Bench-pressin’ in the USA!

WIGAN’S stars were told to abandon any ideas of nights out, shopping trips or Disneyland excursions before they boarded a plane for America today.

And Mark Bitcon, the club’s revered fitness guru, has warned them it will be “as tough, if not tougher” than their previous two pre-seasons with the Armed Forces.

Michael Maguire put the players through a punishing weekend with the Royal Marines ahead of his first season – and backed that up with an Army camp earlier this year.

A trip to sun-kissed Florida – at a time when the country has been battered by winds – sounds far more appealing, but Bitcon says the players face a gruelling week. The club’s director of performance said: “It’ll be seven days of high-intense work. We’ve got early starts and four sessions a day – it’s a different environment to the last two pre-seasons but this is going to be as tough, if not tougher.

“It’s certainly not a case of, ‘do a session in the morning and then off to Disneyland in the afternoon’.

“We’ll do in one week what we would normally do in two weeks here.”

As well as hitting the training field, Wigan’s staff have arranged numerous trips for the players to see elite athletes, including a leading American Football outfit and a UFC training base. Bitcon said: “We’ll be hooking up with Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who I’ve had experiences with in the past, we’ll be doing a session in a leading MMA gym and mixing with those type of guys, and the facilities we’re at have world-class athletes out there – Tyson Gay and a good group of sprinters under coach Dennis Mitchell.

“So it’ll be a real life experience for the players and staff to see where our levels are at, in comparison to some of the world’s top sprinters, the NFL, the UFC and others.

“In the season, we can be guilty of just concentrating on ourselves, but this is an opportunity to see what world-class athletes are doing and vice versa – we’ll be inviting others to come into our group as well.” Bitcon says the camp will have an element of team-bonding to help new recruits such as Epalahame Lauaki, Ben Flower and Anthony Gelling – as well as the promoted youngsters – settle in.

But he added: “There’s a misconception that team bonding is going out bowling or having a drink. I think team-buiding is being in the trenches, working hard for each other.

“When you take guys away and put them in camp and train them hard, they come together.

“The new boys have seen what’s expected of them since they’ve been here and they’ll see it further in Florida when we hit them with session after session, and experience new things.”