're going to track everything so that, so the biggest, you know, we talk about external loading of athletes and take a college athlete, for example, who is on a big campus and has five classes and walks three to four miles a day, but it's not quantified, right? Right. So all we're doing as far as performance goes is, is we're quantifying their weight training session. Aaron Wellman : They're conditioning their practice, right? We're not quantifying the three miles they walk to get to class every day. We're not quantifying the emotional stress from a relationship that just ended. We're not quantifying the, the mental stress from academics and from exams clarsity at this level. The, the amount of social stress involved with being an NFL athlete and they media requests and things like that. And I think the, the ultimate goal, and I know for me, and I've said this before, the ultimate goal is to quantify every physical variables done through the day. Overlay that with the sleep and all the internal stress and the internal response to that and have a score at the end of the day on how what we've done. Right. And so, and to track that, and I think that that would obviously be you know, kind of like the Holy grail of player monitoring. And I think that, I'm not saying that's going to be done, but I think it's certainly will be available within the next 10 years. Wade Lightheart: Yeah. I think that's where we're heading. And I know a lot of the quote unquote biohackers that we work with, they're, or they're already are great, you know, they got the trackers, they've got the sleep devices, they're monitoring, they got all the data points, they're implanting this stuff, they got all the Fitbit, they got everything going on and it's fascinating, you know? Yeah. And our ability to get real raw world data on a like just ongoing basis. I think we'll probably switch things more than we can anticipate. So great point. Aaron, this is just been so fun. I mean, I can't believe you've been so free with the information. I really appreciate you coming on here. I know there's going to be so many people inspired by what you're doing and that you took time out of your super busy day to do that. Thank you so much from everybody at BiOptimizers, and our listeners. We really appreciate you coming on here and I want to thank you and wish you guys the best of luck this season and beyond and with your own career and let us know if there's anything biOptimizers can do for you. Aaron: Thanks, Wade. It's been a pleasure. I appreciate it.