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Bruce Lombard Prepares Penn Staters For The NFL Through MMA

When you think of training in the NFL, the first things that may come to mind are long days in the weight room, benching countless reps, and grueling squats. For most NFL players, this is true. However, Titan Fitness & Martial Arts has found the key to success in helping athletes reach the top of their game, and it doesn’t include one single free weight.

Paul Zelinka and Bruce Lombard, the two leaders behind Titan Fitness, have been innovating MMA training to fit a specific regiment that appeals to numerous athletes. Deep within the corner of LionHeart Fitness, Titan Fitness has diligently been helping players such as John Urschel, DaQuan Jones, Nate Stupar, and now Sam Ficken realize their dreams of making it in the NFL.

Originally the State College Martial Arts Academy, Titan Fitness began operating under its new name in 2003 with an emphasis on specific MMA techniques and elements.

Bruce Lombard, one of the head instructors of Titan Fitness, began his fight in 1991 after he picked up Jeet Kune Do, the original form of Mixed Martial Arts. It wasn’t until 2001 when he began instructing alongside Zelinka.

“I played sports all my life and my dad was a coach, but I really found my start in 1994 when I moved to State College,” Lombard said.

Once established, Titan Fitness primarily focused on the specific form of Mixed Martial Arts known as Jeet Kune Do, but as time progressed, both Zelinka and Lombard began to tweak their training methods to appeal to the changing times. Nowadays, all styles of MMA fighting, ranging from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to women’s kickboxing to Krav Maga, are taught by Titan Fitness.

To help appeal to the growing UFC trend, Zelinka helped Lombard establish Lombard MMA, now a branch of Titan Fitness. “Prior to 2008, I was doing a lot of personal lessons, but Paul allowed me to start my own separate brand in Mixed Martial Arts,” Lombard said.

Through this brand, Lombard has helped shaped the careers of numerous Penn State athletes.

In 2012, Penn State’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Craig Fitzgerald realized the intensity and potential within MMA training and decided to incorporate the same techniques into a football workout. Under Bill O’Brien, Fitzgerald began using Lombard’s instructions to ensure the team would be faster, stronger, and more aggressive on the gridiron.

Players were put through rigorous training and developed new grappling and punching techniques to help them improve their game. Their preparation emphasized Wing Chun, an element of Geet Kun Do that focuses on the immobilization of limbs, a core skill to have regardless of a player’s position on the field.

“Not only do we get them in great physical condition, but there’s certain MMA movements and elements that you use in football. From a blocking standpoint, you learn how to punch faster and harder. On the defensive line side, we show them how to quicken their hands and footwork,” Lombard noted.

When Bill O’Brien left to coach for the Texans, Fitzgerald decided to take Titan Fitness’s MMA training techniques to the NFL. However, Lombard remained in State College. Since then, James Franklin and his staff have continued to use similar methods that O’Brien and Fitzgerald originally brought into the program.

After realizing the beneficial impact this training regiment has on a football player, both Urschel and now Ficken continue to train individually with Lombard.

Urschel realized the full effectiveness of Lombard’s training program after he received praise from Coach John Harbough during the Raven’s mini-camp.

“The MMA elements combine a cardiovascular endurance you might get from various running and agility drills, while at the same time provide a muscular endurance that’s completely different from lifting weights,” Urschel said.

As an NFL player, Urschel works out once in the morning and once in the afternoon. However, he firmly pointed out that Lombard’s workout is the more challenging and rigorous of the two.

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“Bruce is my number one reason for training here in State College during the offseason. After the combine, he got me in the best shape of my life,” Urschel said.

On the other end of the spectrum is Sam Ficken. Obviously, his and Urschel’s roles on the football field are completely different, yet Ficken goes through the same workout that Urschel does.

“This is probably the most taxing workout you can do,” Ficken said when asked how the workouts are preparing him for the NFL Combine. “The kickboxing works the core, hip flexors, and quads, so every bit of that correlates to kicking the football. It’s more technical to what I’m trying to do.”

Although Ficken has only spent a small portion of his training regiment with Lombard, he is hopeful that it will help him with his kicking distance and the further development of his leg muscles.

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“This is more dynamic stuff. Normally I do one-legged squats, power cleans, and olympic lifts, but this gives me the full range of everything,” Ficken said. With the combination of the two workouts, Ficken is confident his training regiment will make him a better player in the long-run.

Aside from preparing notable Penn Staters for the NFL, Titan Fitness is quickly able to shift its focus to other training regiments, such as women’s kickboxing or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Not only is Lombard confident in his training regiments, but he believes you don’t have to be a star-studded athlete to partake in them. In fact, any student can sign up whenever they like and take every lesson offered.

“The best cross training for any sport is MMA, whether you’re a swimmer, football, basketball, or soccer player,” Lombard said. “If you want to get in the best shape of your life, this is the training program to get you in shape both muscularly and cardiovascularly.”

The workouts aren’t just for NFL players and hopefuls. Kappa Kappa Gamma partakes in Titan Fitness’ women’s kickboxing course three days a week. After realizing a good opportunity to work together, as well as help them become more fit, the sorority is now in its fourth week of kickboxing lessons.

“It’s a different to change to what you would usually do at the gym, it’s a harder workout than just running on the treadmill,” senior Monica Shterenberg said. “Plus, it’s nice having an actual instructor helping you get more fit.”

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Given the prevalence of sexual assault on campus lately, the ability to defend yourself can give anyone a peace of mind. Although physical fitness is a goal, Lombard said, “these girls come here to learn how to protect themselves. The confidence in the back of their mind knowing they can protect themselves can be reassuring.”

Of course, Lombard loves training students, but he also realizes the other priorities in students’ lives.

As a student was walking out of the gym, Lombard asked if he was coming back later in the week, to which the student hesitantly referenced his midterm exam schedule. Lombard quickly understood and noted school is always the first priority.

With an emphasis on fitness, Lombard hopes to have a profound impact on the local community.

A big Penn State football fan, he remains loyal to Titan Fitness and State College. Eventually, he would like to see his MMA instructions used by numerous NFL teams like the Houston Texans, but he still receives the same amount of gratification training those with a simple desire to become fit.

Whether he or she is trying to achieve a dream of making it as a professional athlete or just simply to get in shape, anyone who takes any of Lombard’s courses can expect the best fitness instruction in State College.

“I think it’s valuable for any athlete, as well as any normal person. It’s the best type of training to lose weight, develop strength, and mental confidence for any single person,” said Lombard.

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About the Author

Jon Deasy

is a senior majoring in criminology from the Steel City. You can find him at the Rathskeller on a Saturday or in the library at four in the morning. He plans to attend law school in the future and enjoys writing about college kids committing the most comical crimes in State College. When he’s not busy, he’s aimlessly staring at his Twitter, @jon_deasy. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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