The weight room is where champions are made and great teams come to life. While much of what fans and spectators see is usually on game day, plenty of hard work is put in behind the scenes. Some athletes, however, prefer it this way. Damian Lillard, an NBA all-star and star player for the Portland Trailblazers, understood the importance of training and weight room when he said in a tweet, “If you want to look good in front of thousands, you have to outwork thousands in front of nobody.” While it is essential to practice the sport itself, the weight room is an often underutilized and underappreciated aspect of sports that is crucial.
David Herd, a California Baptist University baseball alumnus and one of three strength and conditioning coaches for CBU athletes, understands what it takes to produce strong, competitive players. Herd tailors his training to the needs of the teams he coaches, focusing specifically on men’s and women’s swim, volleyball, women’s water polo, wrestling and softball.
These sports are intentionally grouped together, sharing many similar movements and motions. Water polo and softball focus more on throwing, whereas wrestling and volleyball are more about power. Herd said that the weight room is an excellent place to fill in the gaps where regular practices and training do not. While “We try to look at everything as filling buckets. If we took baseball, for example, during their pre-season — depending on where they’re at in their training for practice — they might not be doing as much hitting, throwing, sprinting (and) things like that,” Herd said.
Training in the weight room has an almost rotational aspect to it, balancing between two different parts of competing in collegiate sports: pre-season and in-season.
“In pre-season, what we’ll do is try to make sure all their buckets are filled, so we’ll fill in that strength, that power, focus on rotational power, maximum speed and running,” Herd said. “So a lot of that happens in season, trying to build the body and conditioning and get ready for the demands of the season. Once they’re in season, they’re playing their sport a lot. For example, in baseball, they’ll be hitting a lot, so they’ll be doing a lot more swinging, and they’re throwing a lot. So what we do in the weight room in season is focus a little less on things that are being covered in games every single day.”
While there are many benefits to the weight room to help improve an athlete overall, Herd understands that there are other benefits that are not immediately apparent, such as ensuring an athlete can handle the demands of the season in the first place.
“With everything that we do as far as our workout and what we design, it’s to make their tissue stronger (and) more resilient, and have the ability to keep up with the demands of what their season is like,” Herd said.
It is not just ensuring that athletes can keep up, but that they train their bodies to resist and prevent injuries, as well.
“Everyone looks at the field of strength and conditioning as just lifting as much weights as you possibly can,” Herd said. “That’s kind of how it was back in the day. Now it’s a little bit more of a holistic approach when it comes to looking at the demands of the sport, what are the injuries that more likely occur in the sport, and preventing those. It’s work nonetheless but it’s not the work everyone pictures in their head.”
Aubrey Chavez, junior business major and softball player, said that athletes understand the importance of the workout process as they can feel the difference on the field and can even tell when an opposing team member does not utilize the weight room.
“In the weight room, we work on power movements, taking off (running and) pushing off (the base) hard,” said Chavez. “Let’s say a girl hits a ground ball up the middle. The short stops feet are kind of slow on her first step but in our weight room, we work on explosivity training. That first step is lagged.”
Chavez said she has also seen how the weight room made a difference in her game, improving the minute details that could be the difference between a win and a loss.
“When I got here in the fall, not only do I see the difference, but in myself as well,” Chavez said. “When I look back at it, I definitely feel my first step is more intentional. My first step is more powerful with the stuff that we do in weight training.”
Devin Garcia, junior mechanical engineering major and wrestler, explained how he sees the benefits of the weight room transcending the different NCAA collegiate levels, with the benefits of a DI program versus a DIII program being especially evident in the sport.
“Especially in the BIG10s and the BIG12s, like Iowa (and) Arizona State, they are huge on their weight training, so they definitely have a difference in their competition — a lot more competitive, a lot more tougher,” Garcia said. “Same thing goes for the D-III programs. They don’t have the strongest weight training programs, so that’ll affect their performance.”
While technique matters for all sports, the weight room plays a significant role.
“Technique is huge in wrestling, but if someone is just really strong, they can just overpower you,” Garcia said. “I would say wrestling, on a physical aspect, is 50% physical ability and 50% technique.”
While some athletes may not take the weight room seriously, with others shunning it entirely, it is clear that there is a benefit to the weight room no matter the sport.