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Friday, March 12: Inside The Revamped Weight Room

Posted by Matt Terl on March 12, 2010 – 1:16 pm

The Redskins voluntary offseason conditioning program begins on Monday, which means that a whole bunch of football players — all of them, if new head coach Mike Shanahan gets his wish — will be cycling through the weight room. For some players, it’ll just be another weight room, worse than some and better than others.

But Redskins veterans, guys who are returning to the Redskins Park for the first time since last season ended … well, they’re going to find a dramatically different experience.

Last year’s entire strength and condition staff is gone, replaced by head strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright and new assistants Chad Englehart and Malcolm Blacken. And the weight room itself is different as well, drastically rearranged according to Wright’s specifications.

“We wanted to create space,” Wright told me, “and doing so meant that we had to move things. It wasn’t that we got a whole lot of new things, it was just that we wanted space in the room so that some of the movements we wrote into the program could be used.”

Oh, right: the conditioning program is new as well. Why does it require more space, you might ask. “For example,” Wright explained, “we’re gonna do step-ups. We’re gonna do lunges. And you need room, you need space to do those movements. And the way the room was structured earlier, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

When Wright came on board, we heard about his willingness to include things like jiu jitsu and yoga in his offseason program; he’s not going quite that far right off the bat, but he’s got at least one similar thing in mind. “This year we’re gonna introduce floor pilates and mat pilates,” he said, “just as a kind of introductory class. The goal is to introduce the players to it so that they continue it through the year. I don’t really expect them to get more flexible or get a stronger core just from this one-time-a-week class, but what I do hope is that some guys — five, ten — will enjoy it and continue it in-season.”

It’s easy to joke about the amusing visual of enormous football players doing graceful flexibility routines, but Wright doesn’t see anything unusual about it. “Players these days,” he said, “they’re doing pilates, they’re doing yoga, they’re doing sandpit, they’re doing all kinds of different exercise movements and going to different people. They’re pretty aware in today’s game of all the different workout regimens.”

Offensive lineman Mike Williams would certainly have to be considered one of the big guys on the team, and he agrees with Wright. “I know Derrick [Dockery] and Santana [Moss] and Chris Horton and some other guys have done pilates. I know [Wright] has a new philosophy, and I think guys are gonna be open to it. I think everyone’s desire here is to definitely not repeat anything that we did last year. We’re here to try to get better, and I think that having a change like that is a step in the right direction.”

For all the changes in the program, Wright says that the base of his program has nothing to do with equipment, pilates, or anything else. “I wanna build relationships with these guys,” he said. “I want them to trust me, and I want to be able to trust them, so when I ask them if this was too hard or too light, I trust what they tell me and they trust that I’m not going to do anything that would hurt them, injure them, or put them in jeopardy.”

So far, according to Williams, he’s succeeding. “I actually got to work with them this week,” Williams said, “and they’re good guys. They’re personal, they wanna get to know you, they wanna push you to be better, and I think they’re building a lot of rapport with guys. I’ve done it for a week straight, and I think what they’re doing is gonna be great. “

The guys Wright has talked to, he said, have all seemed eager to sign on for the new plan. “Everybody seems receptive,” Wright noted, “and everybody seems like they’re ready to put 4-12 behind them, move forward and win games.”

The actual process of doing that starts with Wright, and it starts on Monday.

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