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October 18, 2010

Viloria, strength program making instant impact

Since he signed on as Florida State's new strength and conditioning coach last January, Vic Viloria has been strictly off-limits to the media as part of Jimbo Fisher's "one voice" policy.

As a result, most fans only know Viloria as the energetic strength coach that jumps up and down on the sidelines during games and gets the players charged up.

On Monday, while Fisher was out of town on business, a couple hundred fans (and a couple media members) got a rare glimpse at the 'Noles' 31-year old strength coach when he filled in for his boss at the weekly Booster Luncheon. After breaking down film from Florida State's 24-19 victory over Boston College, Viloria discussed some of the changes to the strength and conditioning program at FSU and how those changes have impacted the team.

Under Viloria, the two major overhauls in the weight room involve which areas of the players' bodies are trained and how much weight the team lifts in-season.

As soon as he arrived on campus, Viloria implemented the "Hatch System" which comes from legendary strength coach Gayle Hatch, who served as the Head Coach of the men's 2004 USA Olympic Weightlifting Team that competed in Athens, Greece.

"There's no big secret to what we do in the Hatch program. We squat more than anybody," said Viloria. "One day we'll do 50 reps in the squat and that's heavy reps. We'll do five sets of fives in the front squat and five sets of five in the back squat.

"We build our players from the bottom up. We are going to build the foundation. Body builders don't play football because it's not the same sport, it's not the same movement; it's different... Without a foundation, without those legs you aren't going to see runs like Christian (Ponder) does, you aren't going to see runs like Ty Jones has been able to do, those offensive linemen in the fourth quarter being able to finish blocks and our defensive players being able to stop people."

While Viloria talks a lot about emphasizing the squat, there is a lot more to his strength program but it has one common theme - start at the back.

"Other than the squat work, we spend a lot of time emphasizing the back side of the body - the posterior chain which is from the bottom up - the calves, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and upper back," said Viloria. "Those are the differences between us and other people. We don't spend as much time focusing on what you would call the 'mirror muscles'. If you look in the mirror you see the pecs, the biceps and quads."

The impact of the new weight training program on the players has been evident both on and off the field.

Every position on the team from wide receiver, to linebacker, to running back has gotten substantially bigger since last season. But the most significant increases have come on the offensive and defensive lines. The current starting offensive line weighs an average of 297.4 pounds per player - an increase of approximately 13 pounds per player. The change is even more substantial on the defensive line where the average weight per starter has increased 17 pounds (257 to 274).

On the field the change may be even more evident.

Unlike last season, when the lines on both sides of the football were often pushed around by larger and more physical fronts, FSU has been the team dominating in the trenches. That was especially evident at Miami where the 'Canes fielded a massive offensive line that averaged 320 pounds a player. Nevertheless, FSU's much smaller defensive line got the best of the matchup that evening.

The other significant change brought about under Viloria is how the team trains during the season.

Strength coaches at most schools talk about how hard their players lift in the off-season but then crank it down a few notches during the season. The philosophy is that the best you can hope for is to "maintain" strength levels during the season. However, Viloria has a different approach when it comes to weight training in-season.

"The biggest change for them and the toughest thing for them was going to be the in-season training. We are different," he said. "We are going to train extremely hard in-season; we are going to lift extremely heavy in-season.

"You hear teams talk about their development and they say 'we work hard all off-season and during the season we are going to maintain that strength. We hope to maintain that strength.' You see those teams go in the weight room and they lift - if the guy's a 400 bencher he grabs 225 and he does it for 10. Scientifically you can't maintain strength unless you are lifting over a certain percentage of your one-rep max. So unless you are in the 75 to 80 or 85 percent of your one rep max you aren't maintaining strength... In order to maintain strength you have to lift heavy."

And lifting heavy is what all the players do during the season whether it's Christian Ponder or a defensive lineman. Viloria admits this change has been an adjustment for most of the players who are not used to lifting heavy weights in the middle of a grueling season. However, over the past couple weeks the players have seen the results and are buying into the new program.

"I had the older guys come and tell me after the Miami game, 'okay, fine you win. We believe you,'" said Viloria. "It was Nigel Bradham coming in and squatting 400 pounds for reps after we beat Miami and Kendall Smith after having the game of his life coming in and training hard. They are realizing what coach is telling us and what he's saying to us, 'nobody trains hard, nobody practices hard, nobody studies hard and does the little things like we do.' Going into the game we have the confidence about ourselves because we know that we've put in the work. Some teams call it swagger, we call it preparation."

That preparation should serve the team well when they resume the season after an off weekend at NC State for a nationally televised game on Thursday, October 28th.


Gene WilliamsGene Williams is the founder and administrator of Warchant.com and writes stories and features covering all of FSU's sports with an emphasis on football and football recruiting. For seven years, Williams hosted a weekly sports radio show in Tallahassee. He currently appears as a weekly guest on 1010 XL Sports Radio in Jacksonville and 1270 The Team in Tallahassee during football season. Williams is also a former ACC correspondent for College Football News (weekly national newspaper), and contributes to The Osceola. Story about Gene Williams & Warchant.com.

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