Summer lifting gaining popularity|[06/23/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 23, 2007

Beads of sweat rolled off Cameron Smith’s forehead Thursday morning after a two-hour workout.

While many of Smith’s classmates are still in bed, the Vicksburg High junior-to-be lifts weights and runs on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings as part of the Gator football team’s summer strength and conditioning program.

&#8220Coming out here in the heat every day builds up your endurance,” Smith said. &#8220You get stronger.”

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Like teams across the nation, many Warren County high school teams use the summer as a time to get their players in shape so they can focus on sport-specific techniques and skills once the season begins.

And in no sport is strength and conditioning more important than football, where brute strength and explosiveness is rewarded.

&#8220We’re trying to create athletes,” VHS assistant coach Tim Hughes said. &#8220If people aren’t the fastest that they can be, we try to make them faster; we try to make them stronger; we try to make them more flexible, more agile.”

To work around players’ summer schedules, Hughes said the voluntary sessions are offered in the mornings from 9 to 11 and in the evenings from 6 to 8.

Across town at Warren Central, the football team’s summer training program also is offered three times a week in the morning and afternoon.

Chad McMullin, WC’s powerlifting coach and a certified strength and conditioning specialist, said he has structured a program with football-specific lifting exercises to increase players’ explosiveness on the field.

&#8220You have to have muscle mass in football to be able to deliver punishment and absorb it as well,” McMullin said. &#8220You have to have a good all-around muscle base.”

While improving players’ endurance and strength is an obvious benefit of summer work, McMullin said the workouts also help prevent injuries, noting that extra muscle mass, strength and flexibility around players’ joints – especially knees and ankles – reduces the chances of athletes getting hurt during the season.

Hughes also stressed the importance of injury prevention.

&#8220You spend 50 to 60 plays a game just banging on each other,” Hughes said. &#8220If you don’t have the strength and conditioning and the speed to keep up with the game, you’re going to get hurt.”

Still sweating from Thursday’s workout, Smith admitted he sometimes has a difficult time waking up in the morning to lift and run, but he’s hoping the hard work will pay off in the form of improving on the Gators’ 4-7 record from last fall.

Besides the physical benefits of staying in shape, Hughes said, players gain a mental edge from straining their muscles to lift more weight and pushing their bodies to run multiple 100-meter dashes in 90-degree heat.

&#8220You’re ready for the season and the challenges that lie ahead when you’re out here all summer,” Hughes said. &#8220This gives them durability.”