Desert-hot regimen grows It fires up fast-twitch muscles. Some athletes swear by it.

Posted: May 06, 2001

MESA, Ariz. — When you walk into the Evo Sports gym, you know immediately that it's no place for bodybuilders.

There are two rooms with weights, a water cooler, and a few machines that look like scrap-metal abstract art.

And, aside from a desk, some cabinets and two chairs in a small office in the front, there's no furniture.

If you need to sit, you could grab a milk crate, but be advised: It's sometimes used in an exercise.

Everything here is utilitarian, nothing wasted, nothing for show. It is not a place where bodies are chiseled for others to ogle at but, rather, one where people go to become game breakers, champions.

That's why Adam Archuleta is here. This place, like its proprietor, Jay Schroeder, is all about peak performance.

Archuleta, Schroeder's prize project, was drafted in the first round of last month's NFL draft, 20th overall, by the St. Louis Rams. Aside from his hard work, he says, it's all owed to Schroeder.

"I thought he was crazy," said Archuleta, who led the Pacific Ten in tackling in 1999 and 2000 as an Arizona State outside linebacker. "The first day I came in, I stood in this doorway for about 30 minutes before he said anything to me. Then he proceeded to berate me for about two hours. He basically cut me down. I told him I wanted to be in the NFL. He tore me down."

Archuleta was 17, a safety and running back looking forward to his junior year at Chandler High School in Arizona, a youngster who had read and been inspired by an article that Schroeder, a trainer, had written in a 1995 edition of Powerlifting USA.

His best 40-yard dash time had been 4.9 seconds. In two months, he said, it was 4.6.

Schroeder - whose unconventional training methods focus on trying to link the firing of neurons in the nervous system to the motion of fast-twitch muscles - has now had six more years to work on the skinny kid whom he shocked with his feigned indifference that day, and the results have been far more startling than that prickly greeting.

At the NFL scouting combine in February, Archuleta made the experts do double takes at their stopwatches with a 4.37 40-yard dash. He also caught their eye with his bench press. Athletes at the combine are asked to press 225 pounds as many times as they can; Archuleta did so 31 times.

"He was always well regarded by our staff; he just improved his status," Lawrence McCutcheon, the Rams' director of college scouting, said. "Running the times he did and lifting the amount of weight he did at the combine was just added incentive.

"I never thought, and probably nobody else thought, he'd run the kind of time he did in the 40 and lift the amount of weight he did. Thirty-one times for a guy that weight is unheard of."

Archuleta, who stands a shade under six feet and weighs 210 pounds, was drafted as a strong safety. His bench press is that of an offensive or defensive lineman, his maximum coming in at 531 pounds. His best squat? Try 660 pounds.

Yet this young man from Arizona was not born with such capabilities.

"He was not God's gift to the world athletically," said Schroeder. "He had to work for everything he achieved. I saw a skinny, cocky high school kid. He was the star on his team. He was going to do me a favor by training with me. Little did I know six years ago, he [would]."

Word of Schroeder's unusual training methods has gradually found its way to elite athletes. They include Cardinals star wide receiver Rob Moore as well as backup quarterback Chris Greisen and Packers running back Edgar Bennett.

Chicago White Sox outfielder Chris Singleton, former major-league outfielder Darrin Jackson, Milwaukee Brewers slugger Geoff Jenkins, and former big-league pitcher Brian Banks are Evo Sports clients, and Schroeder has worked with decathlete Justin Smith and model Dodge Billingsley.

"You become an athlete; you don't just get big or strong," said Archuleta, who brought ASU teammates Todd Heap (drafted in the first round by the Ravens) and Steve Trejo (signed recently by the Lions) into Schroeder's clutches within the last year. "The first thing was my speed. That's when I knew there was something going on here."

Schroeder, 46, says that he didn't invent any of the exercises he uses, that he simply found a way to optimize them in a certain sequence.

After earning a degree in kinesiology from Baker University of Baldwin City, Kan., he set forth on a career that was born, painfully, out of misfortune. He suffered a broken neck and back when he was struck by a vehicle while riding a motorcycle at age 19. The accident, he said, left him temporarily paralyzed and blind.

Convalescing, he read physiology and sports periodicals about Russian athletes' training methods. He expanded his reading to German and Russian methodology from the 1890s and 1900s and added data from the Egyptians and the Greeks.

"Everybody lifts weights," Schroeder said, "but not everybody gets results. Not everybody got stronger, not everybody got faster, and not everybody got powerful. I figured it had to be something more than just going in and doing the same exercises."

His techniques, he said, provide those assets in concert with sharpening motor skills.

How unorthodox are they? Well, there's one exercise where you stand, bent slightly forward at the waist, legs spread wider than shoulder width, holding a 45-pound barbell plate like a steering wheel with both hands. You drop it, then catch it in midair - over and over.

Why? Because it converts to about 130 pounds of force per repetition, Schoeder says.

Then there's the contraption that looks like a bench-press machine beneath four poles. A heavy, rectangular, metal slab slides up and down the poles. You lie on your back on the bench, and two people drop the slab. You have to catch it.

Each time you do, it's 7,000 pounds of force, Schroeder says.

An alternative exercise with this apparatus is one in which you lie on the bench and push the slab up, let it go, and catch it, repeatedly. Sometimes, you mix drops and catches.

There's also something called the inertia-impulse machine. A weighted block, attached to ropes and pulleys, slides back and forth in a long, grooved base that stands a little more than a foot off the floor.

By pulling with your arms or legs, you control the block's movement while moving your limbs as fast as you can for 10 seconds. Then you rest 10 seconds. Then you get to do it all over.

Archuleta, Moore, Heap and Trejo were each able to do 35 to 40 repetitions during each 10-second interval. A half-dozen or so intervals with the legs, for example, are said to be the equivalent of running several 100-meter sprints.

"I knew when I hurt myself that one of the things I was going to have to work on was to get back my explosiveness," said Moore, who underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last October.

"Everything we do in here is about explosiveness. Everything is fast-twitch muscle [oriented]. Everything is neurological, getting the nerves to fire quicker. I plan on being far better than I was when I was healthy."

Moore said he improved his bench press 70 pounds, to nearly 400, in four months. Trejo said he improved his 40-yard dash from 5.1 seconds to 4.63 in a year. Heap said he improved his bench press about 100 pounds in a year and went from a 4.70 to a 4.58 in the 40.

"Remember the old break-dancers? You know, where they moved in segments?" Schroeder asked. "That's not how you run; that's not how you play sports.

"Your body has to work in unison. That's what we do here. We teach it to do that."

You have to put in a little time at the gym just to be able to do these exercises.

"The last two months, it's been one to three sessions a day six days a week, anywhere from two to six hours a day," Archuleta said.

There are some, of course, who suspect that there is more than hard work involved, that such dramatic improvement must be the result of steroid use. Schroeder says no way.

"When people hear what Adam can do, they say, 'Ah, it's just drugs,' " Schroeder said. "I don't allow anyone in my gym on steroids. If I suspect it, I have them get a drug test."

For Archuleta, the off-the-wall methodology has been priceless. But Schroeder says he gets results whether the subject is Deion Sanders or an average Joe, whether one's a football player, a power lifter, a swimmer, or a gymnast. He customizes the routine to the individual, but the principles remain the same.

He said a 78-year-old woman he trains using the same methods hikes the Grand Canyon several times a year. He has a 65-year-old, he added, who added 170 pounds to his power lift and won a world title.

"I want to create machines out of human athletes," Schroeder said. "I want them to be healthy. I want them to perform at levels that I'll go pay $75 to watch them.

"Why can't baseball players hit .400 all the time? There's no reason why not. Why not have more people running faster 40s, instead of just having Carl Lewis, this old guy who runs fast still? Why can't Mark Spitz make a comeback in swimming?

"It should be the norm. We don't tap everything we have."

Mike Bruton's e-mail address is

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