Monday Morning Coffee Break

Monday Morning Coffee Break with Mississippi State head strength coach Jim Nowell. Part 1 of 3.

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MSU head strength coach, Jim Nowell, sat down with me Saturday afternoon and discussed his goals for the two summer sessions of football workouts, his impressions of some of the newcomers as well as a few of the veterans and an update on his staff. In the first part of the three-part interview, Jim discussed his summer workout plans and goals.

What were you trying to accomplish with the guys during the first session of summer workouts?
"We have a goal for every time of the year. During the winter conditioning, our goal was to get our players bigger and stronger. And increase muscle mass and size as well as their speed and quickness. And also their mental toughness and attention to detail. Those are still important today. But, as we enter our summer program, our goals change a little. During the winter and spring, we had a five-day a week training program that consisted of three days of lifting and two days of speed, quickness and agility training. We still have that with our summer program, but, as we near our playing season, we add two days of speed and endurance. We started that in June and we are still doing it, but we increase it. In June, we were running 110s - 110-yard sprints - on Monday and half-gassers on Friday. We started out doing 12 during week 1. Then, the next week, we increased it to 14. The following week we upped it to 16. We gradually increased it each week because we are trying to increase their conditioning. The closer we get to the season, the better their conditioning has to be.

"To make a long story short, we are running 4 days a week and we are lifting three days a week. Wednesday is the only day that we don't run. We lift on Wednesday and do karate. Don McDonald, who is a great guy and does a great job with our kids, teaches karate on Wednesday afternoon. He comes up on Wednesday afternoon and works his team karate session. He focuses on balance training, core training, and a lot of flexibility type things. Don does a good job of making it fun. Our players really respond to him and really enjoy it."

How does karate training transfer over to the football field?
"Karate is great for flexibility. Flexibility is great for every sport, but especially for football. The more flexible you are, the less chance for an injury. The more range of movement that you have in a joint, the less chance that you have of tearing a ligament or tendon or pulling a muscle.

"It is also great for the core strengthening. When I say core, I am referring to our mid-section, our abdominals and lower back. He does a lot with that. And we do as well. Those muscles are used everyday. We refer to them as stabilizers because they help stabilize the body. If you have a strong upper body and lower body, but you are weak in your core, then you are going to have problems. That is the wheel that connects both halves. We don't want to have our players just have strong parts. Strong parts is not the same as having a strong body. We want them to have strong bodies. And the core is what enables us to transfer the power from our lower body up to our upper body and into our opponent.

"The balance they learn from karate is also very important. When you are having to stand on one foot to perform a certain type of karate kick, that works a lot on your balance.

"And possibly the most important thing about karate is its team building aspect. All of our guys are in attendance and getting to know each other. Coach Croom talks all the time about being a family and doing things together. I think karate helps with that."

How many players did you have in the first summer session?

Are all the veterans back for the second summer session workout?
"I believe they are."

You also have most of the newcomers in. What part of the workouts were they able to do this past week?
"The second term summer classes began Wednesday. Then, we started our workouts Thursday. The freshmen didn't undergo any of the conditioning drills because they hadn't had their physicals. We did let them go through our warmup and stretch routine to see how we do it. The reason for that is because there is an attention to detail on everything. When we do a stretch, we say ready stretch, then we all clap. If somebody doesn't clap, then it is going to cost everybody up-downs."

You mean everybody has to do up-downs if one person doesn't clap?
"Yes, we do up-downs. It ticks me off. I think that small things cost you football games. Jumping offsides is a small thing, but it costs you 5 yards. Holding someone on a play is a small thing, but it costs you 10 yards. When we say feet together, hang you hands, ready stretch, look around to see how many people don't clap. We haven't had to start over once this summer because we aren't clapping. It may seem like a small thing and is ridiculous, but it's not ridiculous to me or to our staff. The little things are important. We want our kids to understand that everything is important and everything matters. That's why we do it."

What were you able to do with the newcomers as far as lifting weights?
"We had the freshmen in the weightroom at 3 o'clock Thursday and went over a technique-oriented workout. When I say that, I mean we were actually trying to teach them how to lift correctly. We did that with very, very light weight. Each of our staff had three players that they worked with. There was nobody in there but the freshmen. So, our attention was completely on them. Our entire purpose was to teach our young guys how to do things the correct way. We hope to have them together at 3 o'clock every day. That way, we'll have them together doing the same lifts over and over until they know them perfectly. We'll do it until they do things like it is second nature to them. Once they have the technique down pat, then we'll increase the weight we put on the bar."

Are you going to do maxes with the new guys prior to the start of the season?
"Not this summer. What's the point? They are what they are. We are going to find out soon enough how strong they are. We will do a maximum lift, but it won't be before the season. Some of these kids will be playing on Saturday. We are depending on them. What if we are doing a squat rep and somebody blows out a back?"

What was your impression of the veterans who weren't at MSU for the first summer session of workouts and are now back working out?
"I was pleased with how some of our guys reported. I knew, based on what I saw, that they had been doing the workout manual that I had given them. But, obviously, some of our guys didn't do the things that I would have liked for them to do while they were away from us. But, compared to last year, there was a big difference."

Although the freshmen won't do the same type weightlifting as the veterans, will they do the same conditioning routines?
"They are going to be doing the same thing as the upper classmen. They were sent a workout manual that had the same workout that we are doing."

What are your workout times for the second summer sessions?
"A lot of our players have two classes a day. And the classes are two hours each. And every player is required to be in study hall an hour each day. So, to help out with their class scheduling, I decided to have three group times - 1 o'clock, 3 o'clock and 5 o'clock on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Our running will be on Tuesday and Thursday at 5 in the afternoon. While that will allow them time for their classes, it will also give them more time working out in the heat and humidity. That is important because we will be playing games at 11:30 and 1:30."

How will the second summer session of workouts change from the first session?
"As we get nearer to training camp and the playing season, we are going to continue to increase the number of repetitions that we are doing in the conditioning drills. The agility drills will be a little longer and more intense. The speed and endurance runs on Monday and Friday are going to have more reps. This week, we were scheduled for 16 half-gassers. Next week, we are scheduled for 18. The week after that we are scheduled for 20. That will not only raise our level of conditioning, but our toughness. Hopefully, we will have everybody in really good shape and ready to go when training camp opens the first of August."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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