NITTANY NOTES: Barbells & Whistles

More insight on the changes being implemented to Penn State's strength and conditioning program under new S&C coach Craig Fitzgerald.

Craig Fitzgerald assumed the role of Penn State strength and conditioning coach a couple of weeks ago and already the off-season approach has seen some significant changes on a variety of levels.

As we reported in late January, fundamentals of the conditioning approach have shifted with a greater focus on free-weight exercises like squats, bench press and power cleans. There's also attention on the players "building strength on their feet." Previously, the Lions relied extensively on machine work.

However, the players have "been easing into" the the pure lifting. As one observer explained, "[Coach Fitzgerald] is all about technique. It gets the most of of the lift and reduces the chance of injury."

For this reason players have even gone through exercise sets with no weight on the bar to literally "go through the motion" and "get the correct motion down." That's not to say players are not lifting, though. In fact there are initial indications that they are feeling the benefits of the new approach already. As one observer explained, "A lot of [players] are raving about it and can't wait to see what it does for their game."

Fitzgerald is also said to be "high energy all the time" and "preaches attitude and explosion - bringing your best with every rep." As one observer said, "He pushes hard, but he's all about being constructive — back pats, high fives, atta boys." This has resonated with many of the players out of the gate.

The other aspect that has "sparked" guys has been the approach that everything is competition-based — for example, the wide receivers competing against the defensive backs for "bragging rights."

The basic player grouping setup for workouts is:

Tanks: OL, DL
Bombers: LBs, TEs, QBs, FBs
Jets: WRs, DBs, TBs

In terms of equipment, Penn State has placed orders for new weights, which is expected to arrive in the coming weeks. The team has also ordered new custom weight plates which will be branded with the words "We Are Penn State."

Right now, the massive weight room in Lasch Building is "all torn up," as old workout machines are being cleared out to make way for more free-weight stations.

All told there is a growing excitement with the approach. "It's been a whole new world," as one observer described it.

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