Sep 13, 2023
How West Virginia Develops Football Players
Michael Joseph, M.S., MSCC, CSCS, CES, Asst. AD/Head Football Strength Coach, West Virginia University

The goal of the strength and conditioning program at West Virginia University is to provide our student-athletes with the highest physical and mental preparedness on the field of competition.  My goal is for our football program to achieve the highest levels of success on the national scale. 

Our staff provides a well-designed, collaborative training program based on sound physiological principles. Each program will have a sport-specific focus, experimentally proven methods, and safe and productive physical training by means of a periodic plan. Our athletes will be pushed to maximize their genetic/athletic potential. Our strength staff has a very “hands-on” coaching style that allows the student-athlete to be in one of the most intense and technique-sound weight rooms in the country. We are committed to the principles of ethical conduct, integrity, and excellence.

west virginiaThe Mountaineer staff uses a variety of training regimens to develop a very basic result in all our athletes, to be the strongest, best-conditioned, and most explosive team in the country. We use Olympic movements, free weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, med-balls, sandbags, machines, bands, lifting chains, manual resistance, and any training equipment that will allow the athlete to be challenged and developed daily. Every time an athlete enters our facility, he is pushed both mentally and physically. The six main goals our programs try to reach for each player are 1) to gain a high level of physical strength; 2) to develop an injury-resilient athlete through flexibility, injury prevention, and core development; 3) to increase athleticism through footwork, agility training and sport specific movements; 4) emphasize sport specific speed protocols than will enhance speed and explosive power; 5) manipulate conditioning protocols that will allow each team excels on the field of competition; 6) and, finally develop a mental edge during training that creates confidence and mental toughness during competition.

Development of the athlete is the goal whether the athlete is with the program four-five years or one off-season. My goal for each player is to gain lean mass, increase flexibility, increase maximal strength, ability to produce as much force through the ground for speed and power, be the most athletic player on the field, and be injury resilient. Training, nutrition, mental preparation, recovery, sleep, and the development of the whole person is individualized for each athlete.

west virginia

Sport Science Implementation

As a strength and conditioning staff, we strive to utilize sports science technology more so as a tool than as a lure for recruits. We are researching and learning the ins and outs of each aspect that we implement, in order to use it to its full capacity. The goal is not to change the structure of the training program and philosophy around the technology, but rather to identify where the technology can allow us to improve our current means of training and maximize our athlete’s performance and well-being while giving us an insight into how the athletes are responding to the training demands placed upon them. The data collected allows us to make better judgments on whether the physiological adaptations being targeted in a particular phase of training are being achieved or not.  


Catapult is our primary means of monitoring and managing the workload on the field. Catapult gives us the ability to accurately monitor distance, workload (player load), contacts, speed, and much more. Once we have collected the data, it is then put into a report that is easy to visualize and focuses on the metrics that we share with the position coaches following each session. A few of the key benefits include: 

  • Performance Optimization: Managing workloads and monitoring development
  • Injury Risk Mitigation: Monitoring loads and having the ability to live-view them to know when to keep pushing and when to back off.
  • Support Return to Play: Gives us the ability to view pre-injury loads and speeds to allow benchmarks to be created throughout the RTP process when running with AT/S&C

Velocity-Based Training 

As a strength and conditioning staff, we use perch for maximizing performance with velocity-based training (force & power). Velocity-Based Training (VBT) has been around as long as exercise has. Utilizing a sound coach’s eye, exceptional coaches knew that training at various speeds, intensities, and loads produced different results in their athletes. (Progressive Overload) They would lift weights to get strong, jump to become explosive, and run to increase their speed. As we train our athletes using mean velocity for long-term improvements, we look at daily, weekly, and monthly trends in their velocities to get the full picture of how we are influencing them. Having the ability to monitor bar speed allows us to better assess fatigue, and better prescribe loads based on the targeted adaptations. Movement velocity is directly related to motor unit recruitment. The faster an athlete can move a certain load, the more muscle fibers an athlete can recruit and the more force they can produce. Perch also allows us to set goal velocities to ensure in real-time that our athletes are moving the bar in the zone we are working in. These adaptations can be categorized into five specific strength zones: absolute strength, accelerative strength, strength speed, speed strength, and starting strength.

Heart-Rate Monitoring

Heart-rate monitors worn on the chest allow us to better optimize training, recovery, and performance. Real-time heart rate monitoring during conditioning and lifting sessions. Availability to view metrics during sessions including current heart rate, TRIMP (training impulse), training effect, aerobic & anaerobic, % max heart rate, and average heart rate. Being able to track and monitor these metrics allows us to ensure we are improving our fitness levels in conjunction with the periodized training.

Force Plates

Our strength and conditioning staff utilizes Hawkin force plates regularly throughout the training year. Our main movement on this is a countermovement jump. This is one of the best indicators of lower body power output. Athletes will be tested weekly to bi-weekly to assess:

  • Readiness
  • Lower Body Power Output
  • Jump Height
  • Asymmetries

Calculations have been built out in our AMS (Smartabase) that will flag any deviation from an average number in all metrics. Will also calculate % of personal best. Immediate feedback is provided each time that they jump and a leaderboard is displayed with jump height to bring out competition. This is a great tool for reinforcing the training program and ensuring we are always heading in the proper direction. 

Hamstring/Posterior Chain

The Nordbord is a key tool that allows our strength and conditioning staff to measure the hamstrings’ strength and symmetry quickly and accurately. Athletes will be reassessed weekly to bi-weekly similar to the force plates. Athletes kneel on the machine, place hooks over their ankles to hold them in, and then be instructed to perform two to three reps of a maximum effort Nordic. The goal is to reach total eccentric muscle failure. This allows us to see the maximum eccentric strength. This can benefit our program greatly because higher eccentric hamstring strength imbalances have a higher correlation to the risk of hamstring injuries when running at high velocities. This machine allows us to see those numbers and gives us an opportunity to act on them. If a major imbalance is observed, immediate corrective exercises will be prescribed.


The VALD Dynamo is a compact device that allows us the ability to test strength in many different areas. Our staff primarily uses this device to assess and monitor grip strength and neck strength.  


Oura rings are our strength and conditioning staff’s primary tool for monitoring sleep, recovery, and stress. Oura utilizes research-grade sensors to collect heart rate data from the finger.  Unlike other wearables, Oura factors in key vitals like body temperature, heart rate, and HRV to determine the quality of sleep, how much time is spent in each sleep stage, and more. Calculations have been built into Smartabase to flag and send alerts when certain parameters deviate outside of a normal range, indicating stress, fatigue, and potential sickness. Sleep reports will be generated daily and reported to the head strength coach. While we have an idea of what kind of physical stress is being placed on them, it is important to take into account how the athlete’s bodies are responding to all stressors physical and mental. Oura gives us the ability to get a snapshot of how their body is responding to all of the demands being placed on it.


Ledsreact is a radar-based monitoring system that allows us to force-velocity power (FVP) profile any and all athletes in a time-efficient manner. Their FVP profile will give us valuable insights into our athletes’ strengths and weaknesses. It can enable us to spot a force or velocity deficit in an athlete and accordingly construct an effective training plan to tackle the deficiency, focusing on force or rather maximum velocity training. Utilizing this device during on-field training allows us constant force-velocity profiling in both linear and multi-directional drills on a consistent basis. This provides us with a constant monitoring tool giving us feedback consistently, which allows us to ensure our athletes are progressing toward the desired outcomes of the speed and agility plan implemented. 

Recovery Modalities

At West Virginia University, we utilize recovery modalities to model the general adaptation syndrome and optimize super-compensation. Recovery modalities include: Impact Cryotherapy (2), Superior Float Tanks (2), AARC LED Light Beds (2), Thera-Light 360 Light Bed (1), Normatec Compression Boots (30), Body Tempering, Pilates, FireFLy.

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