I sat down with Jarrett Ferguson, Virginia Tech’s Director of Strength and Conditioning for Football, for a story I’m doing a little bit down the line. But I also asked him about the Hokies’ offseason conditioning program. He had some interesting stuff to say, so I thought I’d post it.
AB: How has the offseason program gone so far?
JF: “We had probably one of the best training cycles where the guys wanted to get it in and get the training regimen done. So the guys came in and they knocked it out. No skipping or anything. They did everything to a T, every rep, every set. That helps us out when the guys want to do it.”
AB: When do you start that?
JF: “When school starts, we usually give them time to get their class schedules and stuff, and then we start. We had such a long break. We came back. They had that Monday off and then we try to get them into the program and try to get them into groups and stuff.”
AB: Do you hit it hard from the beginning?
JF: “We jump right in, because you basically have seven weeks to train before the spring break. So what we do is train six weeks, seventh week is testing week. So with that, we jump right into it. We kind of scale it down. With coach [Mike Gentry], we do a periodization scheme, so they start off with a little higher reps and then we gradually progress down. And the reps go down and the weight goes up every week.”
AB: On the video on Frank Beamer’s site, it looks like you do three-rep maxes on some lifts.
JF: “Our squats, we do a three-rep max. It’s a little bit safer instead of doing a one-rep max, because that just puts our guys at risk. We go three-rep max. We changed up the front squat this year. We had the guys step outside the rack with the bumper plates, so if they miss it, they can just drop the weight. They don’t have a spot. They just drop it, which is a little safer, keeps our spotters safer, because you’ve got one guy paying attention and another not. It just keeps those guys safer. We did a low box squat, keep a little bit of stress off those knees and lower backs. The guys are able to handle a lot more weight. We do a three-rep max on that one also.”
AB: So it’s one rep for the bench press?
JF: “Bench press, power clean and push jerk, they’re all going to do a one-rep max on that.”
AB: It seems like there’s a lot of lower body stuff.
JF: “We’re trying to get that lower body stuff. You always joke around with guys that when they come in the door, they can bench a lot but they can’t do anything lower body-wise. So the thing is, when you build a foundation of your house, do you build a foundation on sand or do you build in on nice, sound rock? That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build that lower body strength, build that foundation and work your way up. You want to get that lower body strong, because that’s your anchor. We’re doing explosive movement like hang clean, push jerk. That’s where you get that power, that explosiveness from. So all that stuff helps us. And with our skill guys, we’re trying to train their speed in that entire time also. So I always tell them: the stronger you can get your lower body, the more explosive you can get your lower body, the faster you can be able to run.”
AB: How does the program train during spring ball?
JF: “All the strength that we built up during that six-week, seven-week period, we’re trying to maintain the strength somewhat, because they’re going to start hitting again. The focus is going off of us and back onto the field again. We’ll just go through and try to maintain what we’ve built all the way through that training cycle, and they’ll go twice a week lifting and then they have their practices and stuff. So they’re going to come in and it’s just a total body lift. So they’re going to do an explosive movement, an upper body movement, a lower body movement and we’ll fill in with the assisting lifts. So it just takes the focus off of us again, because they’re going to be on the field working all their drills.”
AB: When do the 6 a.m. workouts start?
JF: “We’ll be doing that when we get back from spring break [on Monday].”
AB: Those don’t sound fun.
JF: “I mean, it’s not fun. It’s a toughness deal, getting mentally tough from it. It pushes them a little bit, but it’s a good deal. You’ve got guys encouraging each other through it. The guys that are hurting from it, you have your other guys trying to pick them up, encouraging them along to keep them going. Because you just want to keep them moving. When it’s time to rest, it’s time to rest. When it’s time to go, we want you go full tilt. And we just want them to fight and keep going. It’s just kind of a conditioning deal leading into spring ball.”
AB: How many are there?
JF: “In the past there have been six sessions. I’m pretty sure that’s how we’re going to do it this year. [edit: Beamer said on his website that Tech will do them right in a row this year, Monday through Friday.] And guys fight through it every time and get better. I think last year we had a bunch of guys. We have an award shirt for it. It’s just about getting out of this spring break and then fighting through the first couple days. And then you get through that and figure out how everything is run, that’s when you start to get better.”
AB: What’s involved?
JF: “Just four stations of different agility drills. You’ve got speed ladders and stuff like that. Bag drills.”
AB: Anybody stand out in offseason training?
JF: “I thought Trey Edmunds had a pretty good session. I thought a lot of guys had great sessions. Some guys that really surprised me: I thought Joel Caleb did well. I thought he ran better than what I initially thought. He ran better. He got stronger lower body, which he had been working on. Trey Edmunds had a great sessions. Trey Gresh, he broke the power clean record for quarterbacks. He works at it. It wasn’t the prettiest power clean I’ve ever seen, but he was trying to work technique and he got it. Just in general, the guys just worked at it. They worked hard. Didn’t have any issues. I saw some leadership out of guys. I thought the guys really did it well. D.J. Coles, he had a pretty good session. We’re still trying to get him working back and working back right again. Guys like that, I thought they really stepped up. Charley Meyer, the freshman receiver, he had a good session. Kyshoen Jarrett.”