No place like home for Packers DL Tyler Lancaster's workouts during coronavirus outbreak
GREEN BAY - On a typical offseason lower-body day in the weight room, Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster throws 500 pounds on a vertical bar and squats for multiple repetitions. The 313-pound undrafted free agent squats 1,000 pounds on an assisted machine. The big guy needs big weights to maintain his strength.
So, Lancaster normally trains at TCBOOST, a 10,000-square-foot facility in Northbrook, Illinois, a half-hour drive from his apartment in Evanston, Illinois. An athlete’s playground, TCBOOST has specialized machines, lime-green waves of synthetic turf and a 60-yard sprint track. It’s the ideal spot for Lancaster, 25, who has worked with owner Tommy Christian since his draft preparation in 2018.
"But now,” Lancaster said, “things obviously have changed.”
The coronavirus outbreak halted the NBA, MLB and NHL seasons and postponed the start of the NFL offseason program. It led local officials to issue stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, prompting the closure of businesses such as TCBOOST. It forced players like Lancaster to turn one-bedroom apartments into training facilities as the league remains optimistic about starting the 2020 season on time.
“There's not a lot of room at all,” Lancaster said, motioning his head toward an area offscreen of a video call with PackersNews. “I'd say like, a little 40-square-foot (space) right next to me. I've got some shock-absorbent pads and a bench and some dumbbells. I've got to make do.”
With his facility’s closure, Christian reimagined his business so clients can continue to maintain and build strength in any environment. Now, staircases are plyometric boxes. No dumbbells? Bags of rice are the perfect weights for front-loaded squats. Clorox bottles are kettle bells. In-person coaching and consultations of the past now take place over FaceTime. Christian loads client workout plans into an app called TeamBuildr.
“(As a) small business owner myself (I’m) just trying to scramble to be able to serve our clients well,” Christian said. “They need us more than ever and we need them more than ever just to stay in business. That's what we're working to do.”
Before the shutdown, Christian equipped Lancaster with resistance bands and five dumbbells: two 125s, two 85s and a 40. The Packers training staff pointed their players to Perform Better, an online retailer specializing in training equipment, where Lancaster bought an adjustable incline bench. He assembled rubber flooring tiles from Home Depot so “you don't break the floor whenever you drop the weights.”
Without the luxuries of a professional sports training facility, Lancaster makes adjustments to his typical workout regimen. Instead of squatting with a heavy bar on his back, he grabs two dumbbells, elevates his back leg on his living room sofa into a split-squat, descends slowly and explodes up with power.
“A lot of times, that's way harder than squatting 500, 600 pounds,” Lancaster said. “I feel like I definitely get a lot of work out of that. In some ways, it's even better to be able to do those things than put a bar on your back and get squatting.”
Christian even built a movement program for athletes without a space to run that utilizes in-place plyometrics. However, Lancaster chooses to meet up with New York Jets offensive lineman Jimmy Murray and Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Matt Kaskey in an open field to do movement exercises. They run sprints, record videos for Christian to analyze and, most importantly, maintain a 6-foot distance from each other.
“I've been really encouraged this week as I've been working with them remotely,” Christian said. “Just their feedback and even the exclamation marks and the fist bump-emojis.
“It's not as ideal, obviously. But at the end of the day for me, it's about keeping these guys positive, growing, facing each day with hope and having a way that they can get a little better each day no matter what the situation is.”
For Lancaster, the means of achieving his goal of being prepared for his third NFL season have changed. The goal itself has not. Even if it takes a little creativity, Lancaster will be ready to report whenever the time arrives.
“I feel like I'm lucky to have a support staff around me to be able to help me through all this,” Lancaster said. “I actually got an upper-body day today. I just built the bench. I'm excited to get that thing to use.”