The Esports Secret Weapon Making Pros Unbeatable

Hurricane season- the only thing blowing up more than esports now. Esports teeters on the verge of rocking like a hurricane as it grows at phenomenal speed. It’s predicted to have 300 million viewers by 2022, challenging the iron grip of the NFL on sporting viewership, while being considered as an Olympic sport. More people watched esports in 2017 than all regular season NFL games combined.  New, state-of-the-art esports facilities are sprouting up, including one right here in Texas. Traditional sports and esports are merging; take the purchases of top esports teams by the Golden State Warriors and New England Patriots. As the two worlds collide, gamers are now regarded as legit athletes, who have physical training requirements, strength training foremost among them.

Set aside the snickers, snark, and churlish laughs. The blooming era of esports now obliges you to dispose of the gamer stereotype. No more couch-locked, noodle bodied, bespectacled gamers sitting in a dimly lit basement of their parent’s house amid a sty of empty Dorito bags and Mountain Dew bottles. Pro esports gamers now are being regarded and treated as professional athletes, thanks to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers are leading the charge. The 76ers are the first professional sports team to buy an esports team, when they started the trend in 2016, purchasing Team Dignitas. Team Dignitas holds the distinction of being one of the world’s top-ranked teams for the game “Counterstrike: Global Offensive.” Team Dignitas now visits the 76ers state-of-the-art facility to train, for weeklong boot camps.

Yes, you read that right; an esport team trains at a 125,000 square foot, $82 million facility complete with full-service restaurant and hydrotherapy room. The team enjoys the facilities designed by David Martin, who is the 76ers’ director of performance research and development, and they get access to Leslie Gartner, the team’s physical therapist. But why does an esport team need the same training, facilities and trainers as a pro sports team?

Money, the green for go of America. With the investment pro sports teams have made, and esport tournament purses going into the millions, stakes run high. Smart investors want their teams to be at top performance. Not coincidentally, esports pros suffer from the same health risks and physical maladies of America at large: exercise apathy, physical sloth, and sedentary submission.

Our bodies have been beautifully designed to MOVE. For tens of thousands of years, we moved, walked, hiked, ran across savannahs, sometimes chasing our next meal, and suddenly, within just a few decades, we’ve been ripped away from the true, physical purpose and application of our bodies. What’s happened as a result?

A large swath of Americans working as desk jockeys or laboring in jobs with repetitive movements suffer from: carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, poor posture/upper crossed syndrome, joint stiffness, inadequate core strength, technostress, decreased athletic performance and increased risk of depression. All these health problems pose the same dangers and risks to e-sports pros. What’s one of, if not the most, effective measure to combat this slew of problems? You guessed it. Strength training.

Strength training and a disciplined health and wellness regimen grants boundless benefits for everyone, but esports pros especially. There’s an abundance of scientific research coming out that shows ever strengthening evidence (pun intended) between “strength training, proper nutrition and sleep/rest to improved brain cognitive activity, increased blood flow, faster brain processing speed, improved memory and improved reaction times.”

Also, consider that many esports pros are at an age which they’re prone to mental health risks such as depression and anxiety (which can be spurred on by technostress) and recent research that shows strength training combats depression. Suddenly there’s a rock solid case for gamers to work out and benefit from strength training.

According to Darren Heitner from Forbes, esports pros need “a strong core, perfect posture, hand-eye coordination, and strong forearms, hands, wrists and fingers. Additionally, professional gamers should be training with cardiovascular exercises, focusing on nutrition and partaking in cryotherapy…” Notice the part about forearms, hands, wrists and fingers. What are gamers doing the most? They’re grinding and hammering on controllers non-stop. Arguably, grip strength is the first and foremost strength training requisite of esports pros.

According to a study in PLOS One, “the present research showed that age and grip strength were all statistically significant predictors of hand dexterity and that aiming and tapping hand dexterity (involving rapid, coordinated, goal-directed actions) appeared to be moderated by the factor of grip strength more than age. This suggests that physical activity may improve particular types of hand dexterity.”

It's clear how esport athletes benefit from strength training, and grip strength is close to the top. Over 30 muscles work at the same time to perform a gripping action. There are 2 grip types you can think about: “power grip” and “precision grip.” Power grip helps with holding heavy objects that require your fingers to be wrapped around while precision grip affects everyday tasks when a delicate grasp is required for something like typing or video gaming.

Grip strength is the type of strength training that everyone benefits from. That’s why we developed a workout showing you how to improve your grip strength, and give you the exercises and gear suggestions to help you build hands like vice grips. Check out our grip strength workout here.

Adhering to a strength training regimen not only helps with physical ailments but also assists with mental acuity and the reaction time, clear thinking, focus and wakefulness that’s required of gamers. Gamers employ a full spectrum of fitness, health and wellness programs to fully actualize mental performance as well. From proper hydration, ergonomics, blood sugar levels and employing energy drinks at the end of the match (a practice co-opted from Air Force pilots landing after long sorties), esports pros face the same challenges as traditional athletes.

Taylor Johnson who worked for the San Francisco 49ers as an assistant strength and conditioning coach notes the 4 Pillars of Performance: Nutrition, Recovery, Psychological and Physical. These 4 Pillars help manage minor aches, pains, poor posture and overuse of the hands all too common in esports. Gamers like Michael “Flamesword” Chaves are even writing their own columns now (for Men’s Journal no less) noting the importance of sleep.

There was a time when strength training pioneers in their respective sports were laughed at. Think Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. The same trailblazing fitness techniques are now being applied to esports and the public at large will need to get a grip on it, and you can help yourself by starting at home.

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