Inside the weight room at No. 15 St. Joseph’s (Philadelphia, Pa.), you won’t hear Meek Mill tunes playing in the background — unless the Hawks have earned their music privilege.
“Our athletes have to show they’ve got the right mental focus on their training,” says coach Gabe Infante.
Infante runs each weight session as he would an intense practice on the field. Players don’t even use the bathroom without permission.
“When we walk into the weight room, it’s a business-like atmosphere,” says captain Paul Johnson, who plays both sides of the line.
Not that the Hawks are complaining. It’s their commitment toward training that’s helped the team improve from 4-7 in 2010, to 7-4 season last year, to a Super 25 ranking and a 9-0 start this season.
During the last three years, the Hawks’ weight room has shifted from what Infante says was a museum of novice equipment to a $125,000 functional space housing 10 half-racks, five glute-ham raise machines, two jammer presses, and a number of medicine balls, kettle bells and resistance bands.
There’s also a separate room with a 15-piece auxiliary circuit that’s open to the general student body.
The Hawks put their sophisticated machinery to work twice a week during the season. Their program focuses on training movements, not body parts.
“It doesn’t matter how strong or how fast you are,” Johnson says. “If you can’t translate it over on the field, it doesn’t mean anything.”
One training day is devoted to building explosiveness through hang cleans, push presses, and the hang snatch or a single-arm dumbbell snatch. The second day is dedicated to strength with an emphasis on speed of movement.
The strength session typically involves an upper- and lower-body lift like a dumbbell incline press and a speed squat to target large muscles. The workout also includes auxiliary exercises such as pullups, lat pulldown and pushups.
Infante makes sure to mix up workouts by integrating variations of exercises to constantly shock muscles.
“The body will adapt to whatever training regimen you give it,” Infante says. “By tricking it, we actually increase strength.”
Core to the team’s weight training are the hang clean and squat, but Infante also favors a plyometric pushup, a move that involves exploding onto weight plates.
Johnson rates the exercise as “incredibly difficult” since it requires a lot of power while simultaneously balancing your body.
The exercise builds strength in the front delt and tricep, which are used to get off a block and create separation on the field.
The version below is for more advance athletes. Infante says novice athletes can perform the exercise by walking their hands through the motion or simply performing without plates and legs propped.
• Place one weight plate on each side of body
• Assume pushup position with one hand on each plate
• Lower and move hands to narrow grip between plates
• Explosively push off plates, landing with one hand on each plate
• Continuously repeat movement
Form tips: Maintain a tight core; try not to bound off the ground; avoid using momentum to perform the exercise
Sets/Reps: 3-6 sets of 6-12 reps