Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Florida [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Gators going for the gold

By Michael DiRocco
GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It has been nearly two months since Florida coach Will Muschamp said the Gators were mentally and physically soft.

It will take a while to fix their mental toughness, but Muschamp already has gotten started on the physical part by hiring Jeff Dillman as UF's strength and conditioning coordinator. He picked Dillman because they worked together at LSU, but also because Dillman is a big proponent of an Olympic-style lifting program.

Jeff Dillman
Florida's new strength coach Jeff Dillman brings a new approach to the Gator weight room.
That, Muschamp believes, is the best way to train football players -- and the best way to fix UF's toughness problems along the offensive and defensive lines. Experts agree.

"Total body movement, so when you pair [Olympic lifting] exercises, you're going to get a complete, total athlete," said Scott Gadeken, the head of physical conditioning at the IMG Performance Institute in Bradenton, Fla. "Not only are they going to be strong, they're going to be fast and explosive."

Olympic lifting provides a total-body workout and a cardiovascular workout in a short period of time. It's based on three main lifts -- the power clean, the snatch, and the split jerk -- with numerous variations. Proper technique is a must, Gadeken said, but once lifters perfect the technique, they can progress into heavier weights and the result is explosive power and better conditioning.

That's a perfect match for football. Most plays last between four and seven seconds, and players, especially linemen, must be quick and strong off the ball.

According to an article written for strengthpowerspeed.com by Derek M. Hansen, Olympic weightlifting movements are done quickly with heavier weight and require significant coordination and muscle control. That helps athletes with such quick movements as sprinting, jumping or firing off the line of scrimmage.

Hansen also wrote that Olympic lifting results in a strong core and better coordination and balance.

"Olympic lifters are some of the most powerful, explosive lifters on the planet," Gadeken said. "They're able to lift a lot of weight, and they're able to do it quickly and explosively. That mimics football."

Gadeken also said it can provide a great cardiovascular workout, too. Lifting heavy weights quickly and explosively for a set number of reps gets the heart pumping as well as any workout on a bike or treadmill. That's important for fourth-quarter energy.

There's also an element of mental toughness. It's not easy to get through a workout quickly while maintaining proper technique.

"It's rough to do a set of five or four power cleans or snatches," Gadeken said. "That's very, very taxing on the body. It's hard to do. It's mentally challenging. It's going to get your guys mentally stronger because they completed the workout."

The Olympic lifting program is a good fit for the kind of team that Muschamp wants to build: a power-running, physical group, especially on the line of scrimmage.

UF didn't use an Olympic-style lifting program under previous strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti. The Gators' spread-option offense needed offensive linemen who were lighter and quicker and able to cover more ground, because the offense was spread across the entire field, so there was more of a premium on flexibility and agility than raw power.

Gadeken said he doesn't believe the transition from Marotti's program to an Olympic-style program -- which LSU used during Dillman's time there (2003-05), which included the 2003 national title -- will take long. It's a pretty simple program.

"It could get going pretty quick if the guys are coachable and start off with the basics and break it down," Gadeken said. "As long as they're focusing on technique and bar speed [they should have no trouble with the transition]."

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.