PUSHING VANS,flipping gargantuan tractor tires and lifting kegs are the typical events in astrongman competition--and in a workout devised by Carlo Alvarez, a formermajor league strength coach who trains student-athletes at St. Xavier inCincinnati, including its nationally-ranked (No. 9) football team.
"[Because]they're high school kids," says Alvarez (below), who left the CincinnatiReds to take over as the Bombers' strength coach before the team's undefeatedseason in 2005, "you have to break up the monotony of the weight room andkeep things interesting."
Top high schoolathletic programs have been focusing more on conditioning, and St. Xavieremploys a nutritionist as well as Alvarez, who has devised a five-day-a-weekin-season training program for the football team. Alvarez comes to theall-boys' Jesuit school after working with athletes at Notre Dame and theCleveland Indians in addition to the Reds. He had run St. Xavier's weightprogram from 1996 to '98 while earning an exercise science degree atCincinnati. "I wanted to try high school, college and pro," saysAlvarez, 34. "After doing all three, I realized my passion was trainingyounger athletes."
"Since Carlocame back, we've been the best-conditioned team on the field and also the mostflexible," says Steve Specht, coach of the 7--1 Bombers. "We had kidswho could bench-press a lot but couldn't move. Now they can." Seniorcornerback Jon Saelinger (above, 22), who is 6 feet, 185 pounds, and juniorrunning back Darius Ashley (5'9", 180) have each dropped their time in the40-yard dash from 4.7 to 4.4 since Alvarez arrived, while also gaining 25pounds of muscle. "The 300-yard sprints are the worst," says Ashley."Guys throw up after those. But we trust Coach Alvarez. He makes us betterathletes. Plus, he makes things fun."
How the Bombers Do It
SPEED PARACHUTE | Drill Sprint 60 yards with elbowsbent at a 90-degree angle, raising knees high. Walk back and take parachuteoff. Sprint 30 yards. Do entire drill six to 10 times. Purpose Sprints developspeed, and adding the parachute, says Alvarez, helps players like Darius Ashley(left) increase "that explosiveness when someone's chasing you so you canseparate from them."
WALL SITS | Drill With back against the wall, slidedown until knees are at a 90-degree angle and hold. Alvarez piles on three75-pound sand bags. Hold position for two to five minutes with abdominalscontracted, heels down and toes up. Purpose Develops strength and stamina inhips, quads, abdominals and lower back. Says Alvarez, "This can be apsychological exercise as well as a physical one. Some kids tend tocry."
TIRE FLIPS | Drill Drop hips to squat and gripunderneath a 300-pound tire. With shoulders back, chest up and hips low, standand flip tire over. Repeat for 40 yards. Purpose Works hamstrings, glutes,biceps, lower and upper back, and hands of athletes like Jon Saelinger (aboveand left). Alvarez often sets this up as a race, pitting positions--O-lineversus D-line, say--against each other.
RON SCHWANE/AP (GAME ACTION); THOMAS E. WITTE (4)