It all started with Julius Randle sliding into his DM’s.
Personal trainer and coined transformation specialist Amoila Cesar received a direct message from the Los Angeles Lakers forward, inquiring about transforming his body, after the season ended.
Cesar had recently transformed Johnny Stephene in 10 weeks (who most NBA fans recognize as dribble2much on Instagram), a ball-handling machine who’s worked with Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan, to name a few. The transformation caught Randle’s eye.
“One day a few weeks ago, Julius Randle writes me (on Instagram), and I thought it was a joke. I thought this wasn’t Julius sliding in my DMs, is he creeping me right now?” Cesar laughed. “Obviously he wasn’t…”
Randle drove down to meet with him the next day, something that definitely stood out to Cesar.
“When he reached out to me, the next day, he drove all the way to my location, to me. Most times, people they are kind of hesitant, this guy was there the next day. By the time he made the decision on who he wanted to work with, he was already locked in, and after we did the consultation, we were right in for our training the next day.”
At the time, Cesar wasn’t aware of the new fitness expectations announced by Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.
“We don’t want anybody over 7-8% body fat anymore,” Johnson told Spectrum SportsNet after the season. “And basically, all but one or two players were in double-figures in body fat. We can’t have that. Those who come back in shape, they’re going to see the court. Those who don’t, won’t see the court. It’s as simple as that. This is not about anything but excellence, so you’ve got to be a professional. This is your job.”
Randle, who was one of several Lakers in double-figures (a high 13.7 percent body fat at the end of March), got the message.
“When I met Julius, the first thing he told me was that he needed to drop weight, needed to be more explosive, and needed to be able to finish through contact. That’s one of his biggest things, dropping his body fat down, and reducing the pressure from his spine and lower back, not saying that he had any injuries or anything, but he felt heavy,” Cesar said. “When I met him, his goal was to aesthetically look better, perform better, and to really see a transformation in his body.”
In just three weeks time, and an Instagram transformation post shared all around the NBA world, it was clear Randle was all-in. A combination of increasing muscle density, lean body mass, and hydration, among other factors, Randle went from 12.7 percent body fat at the end of the regular season, to 8.3 percent body fat (a 4.4 percent difference) in a matter of weeks.
“We’re still working, we’re just at the beginning of his program…He’s hungry, I would say beast is an understatement. This guy, he’s on another level with his mindset, everything that I ask him to do, he does. He just sticks to the program, there’s no shortcuts with him.”
Now, in his fifth week, Randle is at 8.6 percent body fat and 245 lbs. (compared to 258 lbs. at the end of the season). Cesar says the plan is for Randle to get down to 6-7 percent and stay anywhere from 240-245 lbs. Then, see how he moves.
“This will be new for him being around that weight, so it will be something he will have to learn, adjusting to that weight, being lighter on his feet. What we’re trying to do, is transition him to a much more explosive, agile player because as you know this game is changing, stretch 4s, stretch 3s, we want to make sure now he’s going against the LeBrons the Kevin Durants – these guys are the best in the game.
“Magic and Gunnar (Peterson) The Great (new Lakers head trainer), I don’t think they have anything to worry about when it comes to his body fat.”
But, it’s much more than just a number on a machine. Randle was one of many Lakers who had his fair share of defensive struggles last season. How much was his conditioning (or lack thereof) a factor?
“Conditioning, of course,” Cesar said of looking at film of Randle last season. “I can see it on the film, you can see it in body language, as well. How often do you look to the coach? To the bench? These are minute things you pay attention to. He would say that conditioning might be one of the biggest factors, but also opening up his hips. The guy came off an injury (hip pointer last season), he was tight, his hips were very tight, I could barely stretch him his hamstrings were very tight. Every week I see this guy, he has much more hip mobility, his hamstrings are so much better. There are so many things improving that’s going to help him slide better, move across the court, be able to switch, be able to turn, fire off from all different angles, that’s going to increase his defensive presence, being able to respond, react.”
Cesar also said they’ve been working on a lot of transitional power, shifting his weight, explosion, as well as reactive drills to test his alertness and cognitive skills and stability and balance.
“Every little thing like, ‘Is Randle able to respond fast enough if the ball comes off the rim? All these things are becoming better throughout the process.”
Cesar says he plans to train with Randle all the way up to the season, as much as the offseason allows with a three-pillar program that focuses on strength and conditioning, mobility (which includes rest and agility) and of course the biggest key: nutrition.
“Right now, really focusing on his diet…just like your muscles, your metabolism needs to be confused as well, also making sure that we systematically change his meal plans and the way he eats, so his body keeps moving, we want that furnace, so keep adding to that furnace.”
Randle admitted after the season, he needed to make big changes to his diet. Cesar says Randle’s even going as far as taking photos of his food to make sure it’s all in accordance with their plan.
So, what should we most be looking forward to when Randle hits the court for preseason in October?
“Just know, a lot of people have a lot of criticism saying he needs to be in the gym, just know he’s in the gym, he’s on the court too. I can guarantee that you will see him performing so much better on defense. His athleticism for sure is going to be there, out of the room, his VO2 Max is going to be much better, his endurance, muscular endurance and his longevity. He’s going to be 100 percent every play. That’s what is going to be the biggest change in his game, the tenacity, the blue collar player, the guy that hustles down the court, up and down the court, that’s what we’re going to see more of, we’re going to see a much more athletic and agile Julius Randle and a much more skilled player as well.”
“He has a lot to prove, just when it comes down to it – to himself. It has nothing to do with anyone, but for himself. I think even when he’s working out, he sometimes mumbles to himself, like, ‘Keep pushing, another one.’ There’s something behind him, and I love it, it’s chilling to see, the passion that he has right now, gives me goosebumps to see it.”