Strength Coaches Must Modify In-Season Activities

by Paul Markgraff • Managing Editor • CSCCa Monthly, Twitter: @CSCCaMonthly

When football season begins each fall, the strength and conditioning landscape changes for coaches across the country. As August begins, strength coaches experience a new wrinkle within their programs. Football practice starts in earnest. For Oklahoma State University’s Rob Glass, who is the Cowboys’ assistant athletic director for strength, speed and conditioning, that variable changes the way he conducts his strength and conditioning program.

“When my players are training in the off-season and even during the preseason of June and July, that is all they are really doing,” says Glass. “Once practice starts, we’ve got a whole new variable that their bodies are dealing with. As strength coaches, we need to modify our volume of work.”

Glass says when he started more than 25 years ago, most football programs utilized the I-formation. Most players were big and strong, and offenses used the entire 45 seconds in between snaps. As up-tempo, no-huddle offenses have spread, coaches have changed how players practice, and thus how hard strength coaches can push players in the weight room and during conditioning sessions.

“We still keep our intensity levels pretty high, but now the duration for which we train is really reduced because of what’s going on at practice,” says Glass. “The percentages that we hit are still pretty high, but the multiple number of sets or the repetitions within the sets are greatly reduced because players’ bodies just can’t handle it.

“You’ve really got to stay on top of your in-season training and make sure you aren’t doing too much in the weight room,” he says. “We train three times a week during the season. We still do cleans, squats, bench and the Olympic lifts. It’s always there, but there are variances in the movement. Maybe one time it’s a back squat, then it’s a front squat, maybe a hang clean or a split-snatch. You just have to watch your volume and restrict your volume.”

Endurance training falls under similar guidelines, says Glass.

“Our practices are so intense,” he says. “The kids have to run so much.”

He says the Cowboys are constantly pushing their envelope just at practice, with players quickly moving from drill to drill. Work capacity remains at a high level with this style of practice.

“We hardly do any conditioning post-practice other that what we do the day after a game,” he says. “Most of their cardiovascular fitness – other than the day after games where we are kind of just flushing out – most of the fitness work is at practice when we get into our team periods.

“It’s truly a juggling act,” says Glass. “You’re trying to manage current fitness and you are trying to monitor the volume of work over an extended period of time to make sure you don’t drop athletes off a cliff in the middle of November because they finally hit a wall and they can’t do any more. It’s really difficult because so many variables come into play.”

As the season nears an end – which all seasons do – collegiate strength coaches must learn to be creative because athletes tend to sustain minor injuries down the stretch. But at the same time, strength coaches must still address specific training requirements to keep players performing at their peak.

“You are probably going to have more guys doing different modifications of the lifts to try and get the training session in,” says Glass. “We need to get done what we need to get done. I think coaches that are doing really well are coaches who are open, guys that look at the variables that are going on and are able to adapt.”

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