Ryan Sessegnon’s amazing body transformation as performance coach he hired explains how Tottenham star bulked up
TOTTENHAM fans have been witnessing a fitter, stronger and, hopefully, more injury-resistant Ryan Sessegnon this campaign.
It is in large part thanks to the rigorous work he did during the off-season in a bid to rid himself of persistent hamstring trouble.
The England Under-21 starlet was well aware that he needed to improve himself physically to cope with the lung-busting demands Antonio Conte and his staff put on their players.
Particularly with the increased competition at left wing-back following this summer’s arrival of Ivan Perisic, whom he will hope to get the nod over against old club Fulham on Saturday.
And so Sessegnon became the latest top sportsperson, following basketball megastar LeBron James, NFL quarter-back Russell Wilson and many top-level footballers, to invest in his own strength and conditioning consultant to transform himself into a well-oiled machine.
The 22-year-old, on the advice of a fellow Premier League pro, began working this summer with performance coach Dan Lawrence and his consultancy company, G1%.
A practitioner working in elite sport for a decade, Lawrence is also the head of performance at Matchroom Boxing, working with the likes of Conor Benn, Josh Taylor and Joe Cordina.
Lawrence, 34, told SunSport: “There’s a growing trend in recent years of players outsourcing from the clubs especially in the off-season.
“The clubs have brilliant practitioners in medical, sport science, strength and conditioning.
“They are dealing with a high number of players and some players are now investing in their own team to ensure the strategy is truly bespoke to their own requirements.
“Sometimes a player with a recurring injury may want to explore all options with the sole goal of going back to pre-season in a better position to play more games for their respective clubs.”
That was exactly the case for Sessegnon, who has suffered with a number of hamstring issues over the years, the last of which kept him out for six weeks earlier this year.
It left him “very demoralised and with great desire to get back playing”, according to Lawrence, who analysed MRI reports to identify the severity of the injury, went through in-depth performance testing and a full movement screening to see “what was happening under the bonnet”.
The results showed a slight asymmetry between his legs, but nothing significant or out of the ordinary for a footballer, and gave Lawrence and his team plenty of data to work with.
Train like Ryan
Below is a breakdown of a typical high-intensity session that Ryan Sessegnon did during his time in Portugal:
Step one: Movement preparation including a RAMP warm-up (Raise, activate, mobilise and potentiate).
Raise heart-rate, activate muscles, mobilise around key joints and potentiate/prime your central nervous system. Duration: 10 minutes.
Step two: Testing and power. This involves the three-jump, “Readiness Test” to assess how far he can be pushed that day and how high to “dose” him on power. Duration: Around six minutes.
Step three: The main bulk of the session, which is strength-focused.
The key exercise is a trap-bar deadlift from the blocks, which is a strength dominant movement. Duration: Around 30 minutes.
Five exercises he would do would be
- Trap-bar deadlift from the blocks
- Supine hamstring curls on a ball or gliders
- ingle leg calf raise;
- Alternate leg hamstring switches
- Deadbug stretches
Step four: Auxiliary (or assistance). This is where the session becomes very specific, looking at isometric hamstring strength, calf strength, calf capacity or groin strength. Duration: Around 15 minutes.
When the season finished, Sessegnon was encouraged to go on holiday to switch off, which he did with his girlfriend and friends to the popular Greek isle of Mykonos.
The break left Sessegnon chomping at the bit to begin the hard work with Lawrence over a three-week period before pre-season at Spurs began in July.
A fortnight of it was spent in Portugal, intersected by a week back in London, at a training facility called The Campus in Quinta do Lago.
The secluded Algarve base is a favourite among Premier League players, with the likes of Jordan Henderson, James Maddison and Danny Ings all using it this summer.
Lawrence explained: “Ryan is aware of the demands of Tottenham and of the Premier League. Evidently he had been breaking down from those demands.
“So how can we do something that is very specific to him so he can better tolerate the Premier League and Tottenham’s way of playing?
“We structured his time ahead of going out to Portugal to identify some key areas. The focus wasn’t football at that point, it was on the athlete.
“Ball work was kept to a minimum and our primary focus was to build athletic qualities that would transition onto the pitch over time.”
That involved devising a strength programme that would raise his physical capacity for dealing with the kind of “acute spikes” that come with a Conte pre-season or the hurly-burly of a Premier League fixture.
At The Campus, Sessegnon would do double sessions starting at eight in the morning, varying in intensity.
Each one began with “readiness testing”, involving three jumps, to provide a quick hit of data to monitor progress and fatigue levels on that given day.
Sessegnon would then fill in a quick subjective questionnaire on his phone to score out of five how good his sleep had been, how sore he felt and how good his mood was.
Depending on the results, and a conversation with Sessegnon on them, Lawrence would then adapt the ensuing session to ensure it pushed the player just the right amount.
The goals were “raising upper limit of force production”, in layman’s terms to get stronger; “improving elastic and reactive capabilities”, ie get more explosive and “improving eccentric and isometric strength of hamstring”, ie reinforce the part of his body which had been letting him down.
Beefing up his core was a key focus as weakness there has a direct correlation to lower limb injuries.
While they also did a lot of work around the foot and ankle complex to build calf capacity.
As well as the strength and conditioning gym work with free weights, there was also plenty of pitch-based running both with and without the ball.
The focus was on accelerations, decelerations, CoDs (changes of direction, a fundamental to any footballer) and max speed, the latter of which they gradually built towards.
Head of medical Andrew Martin worked on recovery with massage, while the team also worked closely to improve Sessegnon’s breathing when running at full pelt.
Lawrence explained: “Ryan hasn’t done much targeted work around sprint mechanics.
“He’d always shoot out of the blocks with a vertical torso, in an overly extended position, when I wanted him more in a horizontal position, so you can speed out of the blocks quicker, for instance for second balls.
“We worked on how best to breathe when he goes through a Conte pre-season when he’s fatigued. We don’t want him to be a chest-breather. That’s linked with extension posture.
“When he’s running and coaches himself to be a belly breather, a deeper breather, that stops his ribs flaring up, overloading the lower back and putting stress on the hamstrings.”
Lawrence also found improvements could be made to Sessegnon’s approach to sleep, though the wing-back already had gone above and beyond on the nutrition front.
The performance guru added: “Sleep was an area we addressed early on, absolutely. I educate Ryan on that, I’m sure they do at the club too.
“Research shows athletes who have fewer than eight hours of sleep a night on average can increase injury risk by 1.7 times.
“Nutritionally, he has his own chef at home, who used to work at Tottenham. He’s invested in that, which is great.”
Lawrence felt they achieved “a hell of a lot in three weeks”, and Sessegnon has looked notably bigger and stronger this season.
It has not stopped him losing his place in recent games to Perisic, even after an electric season-opener against Southampton in which he scored Spurs’ first goal in their emphatic 4-1 victory.
But with the season heading into a mad three-month period with a game every three days, Sessegnon will have a big role to play.
That is providing he is fit to do so, which after all this graft in the summer, he will be desperate to be.
Lawrence added: “We can’t guarantee injuries won’t occur. But we must do all we can with the tools we have to best mitigate future injury risk.”
That is exactly what Sessegnon tried to do in the close-season.
Let’s hope it pays off for the benefit of himself, Tottenham and maybe even England.
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