FSU T&F Strength Training Routine

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It's easy for an athlete to focus on the skills at which he already excels, but it takes a true champion to recognize his weaknesses and face them head on. The Florida State track and field squad did just that leading up to their 2006 championship season. Once the Seminoles attacked their trouble spots, the competition didn't stand a chance. 

FSU's men's track team must have felt pretty good during championship week in Sacramento last spring. They racked up five top-two finishes—including Walter Dix's and Garret Johnson's first-place titles in the 200m and shot put, respectively—and took the NCAA National Championship trophy back to Tallahassee.

The catalyst for FSU's success was strength and conditioning coach, Tyler Peacock, and his philosophy of building flawless athletes. "We're big on any exercise that makes you more complete as an athlete," Peacock says. "If you're exceptional in one area but lacking in another, our goal is to work the weaker area until it's just as strong as the other."

It seems simple, but this approach can be difficult to pull off because of many athletes' preexisting problems. "A lot of these guys did their own training before they got here, which usually means they were lifting too heavy with poor technique," Peacock says. "One of the things that makes them good athletes is their competitiveness. But with that, they end up doing as much weight as they can every time they go into the gym. This creates strength imbalances and causes them to become muscle-bound and tight through their hips."

To help athletes maintain their competitive spirit in the weight room without jeopardizing their athleticism, Peacock trains them at a high intensity, but in the right way. "If you train properly—through the right range of motion and with the right weight, you will remain functionally flexible and become more powerful," he says. "With the Olympic lifts, you can go all the way to 100 percent of your max if your technique is right. However, the majority of your sets should be below 80 percent. Only a small portion of your volume should be above that."

Use Peacock's four problem-solving exercises to attack your weaknesses Seminole-style. Give yourself 2-3 minutes between sets to recover completely.

Power Snatch

  • Grip bar much wider than shoulder width and assume athletic stance, with bar touching shins
  • Get into deadlift position with back locked, shoulders up, and abs and chest flexed
  • Begin initial pull by extending hips and knees
  • When bar is just above knees, explode upward by forcefully shrugging with straight arms and fully extending hips, knees and ankles
  • Pull bar up, keeping it close to chest
  • Drop underneath bar and catch it overhead in athletic stance

Sets/Reps: 5x3; progress to sets of 2, then 1
Variation: For athletes in events longer than 400 meters, perform from hang position. Start with 5 reps and progress down from there
Problems Solved: Tight hips, poor coordination and athleticism
Peacock: Our program is based around the Olympic lifts, and the Snatch is my favorite. The movement is so much faster than the Clean, because the weight is lighter. To get into the starting position, your hips have be flexible, and everything has to work together. This improves body control and overall athleticism, because you have to jump with weight and maintain your center gravity.

Bar Step-Up

• Stand with bar on back and one foot elevated on box in front so that knee is in quarter-squat position
• Pushing only with elevated leg, step up onto box and drive rear knee up
• Slowly step down from box and repeat

Sets/Reps: 3x5-8 each leg
Advanced: Push off with front and back leg. Use a higher box so that front knee is at 90 degrees in starting position
Problem Solved: Lower-body strength imbalances
Peacock: Everyone has one leg weaker than the other. This single-leg exercise corrects that; it magnifies the weakness. You will know right away which leg is weaker, because you can't compensate with the other leg. Once you correct the imbalance, perform the advanced dynamic version with a little more weight.

Physioball Knee Tuck

• Begin in push-up position with feet and shins on physioball and hands on ground
• Keeping body in straight line, roll ball toward hands by pulling knees toward chest
• Slowly straighten legs and repeat

Sets/Reps: 3x8; work up to 15 reps, then perform advanced variation
Advanced: One leg at a time
Problem Solved: Weak hip flexors and abdominals
Peacock: If a guy is having trouble getting his knees high while sprinting, we have him do these to build strength in his hip flexors and core.

Physioball Hamstring Curl

• Lie with back on ground and heels on physioball
• Raise body off ground so that only upper back touches floor
• Keeping body straight, roll ball towards you by pulling heels to butt
• Slowly straighten legs and repeat

Sets/Reps: 3x8; work up to 15 reps, then perform advanced variation
Advanced: One leg at a time
Problem Solved: Weak or frequently strained hamstrings
Peacock: Most people are flexible enough in their hamstrings, because they were taught to reach down and touch their toes when they were little. But you also need to work them functionally, with your glutes and low back.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock