Beware of the Pod players from UCLA

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Mike Linn is a former UCLA offensive lineman -- a three-year starter no less -- and he looks like he still might enjoy knocking someone over, but he's actually transforming the Bruins athletic training from caveman to high-tech.

He repeatedly uses words like "holistic" and "body composition" and "metabolic assessment" when talking about the direction he's taking the Bruins as their new head strength and conditioning coach.

"It's not just lifting as much weight as we can and running until we puke, though those are certainly parts of training athletes," he said.

That's why he was able to successfully pitch for a $100,000 grant toward restarting UCLA's dormant training table and purchasing two pieces of equipment: a Bod Pod and a metabolic cart.


Well, the Bod Pod is device that accurately measures body composition -- read: lean muscle vs. fat. And the metabolic cart -- think athletes wearing gas-mask looking things while jogging on a treadmill in commercials -- measures an athlete's metabolic rate, both at rest and during exercise.

When Linn knows an athlete's accurate body fat percentage and how many calories he burns at rest and during exercise, he can then create specific training routines for that athlete.

"We needed a way to figure out exactly how many calories our athletes needed and where those calories should be coming from," he said.

Further, a customized menu at the training table is a critical element of that routine. It includes a color-coded card that tells the athlete what to eat and how much. Said Linn, "We really call it the last station of our training -- the performance nutrition station."

While injuries, a UCLA bugaboo for the past few seasons, are often unavoidable, the overwhelming consensus is well-trained, lean athletes are less prone to injuries than those who are not. An athlete who is sucking wind will get sloppy with his technique and that could lead to unfortunate twists, sprains and tears.

As for athletes who might want to scuttle off in search of a burger instead of their special meal, Linn said not a chance.

"They're not sneaking off," he said. "We run a pretty tight ship. It's the last station we do. They can't run and hide."

The Bod Pod, which is part of the testing at the NFL Combine, can be stressful both going in and and coming out: It looks weird and it often reports bad news.

"Some of our bigger guys were a little claustrophobic getting into it," Linn said. "And, getting out of it, I think a lot of them were probably disappointed when we tested them and their body fat was a lot higher than what it should have been."

Of course, due to NCAA rules, there's no training table during the summer. So the athletes are in charge of regulating their own diet with their workout routines

The Bruins return to the pods next week, though.

The Bod Pod doesn't lie. Some players will climb out to a happy Linn. Some won't.

"It's a good way to evaluate our off-season program," he said.