Reps for Warriors: football’s linemen

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This past week for Reps for Warriors, Imprint followed the football team’s linemen in a  specialized conditioning program.

Unlike most conditioning sessions, where athletes from all sports are welcomed to join in, Saturday hosts a football-specific session where the athletes split up depending on their position. Running almost three hours in the afternoon, the team is ready to pump some iron in the PAC’s Warrior Zone. This is another deviation from the norm, since the football-specific training session takes place exclusively upstairs at the PAC, which is welcomed considering the PAC’s weight room wouldn’t be able to hold the team’s full roster comfortably.

In the Warrior Zone, the linemen, consisting of the offensive and defensive line, partake in more dynamic training than the typical workout of deadlifts and bicep curls. Divided into various exercises, the athletes work to get big — or bigger, to say the least: every athlete of the line towered over yours truly like the CN Tower looms over the Roger’s Centre.

Roaming the area in packs as they move from station to station, the athletes didn’t so much do the exercises as attack them. At one point in the training, there were five stations: prowler push, hand-over-hand-pulls, mat crawls, rope slams, and farmer carries. These guys were moving weights that, for me, would mean moving a brick wall, and they were doing it at some considerable speeds for the cargo they were carrying. The mat crawl exercise was an interesting one: the linemen rushed across two foam mats (the kind used in high jumping) on their hands and feet as fast as possible (in a bear crawl manner). It was only after a few watches that I realized how relevant this exercise is to linemen, considering they’re in a crouching position for a lot of their playtime.

There’s no half-assing it at this training program; the Warriors are going all out to improve. Alongside them is trainer Kory Allen, one of the head honchos of the conditioning program. With workout ropes slapping the floor, heavy weights rumbling the ground as they’re dropped, and the guys shouting out words of encouragement to each other, the Warrior Zone is loud. Allen, however, is still the loudest, shouting out how much time is left as well as encouraging the guys. Monitoring the stations as he makes his rounds, Allen is still able to stop and help the individual. Though the line is there every week, there is still room for improvement, as Allen shows how to properly pull a prowler with a rope (gotta rock those hips!) or how to grab the weights for a farmer carry (grab the handle in the middle so the weight is distributed evenly!).

Every week, some of the coaching staff will stop by for recruitment tours or to help with training. This week, interim head coach Marshall Bingeman stopped by with a young man from Newmarket who was on a campus tour. Bingeman said, “One thing we want to do is to make sure [possible recruits] see some of the experiences that they’ll have as an athlete here, including the training program we put them through on Saturdays.”

In general though, the coaching staff is present to monitor and encourage the team. Matt Robichaud is the football team’s defensive co-ordinator and one of the additional trainers for the team. He has extensive strength conditioning experience since he is a former professional football player. At these football-specific sessions, as well as weekday sessions, Bingeman commented “[Robichaud] has trained for [football] his whole life, so it’s good to give [the athletes] more than one voice.”

As the linemen workout begins to wind down, everyone gathers at the far end of the Warrior Zone. The defensive line and the offensive line form teams for one final competition: a prowler suicide race. Hype and excitement explodes as the boys try to win for their respective team, a friendly rivalry pushing each athlete to his best. In the end, the D-line wins, a common occurrence according to Allen, because they are slightly faster. The winners are sometimes rewarded with protein, and the losers are sometimes rewarded with extra work, but not this week as the athletes are still getting used to their program.

When asked if they enjoy these training sessions, Warriors Hudson Bruin, Tamaul Lewis-Gostlin, Braden Southern and Matt Kielo all commented that they have fun, and training makes good competition, which they like. When asked if there were any exercises they didn’t like, Southern said, “Well, I know it’s hard, but — I mean, athletes love this stuff. Love working hard, feeling the pain, but getting better at the same time.” On the same subject, Kielo added, “Everything is competing. I mean, you’re always partnering with someone you’re always trying to beat. That competition just keeps us going.”

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