High School Focuses on Functional Strength Training

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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)


ELKHART -- Making a better athlete often means making a stronger athlete.

Strength training is building functional strength at Concord High School, where Craig Koehler is in his 16th year of teaching student-athletes how to improve athletic performance.

Mike Campbell is a decade into coordinating the strength and conditioning efforts at Jimtown High School.

Koehler, like Campbell, also serves as head football coach and is a stickler for proper exercise mechanics. It's not about hoisting the most weight -- though that is the goal of many athletes. It is about doing it right with the most benefit and least chance of injury.

"Don't compromise movement techniques for pounds," Koehler said.

Being able to take training gains and make it work in a game or practice is more important than just being a beast in the weight room.

"You want to have functional strength," Koehler said of the goal in the 70-minute daily classes (45 to 50 of that is for training). "There's more to it than being brute strong."

Concord has changed its curriculum, going from three weight training levels -- open to all students. Koehler met with Noblesville High School Wellness Department chair Brian Clarke and CHS students can now take one of two paths -- athletic weights or lifetime activities (for non-CHS athletes).

"We've got to get everyone on board," Koehler said of athletic strength training. "Our coaching staff has to drive it."

Athletic weights can be taken as many as seven times for a full-credit elective during a 12-trimester high school career.

There is more accountability for those in athletic weights.

"I'm your coach," Koehler said. "You're going to be on time. We're here to train. We're all in this together. We're on the same team."

Concord football players lift during the spring trimester at 6 a.m.

Koehler said that in a Class 5A school with more than 1,700 student-athletes -- many of them multi-sport -- there is not the time, resources or equipment to do too much customized training in his classes.

Generally speaking, Koehler trains all the athletes the same with varying degrees of intensity. Specialized movements and exercises is steered by a particular sport's head coach.

Concord classes are split into two groups with one doing upper body while the other does lower body and then they rotate with Wednesday being the non-lifting day.

"The National Strength and Conditioning Association will tell you that 72 hours is the benchmark" for recovery time from repeating like movements, Koehler said.

Campbell, who through a curriculum switch is teaching world history at a Class 3A school with fewer than 650 students, has taught advanced physical training classes. These are not bodybuilding workouts. They are full-body workouts (upper body, core, lower body) that don't overload athletes on the day of a practice or contest. He coordinates class workouts -- taught by Gene Johnson -- and leads after-school sessions.

And not just for football, which needs strength to compete with the Penn and other larger schools in the Northern Indiana Conference.

"All the stuff I do is for all the athletes," Campbell said. "We're trying to get a better off-season program. Some (coaches) don't have the knowledge for it."

With Jimtown classes meeting 45 minutes each day (with about 30 for training), Campbell has students doing efficient high-intensity intervals. Speed and flexibility is also a part of making the Jimmies stronger.

Steve Krah is a veteran sportswriter from Elkhart. He can be reached at [email protected]

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February 9, 2017


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