Coach McKeefery Keeps the Bulls Fire Burning

Today is the second in a series that will give Bulls fans an inside look at the Bulls winter condtioning program under strength coach Ronnie McKeefery. Find out more in this exclusive interview. Only on

Strength Coach Ronnie McKeefery



What are some of the main goals of off-season conditioning?


During the off-season, were trying to challenge them mentally and physically.  We want them to know that after going through winter, spring and summer, they can say I put my time in. I can handle what ever you throw at me. It fine tunes them and gets them ready for the start of the season.


Do you use any type of a mantra like "pound the rock or anything like that in the weight room?


No, not typically. During the summer we have the commission which is a leadership counsel. Basically were trying to develop leadership faster, and build off of that.


After losing the bowl game do you attack the winter conditioning differently?


"No, it makes no difference. If we go 4-7 or like the past two years having back to back nine win seasons, we go at it. We don't work them harder because they loss the last game. That was a different team. Starting January we're working with a different team. We put that behind us and start working on the next season.


How does off season conditioning compare to working out during the season?


In the season it's always easy when you're preparing for a team and a game, but we try to preach to them that the season is never that far away.


What do you use for motivation then?


The thing that is a driving force is that we still haven't won a BIG EAST championship. We haven't worked hard enough to get to that yet, and that's the challenge that we put forth on a daily basis. That what were working for a big east championship, and anything less, we're not happy yet.


Is it any different for all the guys going for winter conditioning for the first time?


It's not any different for me. To be honest at that point were looking at them as already being here. They may be freshmen or redshirt freshmen or a true sophomore, but they're going into their second year. At this point they had their young year and right now their treated just as anybody else, and have the same opportunity as the other guys to be a starter next season. From a competitive standpoint, they're going through the same things.


Do the intense work-outs catch the first timers off guard?


This may be the first time their going through winter conditioning, but if they were here last summer, then they already have done a combination of intense conditioning and lifting daily. The 5:00 am workouts in the summer are intense and tough, and designed to be challenging both mentally and physically.


Does a good winter session help get them ready for the start of spring practice?


Yes, that's it exactly. We have eight weeks before spring ball to work these guys. So right now it's not so much challenging them physically. You trying to put it on the team and see how they are going to handle adversity. How they are going to respond to it.


Besides the physical part how do you challenge them?


We do that by a combination of things. We do it by waking up early, do it by training late, having daily competitions, all these things contribute to the overall player development. The physical part is only a small part if you really think about it.


Do you challenge every player the same?


Right now were challenging the whole team. We're trying to see what kind of leadership we got and who is going to step up and take over for guys like Ben Moffitt, Mike Jenkins, Walt Walker, and Trae Williams. We got a good group, and they're already starting guys starting to come forward. Lot of these guys to some degree has already been leaders to some extent, and we're just trying to force more out of them. That's want you want and we'll continue to develop that because we go as they go.


What does the eight week program consist of?


We have a typical linear periodization model. We'll start off with volume, a lot of volume and a lower intensity of weight. You're trying to develop an approach to gaining size and strength. Then you progress to more power with high intensity of weight and less volume. That way you're peeking going into the spring.


How does the difficulty in work-outs vary?


Each week it gets more difficult because you're increasing the intensity and the weight, but they're getting stronger at the same time so it's all relative in that regard.


How do you break up the eight week program?


We break it down into two phases really. We do a four week cycle where we go through high approach to strength and power, then it flattens, and then we come back and go again high approach to strength and power.



How does the Lifter of the Week competition get the guys motivated?


It is a peer pressure system. If a player isn't pulling his weight he's costing his team. For example if he's had bad five work-outs or has been late he cost his team points, and the guys get on them. It makes it a lot more fun when they come into the weight room saying what does coach Mac got for me today as opposed to oh crap we got to do the same thing over and over again.


Do the guys respond better with a competition going?


These guys are competitors, and that's why they are good athletes and perform at a high level. They love to compete, and we just have to facilitate that.


When the players are awarded the weekly awards is it a bragging rights thing?


Yeah, we post it in the weight room, but every day we post their points so they know where they're at and going right to the guys that are getting it done, and patting the guys on the back that are getting it done?


Does it have a big effect on their performance in the weight room?


It each day they come in and our eager to be in the weight room because they want compete and beat the other team. That's the mentality we're trying to build. Each week, every day, every rep we get them competing. That's why by feeding that competitive nature, your feeding the beast. You're keeping them in that mindset that they want to work and push and want to win.



Check back later with for the continuation of our inside look into the Bulls off-season strength and conditioning program.

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