Milos Peca says he was first contacted about two years ago by Martin Necas, who had a simple request: help make him bigger and stronger.
More so, help him become a bigger, stronger hockey player.
“At the time he was about 175 centimeters tall and his weight only 62 kilograms,” Peca says.
In other words, about 5 feet 7 and one-half inches, and about 137 pounds. A little guy, a kid, a lanky teenager.
Two years later, Necas is 6 feet 2 and 189 pounds. A first-round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2017, the 19-year-old center from the Czech Republic reported to the team’s recent prospect development camp in Raleigh looking the part of an NHL player in the making.
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour says the difference with Necas is “like night and day” from a year ago. Most expect Necas to make the Canes’ roster and stick with the team this season, giving them more offensive creativity -- something in short supply the past few years -- and speed in the lineup.
In an interview with The News & Observer, Peca, a strength and conditioning coach based in Liberec, Czech Republic, described Necas’ physical transformation under his watch.
Peca says his relationship with Necas began simply enough -- Necas reaching out to him on Facebook.
That’s about a 400-mile round trip, but Necas was willing to make it three times a week during the first three months of Brno’s season.
“Martin’s determination to travel across the republic to practice with me was admirable in this respect,” Peca says. “Kometa’s owner, Libor Zabransky, however, came up with the offer that I could work in Kometa and so have Martin under my supervision every day.”
Smartly adding muscle
The physical gains quickly began to come. For Necas, the willingness to work as hard off the ice as on it was there -- or what Pecas describes as Necas’ “goal-directed and meaningful cooperation.”
“He came to understand the importance of the off-ice workouts as well as nutrition, and based on that he managed to gain 24 kilograms (53 pounds) of muscles and grew up by almost 13 centimeters (5 inches),” Peca says. “His body-fat percentage has been constantly oscillating between seven and 10 percent over the past two years.”
As Necas puts it, “I’ve gained some kilos and maybe I grew up a little bit. I’ve tried to work hard on getting stronger.”
Athletes often call it adding “man muscle.” But Peca says Necas didn’t just throw himself blindly into his daily routine. He wanted an understanding of what was being achieved.
“Martin is very percipient person,” Peca says. “Not only that he is incredibly talented and has excellent skating and sense for the game, he is also naturally intelligent.
“In the past two years he comprehended how the human body works from the biochemical, anatomical and physiological points of view, as well as the function of muscles, digestion or the human brain.”
“What kind of food to eat on game days, on days of strength training or on days aimed at regeneration,” Peca says. “And also which supplements are suitable for muscle gain and which are good before and after practice.
“Martin also realized how important is proper sleep and good timing of all recovery procedures, such as sauna, cryotherapy, massage.”
Peca, who has worked with professional athletes the past 17 years, says Necas was given a two-year macrocycle, a systematic training plan aimed at gaining muscle mass and increasing his weight to 90 kilograms (198 pounds), saying the workout gym became Necas’ “second home.”
“I often had to lock the gym so that he would go home,” Peca says.
At 6-2, Necas believes his ideal weight for the NHL should be between 190 and 200 pounds.
“Because of the fact that in the past two years he has been working really hard and respected his training plan, he almost reached that goal,” Peca says.
A good example, Peca says, of Necas’ increased strength would be the deep squat. Peca says two years ago Necas was squatting about 155 pounds. Now, his personal best is about 285.
Peca says the two planned to work together for eight weeks this summer, with a focus on Necas’ back hypertrophy, chest, shoulders and arms, saying that’s “where he has currently the biggest deficit.” His biggest lower-body weakness? His hamstrings, Peca says.
Necas, the 12th overall pick of the 2017 NHL draft, made his NHL debut for the Canes early last season but played just one game before going back to Brno. Back to Peca.
There’s more work to be done and Necas says it’s not always fun, but Peca is proud of his student and of the progress he has made.
“I believe that this season Martin will be more than 100 percent ready for the NHL,” Peca says.