UM Strength & Conditioning program lifting on all cylinders

While a brand new multi-million dollar athletic training center is nearing completion on State Street, the University of Michigan strength and conditioning programs also is going through some improvements and changes.

In fact, the department is always improving and always changing – one of the many reasons why “elite” has always been synonymous with “Michigan.”

Training and conditioning programs have changed considerably over the past couple of years. These aren’t your father’s – or even your older brother’s – workout rooms anymore.

And as one would expect, pushing all the buttons of change is technology.

Michigan, like many other universities and professional sports teams all over the world, uses Catapult, an athletic tracking technology that measures all facets of athlete physical performance. Catapult has become the global leader in athlete analytics, protecting thousands of elite athletes at the intersection of sport science and analytics and enables insight in to athlete risk, readiness and return to play.

It’s just one example of how technology continues to change the playing field of competitive sports.

“Catapult is a GPS system that also has some other functionality that helps us get an idea on the stress being placed on student-athletes during training sessions,” says Lew Porchiazzo, an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Michigan. “It tracks total distance, speed of that distance so you know how long they spend sprinting compared to jogging or walking. It uses a metric called training load and what a training session should look like several days before a game vs. the day before a game vs. game day. It helps us get an assessment on where our players are individually and something we started using this past year.”

 

Porchiazzo, who works with the men’s soccer, gymnastics and softball programs, believes there isn’t one set of rules when it comes to training and that there are a number of different and effective ways of getting strong and fit.

“What I construct I believe is the ideal way, but just because it’s ideal doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of different options that are just as effective and appropriate for specific individuals,” he said.

Porchiazzo, who graduated with a B.S. in exercise science from William Patterson (NJ) in 2009 and a masters in exercise physiology from Eastern Michigan University in 2011, says in a “perfect world a majority of the field soccer players would be on a similar workout program.”

But there is some individualization, especially at this level of training and fitness.

“The first thing we look at is their injury history and their individual strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “We try and identify any deficiencies they may have and address them specifically. There also are some common deficiencies that we will make part of everyone’s program but if there is a history of say hamstring injuries we will address that individually.”

Porchiazzo joined the University of Michigan Olympic Sport Strength and Conditioning Staff as a graduate assistant in August 2009 and was promoted to assistant strength and conditioning coach for Olympic Sports in December 2011.

“Working with these three particular sports (soccer, softball and gymnastics) offers a unique opportunity for me,” he said. “It helps me grow as a coach and since they are so different it gives me some diversity and it doesn’t feel like I am doing the same thing every day.

“There are some standard exercises across the board. Men’s soccer is about fitness development. Gymnastics is about muscular endurance and power. Softball is a strength and power sport and the coach has specific wants and needs with a different dynamic.”

Porchiazzo works with all three programs throughout the season. It’s a busy schedule to keep but he keeps it by staying on top of things and applying his hard work ethic that he preaches to the student-athletes to his own daily routine.

“Soccer just started and when they are in season it’s when I deal with them the least,” he said. “Their focus is on training, playing and recovering. I help and assist in that process but in terms of what they are doing from a strength and conditioning standpoint, it’s probably the least amount of time I work with them in that program.”

Porchiazzo works more with the soccer players in the winter after their season is completed and when gymnastics and softball start to gear up for their regular seasons.

Porchiazzo does have some advice for younger athletes just starting to kick a soccer ball or try out for the basketball team or hope to make the high school baseball team.

“Personally, I encourage athletes to get involved in multiple sports,” he says. “From an athletic standpoint, conditioning standpoint and even a burn-out standpoint, I recommend playing more than one sport. I don’t think young athletes should specialize in one sport at an early age. And that’s just not my opinion but many others share that viewpoint.”

Porchiazzo doesn’t just preach multiple sports but lives it. Remember, he works with three different teams at Michigan.

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