Social Distancing and Indiana's 'Virtual Weight Room'

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Social distancing has created a set of unprecedented challenges for athletics officials, and coaches are learning to navigate new territory amid the coronavirus crisis.

The NCAA has banned coaches from supervising athletes’ workouts remotely, but strength coaches are getting creative and using new tools to ensure their student-athletes can continue to improve despite not having access to training facilities.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Indiana University has its strength and conditioning staff thinking outside the box to keep its student-athletes in shape.

“We kind of organized pretty quickly on this,” Tom Morris, senior assistant AD for athletic performance at Indiana told IndyStar. “We already had a website going for some different stuff for incoming recruits. … Turned it into the COVID-19 landing page. Think of it as a virtual weight room.”

The school’s new coronavirus resource center for student-athletes — IndianaStrength.com — wasn’t originally conceived as a hub for home-based workouts, but the transition has helped strength staff develop routines based on what individual student-athletes have available to them in their homes.

“We're taking this on a case-by-case basis, and we're meeting every individual where they are, and where they are in terms of not only location but what they have available to them equipment-wise,” football strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman said on a conference call last month. “A lot of players are at home. A lot of players have two sets of dumbbells, and so we're writing up a workout specific to what they have, and we'll write them up a dumbbell-only workout.”

Morris said that some athletes may not even have dumbbells available, so he’s building bodyweight workouts that are deployed to team captains and distributed to student-athletes from there. The website uses diagrams which allow a student-athlete to go through those workouts on their own.

“We send out these workouts, we use a program called Conduct, a platform we can download all our exercises on to,” Morris told IndyStar. “It’s surprisingly very, very efficient.”

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