Dwyane Wade performs a "lock and load" exercise with trainer Ed Downs
Now a pro sports trainer and Miami Heat training consultant, it’s hard to believe that Ed Downs’ first career choice was engineering. But he’s certainly made use of his knack for math and science, developing his signature, Air Force-engineered “Down Disc” core training device to help clients prevent and recover from injuries. To boot, Downs earned a Medal of Honor from the 7th Special Forces Group for sharing his training methods with the Navy Seals. He’s also a U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee.
Downs’ current baby is his Proterf fitness program and TERF Athletic Facility (6808 S.W. 81st St., Miami), which he co-founded in 2011. Proterf invites everyone to “train like an athlete,” emphasizing individual core development and multi-directional movement, and TERF acts as a one-stop fitness shop, featuring an on-site nutritionist, physical therapist, and mental testing machinery. With the NBA Playoffs just around the corner, we sat down with Downs to talk sports, fitness, and his star-studded client list.
How does martial arts help improve athletic performance?
ED DOWNS: One thing that is a fact is that if you improve your flexibility, especially dynamic flexibility, it increases speed and performance, and for athletes, it is all about quickness and performance. Martial arts does that for them, through the kicks and movement, so I incorporate those types of stretching methods into my training methods. I'm also incorporating rehab and prehab elements into the workouts in order to prevent injury.
Is lack of flexibility a common problem?
ED: It is common that most athletes are pretty tight, but that can help with their explosive power. It's a give and a take. I don't want an athlete to be hyper-flexible like a gymnast because that can actually slow them down. You'd be surprised, some of those big linemen, first basemen, and hockey players can actually do a split. It's quite the sight.
How can the everyday gym-goer benefit from Proterf?
ED: The beauty of it is it that it doesn't just improve your skill related parameters, like speed, quickness, and agility, but you're also improving your health related parameters. And it's fun to do. You are losing weight and getting lean while doing things that a professional athlete does.
What aspect of your program do athletes find most challenging?
ED: The balance and coordination development, which is a major part in being able to improve your performance. When you see a guy like Dwyane Wade jump in the air and control his body like an acrobat, he's harnessing those factors. Then the women come in here with experience in yoga or pilates and they make these guys look bad.
Do your Heat clients have any favorite exercises?
ED: Wade's favorite is the lock and load. For Bosh, probably lunging with extension. He's 6'11, but he needs to be long. In order to get rebounds he needs to be strong when he's up in that long pattern and contend with those other big dudes.
And who has stood out most to you, in terms of athleticism?
ED: Jennifer Capriati was probably one of the most athletic people I worked with. She had all those parameters we talked about—speed, coordination, reaction time, agility, power, and balance—she had all six, like LeBron James. She had like a ten in all those levels. A female LeBron James with a racket!