How NRL Trainer Aaron Sculli Is Taking Sports Science Mainstream

How NRL trainer Aaron Sculli is taking elite sports science mainstream

Founded by NRL strength and conditioning coach Aaron Sculli, the recently opened iPerform Lab on New South Wales’ Central Coast takes the principles and equipment of the innovative sports science powering elite athletes and gives it to the rest of us

WHEN WE SQUEEZE in some time to speak with Aaron Sculli amidst his packed schedule, the founder of iPerform Lab is about to head off to Melbourne for the Newcastle Knights’ clash on enemy turf against the Melbourne Storm. In his day job as the Knights’ strength and conditioning coach, Sculli plays a crucial role in keeping professional athletes performing at their best by understanding their strengths, addressing their weaknesses, and bullet-proofing them against injuries. He’s the kind of coach everyone wishes they had in their corner, but of course, those guys are snapped up by elite sports teams fairly quickly.

Having worked in professional sport for more than a decade, Sculli has access to some of the world’s most advanced sports and exercise science technology. The level of tech he deals with is typically reserved for those at the top of their respective sports. But as Sculli understands, while not everyone can be a Dally M medal winner like the Knights’ Kalyn Ponga, or a State of Origin stalwart like Dane Gagai or Tyson Frizell, they can benefit from elite-level performance testing.

Most people don’t have access to a strength and conditioning coach like Sculli, but that doesn’t mean they need them any less. According to AusPlay data, 19 per cent of Australians participating in recreational sport or physical activity injure themselves every year. Clearly, the demand is there, and Sculli realised it. “At the Knights, we have access to the latest exercise science technology and we use it daily to help athletes perform at their best,” Sculli tells Men’s Health. “One day I thought to myself, ‘Why isn’t this available to everybody?’”

Thanks to Sculli, those principles are now available to everyone. iPerform Lab, located in Erina on NSW’s central coast, has been open for two months and applies the principles of advanced sports science to the general population. In Sculli’s words, “iPerform Lab is about taking that technology and making it accessible to everyone so they can understand their strengths and weaknesses, improve their performance, increase longevity, or mitigate their risk of injury.”


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So, what actually goes on at iPerform Lab? According to Sculli, the testing facility essentially gives customers fitness profiles. You can choose between an injury risk, strength and power, sport ready or athletic profile, depending on your specific focuses, but in each case, you’ll go through a number of tests to determine strengths and weaknesses, before Sculli and his team recommend areas to target to improve performance or minimise injury risks.

“This is what we do for elite athletes, but it isn’t just elite athletes who can benefit from it,” says Sculli, whose belief that the average person can benefit from pro-level sport science underpins everything iPerform Lab does. “We want to take the principles from the world of elite sports and use that to help everybody live better, live longer and perform at their best.”

The iPerform profile process is extensive, but it can be broken down into five distinct phases. The first is anthropometry, during which body composition is assessed. “We use an InBody body composition scanner which can identify muscle mass, body fat percentage and weight,” Sculli says.

The second phase is flexor mobility, where iPerform looks at how flexible and mobile a test subject is. This is where things like ankle range, overhead squats and thoracic rotation come into play. As Sculli says, “That’s where we really start to get an idea of where each person is at physically.”

From there, iPerform Lab gets into the power phase, which is a combination of jumping, landing and balance tests. This is followed by phase four, strength, where exercises like an isometric mid-thigh pull is used to get an idea of full-body strength. Finally, the last phase is resilience, which involves testing hamstrings, calves and hips for potential imbalances by using all kinds of sports equipment.

iPerform Lab

The results from the testing phases go into a database, where a combination of elite benchmarks and normative data are used to decipher fitness levels and areas in need of attention, which are presented in the final profile or report. “That report is a really succinct representation of where that person’s at compared to their cohort and identifies really clear focus points for them going forward,” Sculli says.

Don’t worry, iPerform Lab isn’t the type of facility that will provide you with a solution and then charge you a weekly subscription to access it. After completing your profile, what you do with it is completely up to you, as Sculli explains. “Essentially, I’ll do the testing, profiling and interpretation, but then they can take these solutions to their trainer or coach or just do it themselves. I can also design a customised program for them that’s delivered digitally on an app.”

Sculli doesn’t want to get you hooked on a membership you regret signing up for, he wants to provide the solutions you need to get better at what matters to you. “I don’t need them to come and train with me for years because that’s not what everyone wants to do,” he says. “Some people just want to surf, run and ride at the best of their abilities. I’m here to show them how they can keep doing that for the long term and get better at it.”

iPerform Lab

It’s not just aspiring athletes and weekend warriors who can benefit from iPerform testing, either. According to Sculli, an unexpected demographic frequents his facility. “We get a lot of tradies who do group bookings to come and do some testing and have a little bit of fun,” he says. “Their body is their main tool. So if they’re not looking after it, they’re going to break down, and we can teach them the best way to avoid that.”

That is perhaps what best captures the appeal of iPerform Lab. We constantly see elite athletes pushing boundaries and breaking records on the biggest stage, and it’s due in large part to the tools and training they have at their disposal. As iPerform Lab shows us, there’s no reason why the rest of us can’t harness those same tools.


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By Cayle Reid

Cayle Reid is a fan of everything sports and fitness. He spends his free time at the gym, on his surfboard or staying up late watching sports in incompatible time zones.

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