May 13, 1998
Strength and Conditioning
The Notre Dame strength and conditioning program is designed to accomodate all athletes on an individual basis with respect to their particular sports. The program is structured to enable an athlete to be in the best possible condition.
The strength and conditioning staff has developed a program at Notre Dame which emphasizes speed and explosive training. Olympic lifts are taught and used extensively in this workout program. This philosophy enables athletes to maximize their athletic potential.
Bill Martinov, Michelle Lovitt, Jim Wolfe and Kevin Fitzgerald personally oversee all athletes' development from the beginning of their Notre Dame careers. As freshmen, athletes are tested in areas such as the bench press and the 40-yard dash to determine their bodies' physical condition. After these tests are completed, the athlete receives a personal program. The coaches are then able to monitor each individual's progress by both personal supervision and computer.
Though the Haggar Fitness Center has the capacity to hold approximately 100 athletes at one time, the strength and conditioning staff like to limit that number to 20 so they are able to personally oversee everyone's workouts. In addition to this supervision, each athlete's workout is recorded on a custom-designed Macintosh software system. This allows the staff to send workout cards to those athletes who are living at home for the summer.
Despite this emphasis on individuality, every athlete's program encompasses the same four categories: speed and strength development, conditioning, flexibility and nutrition education. Each area is essential in determining an athlete's complete athleticism.
Most of the work in these areas takes place during off-season conditioning programs, which are made up of four days of weight training, two days of conditioning and two days of speed development per week. The progress that is made during this period is simply maintained over the course of the playing season by lifting two days a week for 15 to 20 minutes.
The off-season speed and strength development comes from the 40,000 pounds of custom-made Universal equipment in the Haggar Center, which consists of approximately 90 percent free weights and 10 percent machines. Using this equipment, athletes work out anywhere from two to five times a week. With more emphasis placed on the lower body, Olympic lifts are used to increase power and strength in the legs. Generally, workouts will consist of four core lifts and their variations (snatch, clean, squats and presses) as well as exercises for the abdomen and lower back. The volume, intensity and lift variation are changed on a daily basis to decrease the chances of overtraining.
With speed being one of the more difficult elements of performance to improve, speed development and agility drills are done daily prior to lifting. These drills are used to improve the athlete's reactive and overall speed in addition to their agility -- all of which are vital elements to performance.
The football team, for example, spends the first month of the spring semester working solely on speed training. This training consists of sprint mechanics, resistive sprints and plyometrics (jump training). The idea behind these exercises is to improve the athlete's overall range of motion which in turn increases his or her sprinting speed.
On Monday and Thursday of the off-season training sessions, athletes go through 45 minutes of conditioning after their workout. The conditioning drills are done on both a group and individual basis. The specific drills that are done vary by team because each sport places different demands on the body and requires different changes of direction. But, standard ones include jumping rope, sprints and change-of-direction drills.
The final two aspects of the overall program, flexibility and nutrition education, are year-round activities. Perhaps the most visible aspect of the flexibility program is the football team's pre-game stretching. However, that is only a small part of it. Every Notre Dame athlete has both pre-practice and post-practice stretching routines which help to improve his or her range of motion, prevent injuries, increase agility and provide an overall increase in power and strength.
The most important part of nutrition education is getting the athletes to make the best choice when eating in the dining halls. Usually, this means avoiding foods with fat because Woolfolk and his staff want to keep the athletes' body-fat count low. However, the athlete must also eat high-carbohydrate foods which are the most efficient fuel sources.