Football's frenetic nature—the chaos that often calls for players to make split-second game- or career-changing decisions— is difficult to replicate in the gym. Some athletes, Bush included, have found a regimen that comes close: Fre Flo Do. Developed by Los Angeles-based Kappel LeRoy Clarke, the exhausting acrobatic regimen is rooted in an eastern philosophy called The Way. "Living life on the path from which freedom flows," Clarke says.
Translated: Fre Flo Do will kick your butt. All exercises take place on a tortuous contraption Clarke created called the Launchpad. "It looks like something out of the Jetsons," he confesses. Think of a treadmill with no hand supports or digital display. Oh yeah, it also rotates. "It puts people in a freaky state of mind. But if you don't work on the mechanics of changing directions on a regular basis, you'll get injured trying to do something your body can't do intuitively," he says.
One primary objective is to get clients to land on the pads of their feet rather than their heels. "Be like that rock that skims the surface of the water," he says. "The less time your body spends in contact with the surface, the less risk of injury. If you don't land lightly, the Launchpad will do what it was designed to do: launch your ass right off."
Clarke abhors many fitness traditions. "The world is constantly in flux," he says. "Maintaining stability [in your workouts] is fruitless." For instance, he doesn't tell clients how many reps they'll do before each exercise. "As long as you have a number [in your head], you don't know what you can do," Clarke says. "The set really begins when the body says you have nothing left. I create strategies to help you get past that point."
Clarke's regimen isn't designed merely to help clients get stronger and prevent injuries but also to enhance their ability to control their body and understand it. "You become so much more in tune with not just how your body works but how your mental state affects how it works," he says.
During the early summer, Bush worked out with Clarke three times each week. As training camp approached, the frequency increased to four workouts. Clarke says he wanted to "make training camp feel like a vacation."
Some portions of the minimum-90-minute sessions do indeed look as if getting separated from your gray matter by Sheldon Brown might be a desirable alternative.
They're preceded by extensive stretching. Among the exercises (which are performed on a rotating treadmill operating at varying speeds):
With Clarke at one end of the launchpad swinging a pair of "bats" at his legs and body, a backpedaling Bush suddenly sprints forward to touch Clarke's chest, then backs away before he's tripped or touched by the bats. The trick, again, is to stay on the balls of your feet. "When your weight rocks back on your heels, your reaction time gets compromised and you're o.. balance," says Clarke. "Before you know it, you're on your back looking up at the ceiling." [pagebreak]
The Diving Ball is absolutely medieval. With Bush at one end of the Launchpad, Clarke rolls a ball toward him. Bush must somersault over the ball and return to his feet. Occasionally, Clarke jumps on the pad himself—and Bush must dive over him. "In the NFL, you can be running full throttle and then have to make that move with no thought of consequences," Clarke says.
The Egg Drop ia a delicate exercise requiring mental focus and physical discipline. While backpedaling on a 15% incline moving between 3.4 and 4.5 mph, Bush must place a small ball on a holder at the back end of the Launchpad, then return to the front end of the pad and do it again. "He has to have a level of control to execute fine motor skills even though the body is in a dynamic and exhausted state," says Clarke. "It's like threading a needle while running." If the ball drops, Bush must start over. "If you don't bring the element of consequences to training," says Clarke, "then you're not properly training for your sport."
Mount Kilimanjaro is as bad as it sounds. Clarke, on a ladder about 10 feet above Bush on the Launchpad, drops medicine balls (up to 30 pounds) toward the player, who tosses them back. The drill strengthens the arms, back, chest, and shoulders, but also the legs, abs, obliques, quads, hamstrings, and calves.
About Kappel LeRoy Clarke Clarke trains top athletes, as well as us regular folk. He says his clients tend to be "high achievers, type-A people who feel they have to prove themselves every day." And while the workout is tough, participants have ranged from a four-year-old to a 74- year-old legally blind woman. "After two months, she could get on and off the pad by herself," says Clarke.
Like most clients, Bush was tentative at first. But, of course, he is not like most clients. Early on, Bush would lean backward on his heels so far it looked as if he'd fall. "But he was so quick," says Clarke, "he recovered."
"He's probably the most powerful and quickest athlete I've ever had on the Launchpad. He's open and he's hungry. I would pose di..erent things for him to do, and he'd ask questions. Not doubting but getting a sense of the mechanics and why he was doing it. I'm getting excited about the upcoming season because he put in a lot of work."
Bush, in his quiet way, is also eager to showcase his new self. He feels working with Clarke has made him not just stronger, faster, and smarter—but better. And, as he says, he's just beginning. "Success is a long-distance race, not a sprint," he says. "I'm not sure when next season I'll hit my peak, but it will come."