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The Basics:

The simple process of getting stronger
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Initially our routines were very basic. Space, time and equipment were limited when our players trained in the Astrodome. We had 97 players on our roster. We were introducing many of our players to new exercises, new equipment and a new training protocol.

We have been changing and adding routines since our relocation from the Astrodome to the Reliant Stadium weight room. We now have more space and equipment, which gives our players additional variety.

There is a reason for the exercise sequence of our routines. However, the key to any of our workouts is, and always will be, the quality of each repetition performed and the intensity of each set completed. Telling an athlete, “Do three sets of 10 reps,” is a meaningless bit of information, unless there is an established criterion for how to execute each rep and how to complete each set.

Getting stronger is a very simple process. Attempt to lift more weight and/or more reps each exercise of every workout. Yikes! That sounds pretty easy.

Getting stronger is easy. However, generating maximum gains in the least amount of time in the safest manner possible does require that you pay some attention to detail. We adhere to the following three basic concepts when teaching our players how to properly perform a rep.

1. Allow only the muscles to raise the weight. – Incorporate any momentum and fewer muscle fibers will be used. Our goal is to find a weight that is heavy enough, and the form strict enough, to recruit every available muscle fiber. While at Penn State and also with the Redskins, we actually put letters (listed alphabetically from A-Z) on some of the machines with weight stacks (ten pound plates). The players didn’t care if they were lifting 130 pounds or the letter “M.” Their goal was to find a weight that provided the most overload without sacrificing form.

2. Pause in the muscles contracted position. – The Sliding Filament Theory informs us how a muscle contracts. Based upon this theory we know that the greatest number of motor units (muscle fibers) will be recruited in a muscles contracted position. Observe the contracted position of the Leg Extension and the Leg Curl.

A muscles-contracted position is the most important position throughout the entire range of movement. To develop strength at each point there can be no visible momentum (No bounce!) in this position if maximum strength is to be developed throughout the muscles full range of motion. On most exercises we tell our players to raise the weight as fast as they want so long as they are able to establish a definitive pause in the muscles’ contracted position, before beginning the lowering phase.

3. Emphasize the lowering of the weight. – The same muscles are used to lower the weight. The lowering phase is one half of the exercise. Most athletes capitalize on gaining as much strength as they can during the raising phase, but gain little to nothing from the lowering phase. It’s easier to lower the weight. To generate maximum gains the player must add more weight during the lowering phase and/or take more time to lower the weight.

Once we establish how each rep is to be completed, we begin adding weight to each exercise until meaningful and productive exercise is being performed. If too much weight is added the athlete will be forced to sacrifice good form.

We call it Rep Reproduction. Every rep should look identical until the last rep or two (when fatigue sets in). Without rep consistency it makes it difficult to monitor strength gains from one.


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