A few extra thoughts from EXOS strength and conditioning coach Eric Dannenberg in Arizona, where Bills free agent guard Richie Incognito trains.
On what makes Incognito different: “His attitude and intensity every day. Even early on, this early in the offseason, you can see him on the sled like ‘Hoo-ahh!’ That’s just him. When we go in the pool, some guys go through the motions. He brings intensity in every rep.
And then on the field, that’s football. One of the things I hate is when the announcers always say, ‘They better be physical today.’ Well, no (expletive), you’re playing football! That intensity is there every rep. But with him, there’s tons of stuff behind the scenes that people don’t know. He goes to Pilates twice a week. He drinks a special type of water. He gets a blood test done for nutrition. And then he eats certain foods so they’re anti-inflammatory so his joints and body aren’t in as much pain and he can recover faster. He’s getting soft tissue work done with a therapist all the time during the season where the healthier his body is, the more he can go out, be him and play.”
On Incognito’s year away from football: “It’s so funny. So here’s the intensity thing. A team came in — I won’t call out the team — a team came in to look at one of their players. And they said, ‘Can you like toughen him up? He’s a little soft.’ I said, ‘If you want tough—that man right there. It was the head of performance, looking after one of their players who was injured. I was like, ‘He’s 32. I can’t teach that at this point. But if you want intensity, I don’t know how no team has ever called us or nothing—it’s intensity in everything.’ I’ll say, ‘Alright we’re doing to do a sprint, and everyone’s jaw drops.’ Like, ‘Holy (expletive), that huge guy can sprint. And ‘now, we’re going to do some low, lateral hip stuff’ and holy crap he moves well.”
On training Incognito: “He has to be absolutely brute strong as well. But we’ve got to make sure all the little things hold him together as well. It’s always a balance. If you do too much power lifting and not enough mobility, if you do too much cute body weight and it looks cool and not enough pure mac strength development, you’re missing areas. … If you ask him, this is the healthiest he’s felt in a long time.”
“And he’s got smarter every single year, with the water, with this year he did soft tissue after every game. He just did all these little things to make sure his body was healthy. And when you’re young, you don’t think of those things. You hang out with your buddies. As you learn, you wake up and you take care of your body. You’ve got the right fuel going into your body and the right water going into your body.”
On if there’s a specific exercise he dominates: “Any power movement. That power could be expressed as speed—he’s fast for a big guy. It could be expressed as power in the weight room with an Olympic lift or a power squat. Any raw power. When you have that kind of mass and that much power mobility, he can express that more than most guys.
“I don’t see him slowing down. I only see him gearing up. Some other vets, you start thinking ‘What happens if you don’t get picked up? You’re getting a little old. Your body’s taking a beating.’”
On the culture at EXOS: “When you’re walking in here, there’s Olympians, there’s MVP baseball players, every day there’s greatness. Other people respect it that, ‘Damn, Richie’s here. That dude’s a beast.’ Military guys are in here. Richie’s then going, damn, that dude’s a beast. So even though he was training here, he’s still in that world-class environment where maybe if you’re at home and your family is trying to take money off you, then everything spirals down.
“We have so many different populations coming in. He’s constantly meeting these world-class athletes and constantly need to hold yourself to, hey, I’m a world-class athlete, I need to be a world-class worker.”