By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches managing editor
University of Minnesota strength and conditioning coach Eric Klein sat down with FNF Coaches magazine to discuss his strength & conditioning program. He focused the conversation on three topics (and one piece of equipment).
- Be Flexible with Your Program
- Be Sure to Perfect Form First
- Create an All-Inclusive Program
University of Minnesota strength and conditioning coach Eric Klein decided to try something different with the University of Minnesota football team in the summer of 2014 — a weekly yoga session. “We use it primarily to restore length and start the recovery process from the end of one workout into the next workout.” Klein said.
Klein typically leads the Gophers through poses at the end of training sessions – mixing long, static holds with diaphragmatic breathing. “By definition, football players are hyped up and intense by nature,” Klein said. “We’re providing a means to begin recovery through relaxation.”
Here are Klein’s tips for building an effective strength & conditioning program:
BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR PROGRAM
As a strength and conditioning coach, Klein talks about flexibility a lot. But he’s not always talking about an athlete’s range of motion. He says one of the most important characteristics for a football player is to be flexible with his training plan. Players must listen to their respective bodies rather than let their long-term training plan dictate their workload.
“We design a plan, and we want to follow a plan,” Klein said. “But once that plan is set in action, there are going to be several factors that weren’t accounted for, like injury, illness or soreness. As the season goes on, we have to make adjustments to get the best out of our players.”
BE SURE TO PERFECT FORM FIRST
Many players return for the start of preseason workouts eager to show off their gains in the weight room. However, Klein takes his time before steering his players into an intense strength-building program.
He spends the first few days of training correcting players’ mistakes in form and movement so that they are less likely to incur injuries.
“We need to find out where the guys are coming from since we last saw them,” Klein said. “We spend time correcting issues that are there. It could be flexibility, strength or mobility, but we’re going to get them back to feeling good.”
Once Klein is satisfied that the players are ready to practice perfect form, he moves on to the development phase of the program.
CREATE AN ALL-INCLUSIVE PROGRAM
Strength and conditioning programs can be oversimplified by athletes that say they want to get “bigger” or “faster.” Klein said a strength and conditioning program must factor in ways in which players can improve in multiple areas of their athleticism, such as speed, strength, agility, mobility, flexibility and conditioning.
“Based on the needs of a certain individual or position group, we might look to build size and strength in the weight room,” Klein said. “For other players or position groups, we might spend more time emphasizing speed and agility. One thing about our program that is constant is that there is some phase of speed, strength, agility, mobility, flexibility and conditioning happening year-round. Priorities might change, but everything is always present.”
One piecce of equipment that Klein has found particularly useful in recent years is the accelerometer, which measures bar speed during the course of a lift. For instance, if a player is performing a set on the bench press, the accelerometer will show how dramatically the bar speed decreases with each repetition.
Klein will designate ideal bar speed ranges for the particular workout. For example, if the players have a game the next day, Klein might restrict them from dropping below a bar speed that would result in fatigue during the game.
“We can look at the bar speed and prescribe the weight and number of reps to make sure they’re getting the rewards of the workout we planned,” Klein said.
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Dan Guttenplan is FNF Coaches senior managing editor. Do you have a thought about this article you would like to share? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us @fnfcoaches or share it on the Coaches Chat Board.