- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2011

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) - A pair of three-pound, fluorescent green dumbbells ordinarily wouldn’t be intimidating for a professional athlete or any guy in the gym, even a sports writer.

It’s a different story at Power Train Sports Institute.

Trainer Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Power Train, and his staff make simple exercises a grueling task for their clients, which include a lengthy list of NFL players.

With the lockout dragging into a third month, players are finding their own ways to stay in shape. Several members of the Philadelphia Eagles, including Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick and star wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, have been working out with Saunders this offseason at his South Jersey location. It just so happens I’ve lifted weights for years and work out there, too, giving me a chance to see from the inside how Saunders helps some real athletes.

“When I came in and saw what he does, I knew this was the place to get you ready for whatever you needed,” Maclin said. “His main focus and the thing that he does is prevention, and everything has a time and a pace. They do a good job of working body parts and muscles that you don’t normally work.”

That’s where those tiny, bright-colored dumbbells come in. When Saunders tells someone to grab them, there’s a lot of trepidation. Lying face down on an incline bench, the person holding the dumbbells shrugs his shoulders up, extends his arms outward and stays parallel to the ground. Then, while maintaining the extension, he brings his hands forward in front of his face, never letting his arms drop below his head. This is usually one of the last exercises in an upper-body session.

Think it’s easy? Try it. Three sets, 12 repetitions.

“He’s been tough on me since I got here and that’s exactly what I’ve been needing,” said Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who traveled from Texas to work with Saunders. “My arms have never felt the way they felt. Once I go against these centers and the guys inside, I feel I’ll be punching a lot more efficiently. I look forward to seeing that. I look forward to getting back to work whenever they call us.”

It might be a while as the labor situation unfolds in the courts. For now, Weatherspoon and other players have to get ready for the season on their own. Weatherspoon moved in with Maclin, his college roommate at Missouri, a month ago. So did St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danario Alexander, who also went to Missouri.

“I wanted to change the scenery and see what Steve has to offer,” said Weatherspoon, who had been working out at Plex, a training facility in Houston. “I heard a lot about Steve. I knew he trained James Harrison, Hines Ward and a lot of the Steelers and a lot of the Eagles, so I wanted to get up here and see how they do it.”

Saunders has four other gyms, all in Pennsylvania. Several Steelers train with him at his Pittsburgh facility. Harrison, a three-time All-Pro linebacker and The Associated Press 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, has worked with Saunders for more than five years.

“These guys have a tremendous desire to be the best in their profession and to get better,” Saunders said. “Everybody is looking for that edge.”

Even a journalist with an eight-month long softball schedule.

But no matter how much you can bench press or curl, it doesn’t compare to the physical stress you’ll endure in one session at Power Train. Time-under-tension _ the amount of time your muscles work during a specific set _ is one aspect of Saunders‘ training methods. It’s no fun.

Put it this way. One set of eight TUT reps bench pressing 135 pounds is far more exhausting than doing four regular reps of 365.

Story Continues →