Oct 21, 2016
Questions & Answers

Mark Asanovich spent 14 years as a strength coach in the NFL, including five as Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and seven in the same role with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Looking for more stability and work-life balance, he left the pros four years ago to become Physical Education Instructor and Strength and Conditioning Coach at Minnetonka (Minn.) High School.

We asked Asanovich five questions on how he makes his high school athletes the best they can be.

What is your facility like?

Our 5,200-square-foot weightroom is set up similar to the one I had with the Jaguars in terms of space and equipment. The majority of weightrooms today consist of mostly power racks and benches, but ours is 95 percent machines. The literature says your muscles can’t distinguish what’s providing the resistance — whether you stimulate them with a barbell or a machine, you’ll get roughly the same result. Because we have a lot of younger kids who train in our room after school, and as many as 100 athletes can be in there at once, machines are a safer, better option for us.

What’s your training philosophy for high school athletes?

It may sound a little silly, but I don’t have one. A philosophy is a system of beliefs, and I choose, instead, to take a science-based approach to resistance training using nothing but the most recent research.

How is your program structured?

Generally, we train the entire body twice a week, and our athletes can come in a third time if they choose. But if they’re busting it out twice a week, that’s usually all they need. In-season, we’ll cut that back to one total-body workout and one upper-body workout each week.

I always tell other coaches to look for the irreducible minimum: If you’re training the athletes four times a week, reduce it to three times and see what happens. If you get the same results, why go the extra day? When I first got here, our athletes were training three days a week. I cut it back to two, and our results improved.

How do you motivate high school athletes?

Nowadays, the stereotypical strength coach is someone who yells and screams all the time. It’s really sad, because when the rubber hits the road, you motivate young people by forming sincere, unique relationships. You have to make a human connection and gain an athlete’s trust. Once you do that, they’ll do anything you ask.

What are your biggest challenges?

Ninth graders! It can be tough working around some of their emotional immaturity. Also, there are limitations in terms of staff and budget. At the NFL level, I had a big staff and unlimited resources while working with no more than 90 players — and that was only during the preseason. Here, I’m a staff of one with 500 athletes pulling me in 500 different directions all at the same time.

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