With the NFL lockout having ended, NFL players were allowed to return to their team facilities to practice with their teammates and coaches.
However, before that, players had to find other ways to keep their skills sharp for whenever the lockout did end. And many local players found a home in a Bridgewater gym that has been the home for athletic training since 1999.
Players from the New York Jets, Giants and other NFL teams did much of their off-season training at Total Energy System Training (TEST) Sports Club on Washington Valley Road in the Martinsville section of Bridgewater. Founder and CEO Brian Martin started TEST to “meet the needs of families in the area with a full service health club and rehab center as well as for athletes of all levels.”
“I started doing work in the early 90s when I did work with [former NFL quarterback] Neil O’Donnell,” Martin said. “He played at Madison High School and then went on to play his college ball at Maryland before making the NFL.”
“We primarily worked with athletes during the off season, but by 2005 we began to focus on the NFL Combine training process,” he added. “It has led to us training athletes from over 50 colleges and universities. This has given us the opportunity to train top draft picks such as [Arizona Cardinals 2011 first rounder] Patrick Peterson.”
The TEST Sports Club was started in 1992 when Martin used his vision to train players on public fields during the off season. Since then, Martin has opened his state-of-the-art facility in Martinsville along with four other facilities in New Jersey.
In 2006, Martin opened a new location in Florida.
Both Martin and his partner, Kevin Dunn, train players in all facets of the game, but mostly concentrate on speed and quickness. They run drills to make players more explosive and build strength so they can go through the rigors of an NFL season.
“We really want to get their strength and speed up,” Martin said. “Our biggest thing is speed and core training. We have former NFL players on our staff who help with positional training because we want to help these guys as much as we can. Everything physical, mental and positional we do, so it’s a one-stop shop.”
For much of the off season, a group of 10 players worked with Martin, Dunn and the other TEST trainers. In this group, players such as Jericho Cotchery and Kyle Wilson of the Jets and Barry Cofield of the Giants would meet for a two-hour session meant to work on their speed and endurance.
Martin admits that this off season was different from years past because of the lockout. Although the lockout was not good for the league, Martin thinks that it could help the future of his NFL training program.
“It’s been a huge difference this off season,” he said. “In the past, we’ve trained guys for an average of about four weeks. This year we’ve trained some guys such as Bart Scott for 16 weeks. It has elongated the training process, which has given us a chance to get these guys really healthy and stable.”
One of the players training at TEST was Ropati Pitoitua of the New York Jets. Pitoitua is coming off a 2010 campaign that was erased due to an Achilles tendon injury, and chose TEST because he believes that Martin's philosophy can help him break into the Jets starting defensive line.
“I got referred to TEST by a friend last season,” Pitoitua said. “I came down and checked it out and it really seemed like a great facility. It just seemed like a great place to work out and after working with a great trainer like Brian, I knew that this was the place I wanted to be.”
Another player at TEST was free agent safety Eric Smith, who was with the Jets last season. For a player in Smith’s situation, the lockout made the offseason especially unusual.
Smith and other free agents were not allowed to speak to teams during the lockout, and without a team some guys could have difficulties finding places to train with regularly.
“I met Brian about a month and a half ago and he told me about his training program,” Smith said. “Because I was going to be back in Jersey, I thought I would try it out. I’ve gotten great workouts here so I figured I would stay here for the full program. I like that Brian and Kevin work with the workouts that we are supposed to be doing, and help us perfect our motion and technique on the drills.”
Before the lockout was lifted, there was some fear of a lost NFL season where Martin and his TEST trainers may have missed out on seeing their clients perform every Sunday.
Martin can now enjoy watching the players he trains play on the big stage, something he admits is one of the best parts of the job.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “For me, it’s awesome to coach these guys who play in the best football league in the world. To get to know them as people makes your connection with them much deeper."
"We act as mentors to some and friends to others and it’s a great experience," he added. "This season should be more exciting for us because we have worked with more NFL players than ever before.”
For more information about the TEST Sports Club please visit the organization's website.