Training continues at Michael Johnson Performance

By: Keith Ryan Cartwright March 14, 2014@ 10:00:00 AM

Matt Triplett is focusing his training at Michael Johnson Performance. Photo by Keith Ryan Cartwright /

FORT WORTH, Texas ― A training project between Michael Johnson Performance and several top riders from the Built Ford Tough Series is nearing the end of its first phase three months into it.

Initially the program began with Jory Markiss and Matt Triplett prior to the start of the 2014 season with the addition of Pistol Robinson soon after.Harve Stewart and Jared Craig have since joined, while Douglas Duncanand Markus Mariluch have been to the McKinney, Texas, facility as well.

According to Global Performance Director Lance Walker, the “first phase of the project was around evaluations determining how these athletes were functioning as basic athletes – both from a functional and performance-based movement standpoint.”

Walker described the evaluations as a look at each of the rider’s medical history, their base movement patterns, injury risk and body composition assessments, as well as identifying key limiting factors to their athletic development and total body reactive and explosive power.

“They break everything down to its most simplest form,” Stewart said of the one-on-one consultation he and others receive throughout each session. “Once you get in a routine, it makes it a lot easier, but it’s getting in that routine.”

Michael Johnson, who will be profiled on, said it’s more about the sports science of tailoring the program to specific athletes – in this case, professional bull riders – than it is simply going into a gym and training.

“Everything I’ve gotten out of that program has been awesome,” Triplett said. “They really want to put the science behind the workout to make a bull rider to where their career will go longer.”

Keith Ryan Cartwright talks with Michael Johnson about sports science and training at his facility, Michael Johnson Performance. 

Professional athletes representing the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball  and other elite athletes –ranging from golf to tennis to track and field competitors – are all now training alongside professional bull riders.

Robinson, who recently missed a BFTS event because of a hand and wrist injury sustained when he hung up to a bull at an event in Kansas City, Mo., three weeks ago, has been receiving daily treatment from the sports medical staff at MJP.

The seventh-year pro will return to competition this week, in Tacoma, Wash.

Like Robinson, Triplett said he hasn’t been working out as much when he’s at MJP “because everything’s been sore.” He specifically said they’ve been working with him in regards to helping the blood flow to his right riding wrist and getting the swelling out of it.

“The data obtained from these athletes is helping paint a clearer picture of the physiology of this sport,” Walker said. “Obviously the more athletes from PBR we can test, the better we can identify a true biomarker on elements that can possibly predict success or injury in this sport.”

While much more data is still needed, Walker added, their initial findings have given their specialists – sport scientists and physiotherapists – a valuable head start “into unraveling what we should be focusing on with training.”

Robinson and Stewart have logged the most days at the facility.

RELATEDPistol Robinson begins training at Michael Johnson Performance

Robinson’s commute is 90 minutes one way, while Stewart’s is closer to two hours. To avoid traffic, Stewart said he wakes up at 5 a.m., leaves his house by 5:30 a.m., arrives at the McKinney facility around 7:30 a.m. and then trains from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. followed by an hour or more of recovery and treatment before driving back to Stephenville.

However, both have become regulars three days a week (and sometimes four) whenever they’re in Texas and not traveling on the road.

“I thought we’d go to the gym and hit the weight room and that would be it, but it’s a lot different from the working out that I’ve been doing and that I’ve done in the past,” admitted Stewart, who said the hard part is reminding himself to go to bed at an early hour each night when he’s at home. “They’re a lot about recovery and getting you back after you get back and if you get hurt the weekend before.”

Walker said the riders, who recently were on-hand to train side-by-side with the top college football prospects prior to this year’s NFL Combine, have started what he referred to as “general adaptation.”

Stewart said it’s not intimidating working along with top athletes from other sports.

They’ve all developed a mutual respect.

In fact, he said it’s been a benefit to him training with NFL players from the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals, who have been curious and inquisitive when it comes to what it’s like to ride bucking bulls for a living.

Walker explained the sessions have included movement correction training, reactive power development and strength work in addition to “a full buffet of regenerative modalities for them in effort to maximize their recovery between events and training bouts.”

They are also in the beginning stages of developing at-home programs for each rider that will be supported by the Remote Coach Platform and can be utilized while traveling to BFTS and Touring Pro Division events, especially during a busy summer slate that oftentimes keeps them on the road for a couple weeks at a time.

“This will allow us to better support the rider’s training needs when unable to visit,” Walker said. “These home programs will be rolled out in the month of March, which is all part of a macro plan for the rest of the project.”

Walker has put together a full calendar that takes everyone involved through the end of the current BFTS season.

According to Walker, success depends on the ability of he and his staff – more than a dozen experts are available to deal with individualized issues on an athlete by athlete basis – to make adjustments to each plan not only from one week to the next, but on a daily basis, especially given the propensity of riders sustaining a laundry list of injuries.

Throughout the rest of the season various aspects – improving speed, strength and conditioning as well as the mental and nutritional side of competition – of the project and the still-developing relationship between Michael Johnson Performance and the PBR will be profiled and chronicled on each month.

Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.


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