Sharing his secrets to staying injury-free
You might have heard of him. In a 20-year pro tennis career, which started when he was only 16, he was an international superstar earning 60 men’s singles titles including eight Grand Slam singles championships. Yep, you might have heard of him. He was once ranked number 1 in the world and is the only male to win all four Grand Slam tournaments, an Olympic gold medal, not to mention being a member of three winning Davis Cup teams in ’90, ’92 and ’95. His name is Andre Agassi. Ring a bell?
Though this elite athlete may have retired from the game, he is still quite an active elite individual. The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education is thriving—raising over $177 million dollars (since its inception in 1994) to help provide education to less fortunate and abused children, and his Boys and Girls Club helps over 2,000 children yearly. In 2001, the Foundation opened the AndreAgassiCollegePreparatoryAcademy in his hometown of Las Vegas. Its first senior class graduated in 2009 with a 100% college acceptance rate. Agassi writes on his blog, “I’ve watched many of these children grow through the years, from shy youngsters adjusting to their new school environment, to confident young adults ready to graduate.” In June 2011, as part of an effort to expand his impact on education, Agassi partnered with Canyon Capitol Reality Advisors to create the Canyon-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund to promote the success and growth of best-in-class charter schools. The first project was the transformation of an empty warehouse in Philadelphia to a 23-classroom K–4 elementary school. Needless to say, Mr. Agassi keeps himself busy.
Married to Stefanie Graf (who won 22 Grand Slam singles titles herself), Agassi is still a model of fitness at 42, looking as though he is ready to play with the best of them. But you won’t find him playing pro. “I do play every now and again. I do a lot for charity and exhibitions to raise awareness for sources I believe in. I enjoy it, he says. He admits he has been up for a challenge against Stefanie too. “She treats it as exercise. We have a rule, she wants me to make her run so she can work out, and I make her hit the ball back to me, so it’s a perfect deal,” Agassi laughs.
On March 15, hidden away from the huge IHRSA convention going on in Los Angeles, Agassi and his long-time trainer, Gil Reyes, unveiled BILT by Agassi & Reyes, a circuit of innovative fitness machines based on the equipment they developed to help Agassi stay injury-free during his amazing career. “Together, Gil and I developed machines with the intent to make me a better player, always recognizing the importance of strength, conditioning and safety,” Agassi says. “Collectively, we wanted to give our gift to an industry and public that seeks and deserves innovation.”
Agassi met Reyes in 1989 and he helped him train throughout his professional career, which ended in 2006. He still remains one of Agassi’s closest friends. Looking back, Agassi recalls one of Reyes’ first lessons. “He taught me something pretty simple, which is if you have a muscle and you make it stronger, you make it more capable,” he says. “He taught me the difference between fitness (being fit) and being prepared. And through my experience in tennis, and in my experience with the battles between the lines…I’d much rather play somebody who is fit and unprepared than play somebody who might not be fit, but is prepared. Whether it’s mentally, psychologically, emotionally or physically.”
Agassi reveals that his game wasn’t “all it could be” prior to training under Reyes. “It was lacking capacity. Gil said ‘I don’t see (tennis) as a sport of running, I see it as a sport of starting and stopping.’ It’s explosive. So it was lacking that—it was lacking power; it was lacking the ability to not cut corners when you come to a breaking point out there.”
Reyes brought that discipline and training to make Agassi’s muscles stronger. And once he got out there, Reyes helped him feel secure in the fact that he might get tired, but encouraged him to look across the net “because the other guy is more tired,” Agassi says.
Reyes and Agassi spent two decades developing the BILT system. But, what makes it unique from the many other pieces of strength training machinery out there? “Our equipment is built to make you stronger in the safest way possible and to make you most efficient in the uses of time,” Agassi says. “[In tennis], we realized early on…that we weren’t going to have the luxury of an off-season. We would have two- to three-week periods at a time where we had [time] to make the muscles stronger. Our equipment…has allowed us to maximize efficiency of our training by allowing us to maximize time and push for goals we could have never dreamed of,” he says. (See sidebar for more on BILT.)
Agassi prides himself on his injury-free career, and hopes he can pass on some of his secrets to help other aspiring athletes become as successful. “There are a lot of things to worry about when dealing with muscle. A lot of little things called ligaments and tendons and joints, and you have to make sure you’re not exposing yourself in these areas because your quads can do a lot of things that your knees can’t. And so you have to learn how to do it the right way. I can honestly say I’ve never been injured in the gym with Gil. We’ve removed that risk from the equation,” he says.
When athletes get older, exercise isn’t the only thing they have to focus on. Agassi points out the importance of proper nutrition as well. “I try to show a level of balance in my diet and intake and the level of restraint. I try to treat food as a fuel source as opposed to a luxury. I try to show balance in all of it—what I’m eating and how much of it I eat.”
And for those aspiring tennis stars out there, Agassi offers this advice: “Tennis is a sport where you can’t build up a lead, you can’t run out the clock, you can’t pass the ball, you can’t take time out, you can’t talk to anyone. You have to figure out a way to get across the finish line. So what that really is, is it’s problem solving. Because I don’t have to be good, I just have to be better than you.”
You can be sure that though you may not see Andre Agassi on the court as much, slamming the competition away, you will see him out there helping kids and setting a fine example as a humanitarian, hopefully inspiring others to follow his lead.
BILT: Changing the Game of Fitness
The BILT fitness machines developed by Andre Agassi and his long-time trainer Gil Reyes were modeled after the ones Agassi trained on to become a dominant figure in the world of tennis. BILT consists of 12 machines, designed by Reyes, that are built for productivity: high-intensity muscle isolation to safely build strength without injury. Key pieces include:
- BILT Flat Bench: Retractable arms uniquely and safely lower the weighted bar over the user’s “sweet spot” across the chest and retract upon liftoff.This design eliminates the dangerous stress on the shoulders, which is imposed when the user reaches up and back to lift the weighted bar on a traditional bench press machine.
- Change of Direction Machine: The ergo-efficiency of the moving parts allows for a safe squat movement as well as an intense yet safe lateral exercise series, including side shuffles, lunges and single leg squats. The construction provides for a safe, direct line of movement, which protects the spine and back muscles and conforms to the natural angles of the body.
- BILT Abdominal Machine: This allows the user to safely and effectively isolate the abdominal muscles through a full range sit-up motion. Designed to assist without risk of injury to the user’s back, the position of stability and support promotes sound technique for isolation of individual abdominal muscles.
Reyes on inspiration. “The simplest and yet the strongest drive behind the existence of BILT was my inspiration and love for Andre. I very quickly realized his talent level. He is a very elite, talented athlete. I soon was quite aware of his goals and dreams, but then there was a little phrase every time I saw him…‘faith’ and ‘fire.’ I wanted to provide Andre with equipment that would keep his goals in mind.”
Reyes on the importance of fluidity. “It is essential. Those who are not elite athletes do exercises with particular movements, such as a squat or bench-press, that puts weight on the vertebrae and strain on other parts of the body. Though these exercises might seem natural, they are not to our bodies. These exciting, innovative machines help exercisers move more fluidly and safely.”
Reyes’ recommendations. “There are systemic exercises and very specific isolated exercise such as the isocurl machine that works with the biceps. Then there is the COD (Change of Direction) machine and, if I was an athlete or just interested in a really good exercise machine, I might handcuff myself to that machine and stay there awhile. When people use it, they walk away with their muscles feeling good, they feel exerted systemically, their cardiovascular system has been taxed. We strongly believe that each piece of equipment in BILT does what it’s set out to do.”
For more info on BILT By Agassi & Reyes, visit http://www.biltbyagassiandreyes.com.