American football is a bastion of tradition. In some areas, such as strength and conditioning, that can hold the sport back. Many coaches, however, are working to change the traditions and they start out by asking simple questions all over again like how do we make our players better? On this week’s GAINcast, Matt Rhea explains how the forward-thinking setup he installed at Indiana University helped turn their program around using a practical data-driven approach.
Notes and quotes
Matt Rhea just finished his second season as the Football High School Performance Coordinator at Indiana University. Prior to that he was the head of sport science at IMG Academy and worked as a coach and consultant in varying capacities. He also has a PhD in exercise science from Arizona State University.
- 7:00 – Background and path to Indiana University.
- 13:45 – Foundational training principles for training American football: “I don’t believe you can be too strong; I don’t see the negative aspect. But I do see identifying a point where they are strong enough. Wherever that level is, to focus on something that is no longer the limiting factor seems is a waste of time. Focus on the things that will have the greatest effect on performance. “
- 17:30 – Data and speed: “There is nothing I trust more than my own data since I see it, but trust is not enough. But if all you rely on is a small amount of data from yourself, you only get a small glimpse of the issue. You need to see enough data to have some confidence in it. “
- 21:30 – Predictors of short sprint speed for lineman: “The best predictors of speed at 10 yard was the power clean peak power, rear elevated peak power, and ratio of power left to right in a split jump. “
- 23:45 – Moving from data to training program design: “When I look at data, the end point is how I can affect change. It is nice to know variables, but the whole purpose of knowing is so that you can intervene. “
- 26:00 – Talking with athletes about data: “If you explain the whys to the athletes, you’ll always have better buy-in. And if you can’t explain the why, you need to go back to understand it better. “
- 30:00 – Losing sight of the field: “Sometimes in football we are so interested in winning the weight room, but may not have much impact on the field, or may even be detrimental. “
- 32:45 – Load management and GPS: “I moved off of GPS data since I don’t think we need to micromanage load. What we do is look at a broad spectrum of work and see what is an appropriate amount of stress. We have enough guidance from research to decide that without micromanaging it. “
- 36:45 – The quest for good data and the power of observation: “If you’re handing me bad data, I’m going to make bad decisions. A lot of sports scientists in football would benefit from watching game/practice film more than GPS data. “
- 41:15 – In-season training programming.
- 45:45 – Speed development in-season: “85-90% of our speed is built in the weight room. We identify key flaws in activation or coordination and identify weight room exercises that will influence that. “
- 48:00 – Developing speed profiles and examples of individualized sprint development programs: “What does the player need in order to improve speed? Or, in other words, what is limiting their speed? We try to avoid blanket programming where we put everyone on the same program and hope it works. Instead find an area where they need to improve and connect the training stimulus to that need. “
To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.
The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:
- The GAINcast is brought to you by GAIN and HMMR Media. Applications for GAIN are now open and you can learn more here, including links to all our past interviews with faculty members, registration information, and more. GAINcast 179 also gives you a sneak peek at GAIN 2020.
- You can follow Rhea on Facebook (@MattRheaSportScience) and Twitter (@MattRheaPhD).
- You can read more about the Indiana speed program in an interesting recent article on Stack.
- The 1080 sprint was discussed on this episode. They are also sponsors of GAIN and you can learn more about them on the 1080 website.
- In January I put together an article looking deeper at some of the use and misuse of GPS and similar technologies.