Friday, April 18, 2008

Examining PSU's Strength

Much has been made recently of the new face being put on the Michigan football program, specifically, in the area of strength and conditioning. This got me thinking, what do we have going on regarding strength and conditioning at PSU? Especially, because there's talk out there on the internets is that Michigan's dilapidated strength program was hauntingly similar to PSU's current program.
Penn State is another major program that supposedly had a more outdated strength program that focused a little too much on traditional exercises that put on bulk and not necessarily explosiveness that is of practical use on the football field.
Gwah?!??!? HERESY I SAY!

Or is it?

There are more random accusations:
They claim the strength program weakened Chris McKelvey, actually has slowed down Austin Scott, and that football players who resist the Thomas approach are basically told, "my way or the highway." Guys are not developing their quad muscles and are actually gaining fat tissue: E. Z. Smith is flabby now compared to when he arrived at PSU. One of the football players is a kinesiology major so we all took his words seriously. There were no signs of "sour grapes" with either of these two guys. Fewer than a dozen Division I schools have adopted the program that apparently was initially adopted by the Army football program [egads!]
Who is in charge of the strength and conditioning at PSU? John Thomas. Thomas is not just some random jerk off the street. He seems to be a very well respected strength and conditioning coach as he has been declared Master of Strength and Conditioning Coach, a title help by fewer than 30 people worldwide. He also was chosen the 1997 National Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach-of-the-Year. Sounds good, right? But what if it is a time to update the strength program at PSU?

I am not a kinesiology grad nor do I even have a passing interest in strength training. I am, in fact, a fat-mole-rat-blogger typing furiously at his keyboard that these great athletes aren't strong enough. (The internet is awesome.) But what if I'm right?

As best as I can tell from googling around, PSU favors, and has always favored, a more gradual (read: slower) program. Apparently, PSU will lift for approximately 30 minutes focusing on one exercise and the athlete will go until exhaustion. This is a more gradual way to build muscle and is safer for the athletes. This is all according to Ray Fittipaldo, who estimates that (before Michigan's shift to Olympic Style Lifting) that 80-85% of the college football programs favor the Olympic style over PSU's approach.

So what the fuck is Olympic style lifting and why is so great?

Well, peep what Barwis has said about it. Barwis seems to know exactly what he is talking about and this kind of training seems perfectly suited to football, observe:
The body is forced to adapt to regularly changing stimuli and environments in multiple planes and at varying intensities during athletics. The ever changing pressures of the environment force the core to adapt and overcome stressors at a high rate of speed. In order to simulate this environment we must train the core utilizing instable apparatus and in multiple planes. The instability of the apparatus promotes sporadic irregular firing of the core in a stabilizing action. These activations occur while stimulating a specified contraction to accomplish a given movement. This directly correlates to actions that take place in the core region during athletics.
I don't know exactly what that means but it sounds a hell of a lot better and more accurate than: "We lift a lot for a while and when we are tired, we stop." It just makes sense to train and build your strength in as similar a fashion to what you can expect to replicate on the football field. Of course, endurance is important, however, when you are trying to generate an explosion it doesn't seem that the PSU way will help.

I'm not saying that Thomas is terrible but Strength and conditioning seems to be an area that PSU could maybe, kind of, sort of, think about updating.


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