Coaching Philosophy: How LSU Uses the Weightroom to Win Matchups on The Gridiron

aerial view of LSU football weight room

About the Author: The American Football Coaches Association is the only national organization dedicated to improving football coaches through ongoing education, interaction, and networking. The AFCA and Hammer Strength have teamed up to provide insights into the coaching profession, elite athletic programs, and more. (Coach Moffitt photo courtesy of Chris Parent.)

 

Functional strength has become a popular trend in strength and conditioning, especially when it comes to football. Football coaches are always looking for a way to transfer key performance attributes like strength and power to the field, and hopefully turn increased athletic performance into more wins. At the very heart of winning football is the one-on-one matchup. Scheming misdirection or favorable matchups can certainly help, but ultimately a player must beat the man across from him in order to be successful.

LSU Assistant Athletic Director and Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Tommy Moffitt says his staff works hard at making sure players are training with those one-on-one matchups in mind. One of the key principles they use focuses on incorporating speed into the foundational lifts they conduct every day in the weight room.

“You’re always trying to move the weight as fast as you can, but the amount of weight on the bar determines how fast it goes,” Moffitt says. “Just like when you’re playing football, and you strike your opponent, you are trying to deliver the largest amount of force you possibly can into him to overcome his inertia and momentum. There are many different types of strength that go into that. It’s explosive strength, speed strength, acceleration strength, and sometimes isometric strength. When two players collide and there’s no movement, or one players gets the jump on the other … you need eccentric strength as well.”

Moffitt and his staff use a lot of foundational exercises like power cleans, squats and deadlifts to build all of the different components of strength necessary to make a player successful in winning a one-on-one matchup. The secret at LSU isn’t the type of exercise, but how they are teaching players to perform the exercise that makes the biggest impact.

Regardless of the amount of weight on the bar, whether you are training for explosive strength or speed strength, and regardless of what your training objective is, the goal is to try to move the weight as fast as possible.

— Tommy Moffitt

The staff at LSU uses technology to monitor and track the velocity at which players are moving the bar during workouts. Players can see firsthand if they are lacking in a particular area, and make adjustments. This helps players understand the importance of not only moving the same weight as your peers, but being able to move it just as quickly or faster.

Moving weight in a fast, explosive manner makes sense for football strength and conditioning programs because of the nature of the game. Football isn’t a bodybuilding competition, where the one-rep max is king. Players often miss big plays because they were a step too slow, were beaten to the point of attack, or couldn’t keep pace with an assignment’s blazing-fast technique.

Each element of strength and power affects success in football, but coaches today should take a deeper look at the role of speed. The days of evaluating how fast a player is based on their 40-yard dash time is over. Fast hands, quick feet and the ability to successfully move the opposing player’s mass are the new standards of speed on the football field.