Drill Bits: Strength & Endurance

Off-season work is about "getting the basics of the game to become second nature," as one Penn State practice observer explained. From winter to preseason practices, the players conduct a wide array of drills, some of which we review more closely in our Drill Bits series. In this edition we explain how the players improve their strength for the coming season.

Strength & Endurance

"I'd say if there is one area the coaches look for vast improvements during the off-season, it's with players' strength," an observer explained. Strength workouts are really the only area of a player's game that can be consistently worked under supervision. "[The players] are constantly in the weight room [during the summer]," another observer said. "There are no breaks in workouts, even if you aren't on campus."

"We had some guys who weren't on campus for the first summer session and they were still working out," another observer said. "Michael Mauti was off campus and you can tell when he got back he was lifting — you could see the progress he made when he got back in [the weight room]."

Shield Drills

Overview: Shield drills work some technique, but "the drill helps a player to manage his strength and deliver control with his power — to really drive his strength into the hit."

Nate Stupar takes a shield hit from another linebacker.

The general drills has three, and sometimes four, players with shields — rectangular pads with a strap that slides over the arm and is held like a shield (see photo above). The drill also places a series of pads or cones on the ground that the player must navigate when delivering his hits, which "helps to get some footwork into the drill."

A third player is positioned at the end of the line in front of a floor mat, with a shield.

The players line up and take turns, hitting shield one, then shifting to deliver a hit on shield two, then back to a hit on shield one, then a sprint to tackle the third player and take him to the ground.

Benefits: "This [drill] has a lot of things going on," an observer explained. "It works strength, but it also gets in agility, since the player has to mind his footwork and also tackling technique with the take-down hit."

Down Passes

Overview: The quarterbacks will also get in passing drills which will work the "strength of their ball delivery." In a down pass drill the quarterbacks will get down on one knee and toss a series of passes.

"The drill's pretty basic, but it gets them passing in a position that they are unaccustomed to without impacting their throwing motion."

Pat Devlin takes a knee to work his pass strength.

Benefits: "It works their shoulders, back and upper arm strength," an observer said. "Once you take away the power these guys get from their legs it becomes a workout — it's not as easy as it looks when you toss the ball 20 to 30 times."


Overview: "Thud works the endurance and strength of a player; how well he handles the punishment Thud throws at him."

Thud drills are basically a rundown of every major play/scheme in the playbook — both on the run and pass sides.

These drills work the offense and the defense against each other and typically entail pads and contact, testing strength, technique and endurance. Since players are not allowed to wear pads during their informal off-season workouts, this drill is usually limited to spring practice.

So why is it called "Thud?" "I've always heard it's because it's the sound the pads make when they are colliding in the drills," an observer said. As another explained, usually this is the team's first introduction to contact drills during the off-season, so "they meet with a thud."

Stephfon Green looks to evade Stupar in a recent drill.

Benefits: The Thud drills pull together endurance, strength, technique, fundamentals and position skills into one extended set of work. "It's a significant workout — running through the playbook is a job just on the mental side."

So, aside from a physical workout, the coaches get to see who has the playbook mastered from the mental side of things.

Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for unmatched, unique content on Penn State football not available anywhere else.

See our previous Drill Bit reviews:

Fight On State Top Stories