Jul 21, 2017
Advice From Pitt’s Strength Coach

No two strength and conditioning programs are the same, but there are a number of things that high school coaches can learn from those who are coaching at the highest levels. Recently, University of Pittsburgh assistant strength and conditioning coach Freddie Walker gave the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) an inside look into his football team’s training program. Walker provides valuable insight that you can implement at your own school.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice that he offers is for coaches to focus on developing the skills pertinent to the sport instead of treating athletes like power lifters.

“We’re not weightlifting coaches or training power lifters,” he said. “Our guys are not here on a weight lifting scholarship, they’re here on a football scholarship. So, everything we do is always geared toward what they need for football.”

He also offers interesting details on how the strength training program at Pitt is run.

“On a typical day we usually focus on a specific multi-joint movement, like a squat or a bench press,” he said. “Other days we use a station format where we might start with the racks and move to a dumbbell station then a pull up station then a trap station and so on. The goal is try to keep the guys moving a little bit so they can get more metabolic work with their resistance training.”

There are a variety of factors that go into deciding how to design the workouts for the day. Some of it is based on the overall training schedule and what muscles the athletes need to work on and what part of the body they may need to rest. Other factors include the time of year and the positions that the athletes play. Though everyone works off a similar foundation of movements to help them succeed on the football field, Walker and his staff don’t hesitate to make the necessary modifications.

“The basis of everyone’s training pretty similar, so we can keep it general in that sense,” Walker said. “Everything we do is geared toward what they need for football and helping them improve their skills. But we do have a mix of different athletes. We have quarterbacks who are throwing athletes, we have kickers and punters who are kicking athletes, and those guys may have a different modification to their workout depending on the time of the year.”

During certain parts of the season, specific players such as quarterbacks may be doing a lot of throwing and putting stress on the shoulder and elbow, so the Pitt strength staff keeps that in mind and adjusts the workouts accordingly. By tailoring the workouts, Walker and his fellow coaches help properly manage the stress that certain players are putting on their bodies. The goal is to keep everyone as healthy as possible so they can make it through the whole season.

An essential part of strength training is knowing how to push your athletes without going too far. According to Walker, it all stems from having good communication.

“It’s all about knowing your kids and talking to your kids,” he said. “Communication is huge. They’ll tell you everything you need to know, and they know how they feel. If a guy tells you, ‘I’m kind of whooped,’ and you try to negate that then you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. He might be due for a de-load type of week, and if you miss that you might be pushing too far.”

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