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Dr. Saturday

Iowa State goes high tech with new weight room

Dr. Saturday

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(Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports)

As Paul Rhoads continues to build the program at Iowa State, he’s bringing Big Brother into the weight room to help his players get the most out of their workouts.

In a fascinating story by the Ames Tribune’s Bobby La Gesse, you can see how the facility wars between college teams is just as important as money spent on coaching staffs or recruiting trips. The folks at Iowa State decided they wanted the most advanced facility in the country, and it seems like they have come very close to achieving that goal.

Treadmills that cost $25,000 and can go up to 30 mph while requiring runners to strap in so they don’t go flying off? They have a half dozen. Weight lifting stations that can tell how fast someone is moving the bar in meters per second? Eighteen of those. Multi-hip machines to increase the agility of the Cyclones? You bet.

Yancy McKnight, Rhoads’ director of strength and conditioning, personalizes programs for each individual athlete and monitors them via readouts from the high-tech equipment. Here’s how he describes the process:

McKnight can walk through a group of Cyclones dead-lifting. He can see the readouts. If form is correct, he doesn’t need to spend time with those who hit the right bar speed, indicating they are hitting the percentage of their max lift McKnight is after.

He can focus on the player who is off on a rep. It could be as simple as too much or too little weight on the bar.

Or it could be improper technique. If that’s the case, McKnight can huddle with the athlete and work on fixing the problem.

“You’ll come back on your next rep and see that it worked,” linebacker Jeremiah George said. “So you’ll trust him more.”

If a player is off for an entire set or a whole workout, McKnight knows something is wrong. Each workout is individualized for every Cyclone. If there’s a problem, it usually involves eating habits or not getting enough sleep.

If an entire group is off, McKnight knows it’s his fault and can readjust the workout routine.

The coaches and trainers say they are seeing results like never before, including a team record for squat average. With the focus on addressing individual weaknesses focus on movements that will be used in a game instead of on a track, Rhoads claims he was seeing a reduction of mistakes on the practice fields as well.

You can take a four-minute video tour of the Bergstrom Football Complex on the Cyclones’ website, and while it might be a few more seasons before Rhoads’ squad is on the same level as teams like Alabama on the field, they’re doing their best to catch up in the battle of weight rooms.

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