UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Badgers' summer 'transformance' is no accident

FB_110806_Herbert_Ben.jpgOne of the biggest box office hits of the summer has been "Transformers: Dark of the Moon'' -- the third movie in the "Transformers'' series directed by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg.

Not unlike Bay and Spielberg, UW strength and conditioning coordinator Ben Herbert has been directing and producing some blockbuster results with his "Transformers'' program at Camp Randall.

How would Herbert best describe the physical transformation of so many football players?

"I call it transformance,'' he said. "Transform your performance.''

You almost have to see it to believe it. Words really don't do it justice.

That, in fact, has been the concept behind Herbert's "Before'' and "After'' digital upper body shots -- which serve as a dramatic visual measure on how each player has transformed himself.

Here's how you looked in January ...

Here's how you look today after the summer program ...

"It's a powerful tool,'' Herbert said.

To reiterate, he can bring the player into his office and show him his starting point or the "Before'' shot on his computer and then follow that up with the "transformance'' or "After'' shot.

What's the general reaction?

"A huge smile,'' Herbert said.

Does it build their confidence?

"There's no doubt,'' he said.

Do they leave the office thinking they can take on the world?

"That's it,'' said Herbert, grinning from ear to ear.

Following Friday's practice, Herbert provided some examples; starting with middle linebacker Chris Borland, who has undergone a couple of surgeries on his shoulders since being injured last season.

"We got the green light to start training his upper body towards the end of February,'' Herbert said. "We started from scratch and had to redevelop his entire upper body.

"While we were able to continue to train his lower body aggressively, you can see the emphasis that we placed on his shoulders and just his upper body overall.''

There was a significant difference in the physical structure of the "Before'' and "After'' Borland, who's added 15 pounds in four months and now carries 245 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame.

Borland's training partner was linebacker Ethan Armstrong who also missed the spring while rehabbing from an injury. Herbert noted Armstrong's transformation has been a "powerful one.''

Pointing to the "Before'' shot, Herbert conceded, "That's a pretty bad body right there.'' That was in March. The "After'' shot of Armstrong - now carrying 240 pounds - was eye-opening.

"When you work, you want to see the result,'' Herbert said.

Senior wide receiver Nick Toon weighed 209 pounds the second week of March following his foot surgery. Herbert wasn't able to train Toon for three weeks. Coming into training camp, Toon is 221.

Junior defensive end David Gilbert has buffed up another 20 pounds to 255. The remarkable thing about Gilbert's overall "transformance'' has been the fact that he weighed 202 as a freshman.

Herbert's "Transform your performance'' program also includes weight loss. Tailback Montee Ball is now at 210 pounds after getting up to 237 last season.

"My man is rock solid,'' Herbert said of Ball, who showed more burst on the field Friday. "The way he's running with the amount of spring and explosiveness is awesome.''

Sophomore defensive tackle Beau Allen played and lettered as a true freshman. In late January, Allen weighed 340. As of the opening of training camp, he's 312.

How did Allen drop his 28 pounds?

"It was a combination of things,'' Herbert said. "It was about eating right -- being smart about portion sizes and the timings of his meals -- and it was about just attacking the weight room.

"He was conscientious of what he was eating, and how he was taking care of himself.''

Pausing, Herbert then added, "And he trained his butt off.''

Herbert is a stickler about nutrition.

"Feed your body and it will flourish,'' he reminds the players on a daily basis.

When they shop for themselves at a grocery store, he wants them focusing on lean proteins, vegetables, whole grains and fruit. And he wants them drinking plenty of water and milk.

On his list of "Must Haves'' are eggs, Egg Beaters, chicken breasts, turkey, lean ground beef, peanut butter, cottage cheese, whole wheat pasta and bread, oatmeal, spinach and olive oil.

Herbert is constantly stressing meal frequency, too.

At breakfast, he wants them eating high quality protein, fast and slow digesting carbohydrates and healthy fats. He lectures on how a well-balanced breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Nothing is left to chance in Herbert's training regimen.

"We're constantly talking about the things we do nutritionally,'' he said, "and how it will change their body and we talk about the way they need to approach their training. All these factors play a role.''

Every day, every detail. That has been the rallying cry; encompassing an 88-day span from the start of the summer program to the Sept. 1 opener against UNLV at Camp Randall Stadium.

Herbert has "88'' t-shirts reflecting the commitment.

By now, though, it's ingrained.

"All of the things we do from a training standpoint,'' he says of the lifting, running, nutrition, "is to put them in a situation to come out and do what they're capable of doing on a football field.''