You never know who you’re going to run into at Exos, the world’s most elite training operation.
One May morning, two young quarterbacks hoping to start on a major college team are throwing passes on a turf field outside a glassed-in conference room. Down a hallway, several NFL free agents are polishing off their breakfast—carefully arranged plates of organic, locally sourced protein, fruits, and vegetables. In a 10,000-square-foot gym, Olympic runners and Arizona Coyotes are doing drills on exotic machines like the Keiser functional trainer, which uses pneumatic air instead of weights for resistance, and the Woodway Curve, a $6,000 treadmill that—because it’s human, not electric, powered—burns 30% more calories. There’s even a professional Indian Ping-Pong player working on whatever professional Ping-Pong players need to work on. And because Exos is the “primary human performance contractor” for the U.S. Special Operations Command, the previous week a team of elite commandos had been in the house the same time as a group of tattooed UFC fighters and, according to Exos VP Trent Wilfinger, had a jolly old time talking shit with them in the 55-degree outdoor recovery pool.
Such are the scenes you’ll find anytime here at Exos’ headquarters in the desert outside Phoenix—well, except in January, when the place is packed to the rafters with prospective NFL rookies who’ve come for the company’s famous draft combine preparation. This year, a record 80 Exos-trained players were selected in the NFL draft—that’s 32% of all the players picked. Half of the first-round selections were Exos clients, including picks No. 7 through 14.
Beyond football, Exos is also the official training partner of the German and Turkish national soccer teams; the Chinese Olympic team; Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy, Portland Timbers, and Sporting Kansas City; the UFC; and many other professional baseball, basketball, and hockey teams that use Exos’ coaches and methods but prefer not to advertise that they’ve outsourced these things.
On the “corporate fitness” side, known as Exos Works, clients include the Mayo Clinic, Adidas, Intel, and more than 150 other companies. At one of them, Franklin Square Capital Partners, for example, employees eat meals made by Exos-trained cooks from a menu of Exos-approved foods (custom-tailored for and preordered by each worker in advance, from an app), then work out with Exos trainers in an Exos-designed gym. In 2015, the training operation was on track to bring in $140 million in revenue.
It’s all wildly impressive—especially for a company most of us have never heard of. But that’s changing. Exos has been making a concerted effort to extend its influence beyond the shadowy corridors of power and into the fitness masses, doing things like offering personalized training and nutrition programs for the average guy online (and via the Exos Movement app), and even programming the workouts on your gym’s humble treadmills.
It all begs the question: Just what in the hell is Exos, anyway? And what do its armies of “performance specialists” (Exos lingo for trainers), nutritionists, chefs, and researchers know that you don’t?