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Earlier this week we began a training talk with NFL strength coach Tom Myslinski of the Jacksonville Jaguars. To start off the conversation he talked about his influences and how he has adapted them to American football. Today we continue with part two, where he talks about the role of special strength training in the programs he creates for athletes. He also provides insight on what feedback he gathers to optimize training for his athletes.
» Part 2: Special Strength Training and Utilizing Feedback
Martin: You mentioned earlier that playing football itself is strength training.Tom: Absolutely. Every run block is a maximal effort block. One year I had a running back rush for over 1,500 yards in the season and gain eight pounds of lean body mass in the process. Due to some of his physical limitations, his weight room training during the year was directed towards rehab and recovery. I know what you are thinking but he reported fit upon the opening of training camp.
Martin: How does that impact what you are doing in the weight room them?
Tom: I’m normally only focusing on general training and not sports-specific, especially during the season. The sports-specific work comes on the field.
I also think it’s very important to teach from experience and explain why we do what we do and where it relates to the field. For example, earlier today, in a conversation with a young offensive lineman we discussed the three-point stance. This is foreign to most up-tempo college offenses since they play in a two-point stance most of the time and the art of run blocking is slowly becoming forgotten. We discussed using the ground as a force plate and pushing back into the ground like sprinters push back thru blocks. Then you are going to brace and stabilize yourself before firing off the ball in order to generate force, much like you do before you start the descent of a squat. It is more general, but you try to get your correlations that way.
Martin: And how else does on-field training affect what are doing in the weight room with them?
Tom: We are essentially all sub-maximal loading. Rarely, to be honest with you, do my guys go over 85 percent of their one-rep maximum, even in the offseason. They get stronger through sub-maximal loading. Also, we tend not to change our main training means and methods. It’s a much easier way to measure stress, plus we can see how the athletes respond. If they are approaching us and complaining of sore legs and our loads are stabilized, then I know the stress is not coming from the weight room.
Martin: What other feedback are you using in the weight room then if you are not working up to maximum intensity?
Tom: We use a force plate and measure the power outputs on the bar with an accelerometer. Looking at power outputs relative to body weight gives us a really good reading of their maximal strength levels because we do not test maximal strength throughout the season.
Martin: In throwing we have it a little easier since our best feedback is how far we throw.
Tom: You have objective measures; we don’t. We have subjectivity. When an athlete says they’ve played a good game, OK, why did he play a good game? Was he playing against a lesser player or a Pro Bowler? Was the athlete in an optimal state of readiness? Was he mentally more prepared for the game? There are so many individual factors. We need to try to create objectivity within a subjective sport. That is very hard.
Martin: There is a lot of discussion of combine numbers and what can be learned from them. Do those numbers mean anything to you?
Tom: If you had asked me that question last year, I would have said no. Ask me that question in another year and I might say yes. Right now I can’t give you an accurate assessment because I am trying to figure some things out.
What’s clear though is that the most overlooked ability is the ability to play the game. I always go back to that aspect. Can you or can you not play football? Generally looking at those tests, it is a good assessment of their overall physical capabilities. For our new incoming college athletes, we use it as a baseline. When we had a longer offseason, we used to use the Max Jones quad test on all our athletes, which is a track and field test, as you know.
Martin: So you can see in the big picture if they are strong or fast and go from there.
Tom: Let’s look at the 225-pound bench test for reps. This is not an absolute strength test, but the 500-pound bench presser will always do more reps that the 400-pound bench presser. Therefore you are able to make conclusions on guys based off of their results. If a guy has a 10-foot plus standing broad jump, he’s going to have great horizontal power.