Tighter rules on movement mean that for the next three weeks at least, we're all going to be stuck at home on lockdown. While we'll endeavour to bring you bodyweight workouts from some of the country's top trainers, we also understand there are only so many workouts you can do. For the rest of the time, you'll have to find something else to occupy your body and mind.
For a lot of us, our new-found free time will be whiled away playing FIFA 20. Even before social isolation, the game had over 10 million players, with hundreds of millions of games being played and billions of goals being scored by pgamers all over the world. One of these players is Ryan Pessoa. In many ways Pessoa is just a regular 21 year old. He exercises when he can, tries to eat healthily – but doesn’t mind slumming it with the occasional takeaway – and still has time in his schedule to take afternoon naps. But in the world of e-sports, Ryan Pessoa is exceptional. He’s a star player for Manchester City’s FIFA e-sports team, a prodigious talent who can make FIFA’s football avatars do things their real-world counterparts can only dream of.
The perception of e-sports is that they’re played by slightly rotund teenage boys, who spend most of their time in darkened rooms with curtains drawn, a gamepad in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other. But Pessoa is different. He has a background in athletics and sees e-sports as just another way to channel his competitive spirit.
Still, spending hours in front of a TV screen perfecting the craft is part of a professional FIFA players job, and it would be wide of the mark to say that Pessoa hasn’t clocked his hours too, much to his mum’s annoyance. “There were weeks where minimum, I was playing 12 hours a day, nonstop,” says Pessoa. “I would wake up, go to the gym, come back and play FIFA all day, every day, and then went to bed and did the same thing over and over again for about two weeks.”
Even now Pessoa’s weekends are sacrificed to playing FIFA, but being a professional FIFA player is far more of an athletic endeavour than it’s given credit for. To go pro, you have to demonstrate a set of skills that athletes who compete in traditional sports do too: endurance, quick reaction times and an ability to remain composed under intense pressure. “There are similarities between football and eSports in that it takes real dedication and sacrifice to reach the top of your game,” says Wales and Real Madrid star, and owner of e-sports team Ellevens eSports, Gareth Bale.
The mental and psychological benefits of playing video games is widely known and accepted. Research published in the journal PLoS ONE reported that playing video games improved the cognitive function of non gamers after they played for one hour a day, five days a week over a period of four weeks. But what it takes to make it to the top in e-sports is changing. Prize money for winning the FIFA eWorld Cup now stands at $250,000. That fact, in and of itself, brings a level of professionalism to the burgeoning sport that was unimaginable when FIFA launched its Interactive World Cup in 2004. To claim the top prize now, e-sports stars, just like all other athletes, are looking for marginal gains, but rather than developing their in-game techniques, gamers like Pessoa are coming around to the idea that workouts can yield greater results.
Working Out to Game
Research suggests they may be onto something. A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that physical activity boosts cognitive performance, with children who performed “moderate-intensity physical activity” better able to concentrate in class. Consider then how that could help Pessoa, who competes in a world where, as he says, “if you're like 99 per cent concentrated, and the guy you’re playing against is 100 per cent on the job, you're at a huge disadvantage.”
To find out exactly how Pessoa is attempting to become a better FIFA player by working out, we joined him for a gym session at Red Bull’s Athlete Performance Centre (APC). The high-performance lab is housed within a nondescript barn on the outskirts of Salzburg, Austria, but it’s where some of Red Bull’s most decorated athletes, competing in everything from rugby, to ultra-endurance events, to table tennis, go to regain or improve their fitness. Now it’s where e-sports stars like Pessoa are going to get an edge over their opponents.
Best Exercises to Get Better at Gaming
While, like everyone else, Pessoa won't be leaving the house for a while, he has taken the learnings from his time at the APC and will be breaking up his time playing FIFA with exercises like wrist curls, hand-eye coordination exercises and mobility drills, and so should you. "Skill can only take you so far," says Pessoa, "everything contributes to how you perform, whether that's nutrition, whether it's your physical condition or even how strong your mindset is."
The beauty of FIFA is you never know who you may come up against next, but be warned, if Pessoa and his marginal gains are in control of your opposition then you should be afraid. Very afraid.
Don't believe us? Take a look at what happened when we challenged him to a game in the video above, and if you need a few workouts to make sure the same doesn't happen to you, you'll find a few of our favourite quick bodyweight workouts below.
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