By Rick Court, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach
Mississippi State University
We take great pride in how we coach and administer our in-season strength program. In-season training is the most important time to train because you must continue to make gains off of all the hard work you have put in through the winter and summer programs. If you simply train to “maintain” your current levels of strength, you are not developing to your full potential.
When our game weeks officially start, we classify our team into three training groups – Travel / Non Travel / Travel Development. The following is a game week breakdown on how many times per week we train:
Travel Squad (TS) – Sunday / Tuesday / Optional Thursday Post Practice
Non-Travel Squad (NTS) – Sunday / Wednesday / Friday
Travel Development (TD) – Sunday / Tuesday / Thursday
We train our guys in-season with common sense and we take into account many variables as we take them through our strength program. We have great communication with our training staff and our coaches. We take into account what group they are (TS/NT/TD) and how many reps they get in practice and games. From there, we design each program.
We are fortunate to have many different pieces of equipment for upper and lower body exercises. The majority of our equipment has range limiters and has different grips to accommodate any modifications needed to continue to advance in training. For example, when training the lower body on Sunday the day after a game, our travel squad has a choice on what lower body equipment they want to use. They may choose to back squat, front squat, belt squat on a Pitshark, leg press on a pendulum hip press, or trap bar deadlift.
This is what separates our program. It is not cookie cutter. Rather, each player has ownership to get stronger. Every exercise is recorded and progressed by weight or reps weekly. For upper body training, we will typically perform three pressing exercises and three pulling exercises, using anything from Hammer Strength and pendulum machines to free weight and body weight exercises. Every group always has a high priority for neck, head and trap training. Each group will usually have a different set and rep protocol. Our NT group will typically perform at least one more set of each exercise and may also have a higher lower body load.
As we move through the week, our travel squad will get their second lift on Tuesday. This lift is predominantly an upper body lift that includes bench press, pull-ups, 2-3 additional press and pull exercises, 4-way neck training, shrugs, deltoids, arms and grip. The travel squad will also have the option of training their neck, traps, biceps, triceps and grip on Thursday after practice. We make that a different lift every week so it’s fresh and cultivates players to get in that one extra lift prior to the game.
The travel development squad will lift Sunday, Tuesday and on Thursday at a time around their class schedule. This group is made up of young players, typically true freshmen and redshirt freshmen who still need an extra day of comprehensive lifting. They are good enough football players to play on Saturdays but we don’t want them to miss out on any physical development that other younger players are getting.
The non-travel squad will train on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. All of these lifts are very comprehensive with higher set and load protocols while taking into account what they also need to develop as football players at practice. They will train total body on Friday and Sunday. Wednesday is an upper body only workout.
With strength training we make sure we get the most out of each player. There is a high standard and mindset when we train. Strength training is not something we just do. It is a part of the program the we invest in to make sure that every player is taken care of in the appropriate manner to be ready for each game day and to be prepared every day as their career continues.