TRAINING

The Weight Room Competition That Drives the No. 1 Team in the Nation

By Dan Guttenplan

The offseason can get monotonous without the inspiration of some inner-team competition. Spice up your strength training program by programming max rep challenges, lifts to failure, and admission to “clubs” through successful outcomes in the weight room.

St. John Bosco (Calif.) coach Jason Negro has made his name presiding over some of the biggest wins in the country each December.

He has led St. Bosco to three CIF Open Division state championships since 2013 and has twice been named MaxPreps High School Coach of the Year.

While Negro certainly appreciates the difficulty of winning state-title games in December, he believes the foundation for greatness is laid in January and February.

“Our strength program is far more important than the calls we make on Friday night,” Negro said. “We believe that we win here because of what we do on our offensive and defensive lines. We believe that we win because of what we do in the weight room from January until the end of the season. We lift four days a week in season and five days out of season. It’s something we take a lot of pride in and a culture we’ve developed at Bosco. The kids buy into it, they embrace it. They know it’s not easy, but when you’re dominat­ing people up front and you’re physically stronger in the fourth quarter, they can see it.”

The Glory Bar Challenge

Every player on the Bosco football team has a standing offer to complete the Glory Bar Challenge and gain entry to the team’s acclaimed “club”.

What does the challenge entail? An Olympic bar decorated with an American flag graphic is positioned on a mat with two Captain America plates on each side. The total weight of the lift is 250 pounds. Any player who can clean 250 lbs. gains admission to the club.

“Everyone circles around, and you can’t use those items unless you’re trying to reach your max during an assessment period to get into the club,” Negro said. “The kids go nuts. It’s on our social media and Instagram. It’s done in the spring or summer.”

Negro and his staff tried to pick a lift that is all-inclusive (i.e. just as doable for skill-position players as linemen). He will occasionally increase the weight for linemen, but he believes lighter players are just as likely to gain entrance to the club.

“It’s not necessarily easier for the bigger guys,” Negro said. “Our corners are cleaning 250. For us, the highest cleaner in the program was a safety. We’ve picked a lift that is more about technique than overall strength. We’re not going to squat for something like this.”

Negro and his staff also offer other competitions that level the playing field depending on a player’s weight.

“We’ll do multiple-rep maxes by the percentage of a player’s weight,” Negro said. “Then we’re measuring how strong they are for their size. We could do squats for that.”

The Best in the Business

Name: Jason Negro

School: St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.)

Head coaching record: 112-24 (10 seasons)

Postseason record: Nine playoff appearances, five Trinity League championships, three section titles and three state championships.

National ranking: The Braves have finished ranked in the Top 25 for seven consecutive years and have finished in the Top 10 every year since 2015.

About the author

Dan Guttenplan