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A look inside WSU’s in-season weight training

Regular blog readers know that we at the Spokesman-Review are changing our daily WSU football coverage. More specifically, we're going to deemphasize practice coverage and instead have daily posts examining various aspects of the football program. Last week we looked at how the WSU defense prepares for tempo offenses.

Going forward, we will try to have similar posts on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while continuing our usual practice of covering the Thursday Night Football underclassmen scrimmage on Thursdays. These posts will often be built around a certain theme for the week. With the upcoming game against the always-gritty Stanford Cardinal coming up, the theme for this week is Strength. So today we have a story about WSU's in-season strength training for the regular players and tomorrow we'll take a look at how the redshirting freshmen put on muscle.

There's a dirty little secret about college football players: they shrink.

Players and coaches constantly talk about how they're getting better throughout the season, and it's true. But they're also getting weaker. After an offseason spent packing on muscle, it's essentially impossible to maintain the same level of strength while spending their energy on practice and in games.

"There's a myth that people are going to be just as strong at the end of the season," said WSU strength coach Jason Loscalzo. "That's not going to happen with anybody. All the people that say they're going to do that, it's all fluff. In reality it's about getting your guys to be able to handle the stresses of the season."

To that end, the WSU travel team – the guys who go to away games and likely the only ones going to play meaningful snaps during home games – work out with the strength coaches three times a week.

The primary concern, of course, is keeping the players fresh for games and practices. To that end, WSU's in-season strength training is mostly about maintenance and trying to minimize the amount of strength that will be lost over the season.

On Sunday, the Cougars focus primarily on regeneration and recovery. Because the team likely played a game the day before, Loscalzo and his staff have the players spend about 15 minutes doing mobility stretches prior to a high-tempo, lightweight workout that lasts about 30 minutes.

"Sunday is a lot of single-leg stuff," Loscalzo said. "We might put a bar on your back, but it's going to be single leg stuff with lighter weight."

Tuesday is the only "heavy" day where the players do the kinds of muscle-building workouts that they did all offseason. While the travel squad players essentially all have the same goals and do similar in-season workouts, the workouts are also tailored to fit the individual. Players who start and get the majority of the reps at their position can't be lifting in quite the same manner as the backups.

Tuesday's workout takes exactly 32 minutes. Does that number seem specific? It should. The Cougars have timers going throughout the lifting session so that everything is synchronized down to the last second.

That's important, because speed is a big emphasis for the Cougars do when they lift, as well. Thursday's workout is a speed workout, consisting of 35 minutes of lifts such as a front squat in which the Cougars actually measure the bar speed to ensure the players are lifting at the appropriate pace.

"Everything we do is based off percentages, it's based off scales, it's based off scientific research," Loscalzo said. "So, most of what we do in-season is like I said, high-tempo. We're usually always a high-tempo work program."

All of that has gotten a lot easier since the Cougars moved into the Football Operations Building, complete with its football-only 11,000 square foot weight room that takes up most of the buildings first floor.

The entire travel squad, in the ballpark of 70 players, can easily work out at the same time on Sundays when in the past the strength coaches had to spend half their days scheduling around other sports who shared a smaller weight room in Bohler. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the Cougars have four shifts players can sign up for to accommodate their class schedules.

"The room we have here has really helped us, we finally can do the things we want to do now with the equipment," Loscalzo said. "That's allowed us to be a lot more versatile in season."

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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