The Sunderland gym that is fuelling the success of athletes across the North East
Written by David Mighten on 19th December 2023
Martin Nugent owns a strength and conditioning gym in Sunderland, Martin Nugent Elite Player Performance, which is the second home to many elite athletes across the North East.
Athletes trust Martin to help take their performance to the next level, and his gym is the perfect place to do that.
“You go to a mainstream gym that’s like going to a Kwik fit, but coming in here is like going to the F1 team,” said Martin.
Martin was a youngster at Newcastle United, coming through their academy, before various stints at the semi-professional level.
Martin recalls the distinct lack of strength and conditioning available for athletes when he was coming through as a player.
“Strength and conditioning as a trade in this country is still quite new, so we didn’t have strength and conditioning coaches at Newcastle United when I was a youngster, not even in the first team, it wasn’t a thing.”
Before opening a gym of his own, Martin was the head of strength and conditioning for Rugby Football League (RFL) team Newcastle Thunder. He also served as the Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach for the RFL Regional Performance Squad, which involved working with England Youth and the Region’s Combined squad to face Australian schoolboys.
After years of working in the industry, he was encouraged by his father-in-law to take a risk and open a facility of his own.
In the early stages, the business looked drastically different than it does today.
“It was me just by myself. I would rent a little bit of space in gyms with a bag of cones and some timing gates.”
Martin’s gym offers everything from coaching to testing and screening on an individual basis as well as working with whole teams.
Due to the scale of operations at professional clubs, often areas of their development are overlooked. Athletes work with Martin to supplement areas in the gym that may have been neglected to take their athletic performance to the next level.
Newcastle United’s Lewis Miley is one of Martin’s many elite clients who has shone this season.
The 17-year-old netted his first goal for the club in a 3-0 win against Fulham, and many fans may be surprised by his meteoric rise. But those close to the youngster are “not shocked”.
Nugent has worked closely with Miley for the past few years, seeing his growth first-hand.
“He’s been working with us for a good four years now, and it’s been great to see him progress but actually keep his feet on the ground,” said Nugent.
“I’m not shocked because I know how much time and effort he has put into his career. He’s just flown under the radar for quite some time, but the people who know him and know the club know exactly what he’s capable of.”
Newcastle fans will be excited to hear Martin still believes that Miley still has a lot of room to develop.
“I think he’s still got a lot to come from a development perspective. If you’ve hit the brick wall physically and got nowhere else to go, you’re going to plateau,”
“With him he’s competing very comfortably with the best in the world, yet he’s only 17. He’s got an abundance of development still ahead of him, so how good can he be if he’s nurtured.”
Miley isn’t the only Newcastle player Martin has worked with that is seeing success this season. Jacob Murphy has been in the best form of his career and took to social media to praise the work Martin and his staff do.
“MN Elite Performance is one of a kind. So much scientific detail was used to enhance my performance. The improvements were noticeable instantly in my sprint speed, jumping and muscular strength. They also helped clear up a recurring tendon problem within the first session! Quality facility, quality people and quality sessions,” said Murphy.
The winger has scored a goal and provided three assists in the five Premier League games he has played this season. Murphy is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury and will be eager to pick up where he left off upon his return.
Martin has also worked closely with Middlesbrough’s Sam Greenwood. Greenwood has been under Martin’s wing since he was six years old, and the pair are still close to this day.
When Greenwood made his breakthrough into Sunderland’s Under-21 squad, he was one of the most highly regarded young players in the country. He later moved to Arsenal and Leeds before joining Middlesborough on loan.
“Sam Greenwood for example, in previous roles, I sponsored him time when he was six years old, and I still see him now and he’s a full-time professional footballer,” said Martin.
These long-lasting relationships with professional athletes are a fundamental part of what Martin is looking to achieve.
“We have quite a lot like that, seeing them turn from children to adults and very talented athletes. It’s what gets you up in the morning. When I’m having my cup of tea watching Sky Sports and seeing an abundance of athletes, whether its referees, footballers, rugby players, that’s what gets you up in the morning.”