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Mike Clark Brings Olympic Approach To Redskins

Mike Clark, the Redskins' new strength and conditioning coach, has changed the landscape of the team weight room to promote a new kind of training and competitiveness.

If you don't know anything about Mike Clark, the Redskins new strength and conditioning coach, just step into the team's re-arranged weight room.

What used to be a place filled with machines and benches has been stripped away and made minimal. Treadmills and stair masters have been pushed into corners and lifting stations have been consolidated. What's left? Ample space to move around.

"As far as the furniture, we're spreading out and putting two more platforms in so we'll have eight of them. We're just going to train dynamically on our feet," Clark said on "Redskins Nation." "World-class athletes train on their feet dynamically. So, we're going to train -- at least 80 percent of what we do will be done on our feet."

It follows in stride with Clark's background as a competitive lifter in college, studying at Ottawa University in Kansas. As he started coaching – first at the University of Wyoming – he began implementing Olympic lifting techniques. They have become fundamental to his teaching style and philosophy.

"We use the Olympic lifts to become more powerful and explosive," said Clark, who was inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003. "We'll bench press but I don't know if we'll do less or more…We will do a lot of pressing on our feet – overhead press, we'll do some kneeling, one arm dumbbell press."

The theory is that the Olympic bar lifts – the "clean and jerk" and the "snatch" – generate more power than simple squats. In other words, it's not so much about the number of pounds being pressed as much as how that exertion is being used.

Still, when taking over a team of professional football players, Clark knows it's important to channel their competitive drives into their workouts. With newer technology, he can measure statistics that offer better insight into how players size each other up.

"They will compete in everything," Clark said. "So we'll measure not weight on the bar, but we'll also measure bar speed – how fast you are moving the bar. You can really get into that. How far can you throw a med ball? How high can you jump? All these different measures we'll do will help them train more intently on competing which is their sweet spot."

Clark began in the film room as a graduate assistant football coach at the University of Kansas. In the middle of splicing reels, head coach Don Fambrough asked if Clark wanted to help out a new hire in the weight room.

"'Sure, I'll do that.'" Clark told him. "Last time I was ever in a film room and I've been in the weight room ever since."

He spent 14 years with Texas A&M before moving up to the NFL with Seattle, Kansas City and, most recently, Chicago. It makes Clark, someone who has always been interested in exercise physiology and training others, stay up to date with the latest workout trends.

But, as a veteran in the industry, Clark doesn't get caught up in every fad.

"If you take a training manual from Jesse Owens in the [19]30s and you look at what Usain Bolt, Andre Cason, the latest, greatest, fastest men in the world are doing, you look at the activities. They are similar. They are very similar," Clark said. "So, you want to run fast, be powerful and explosive."

Now, as a new coach in a new environment, Clark knows his biggest challenge will be changing mindsets before changing routines. The task is getting them to "buy in."

"I give them not a lot of different messages but one of the main things I'll tell them is, 'You're in this room. You're a world-class athlete and you need to train like one," Clark said. "You need to train like one here. You need to eat like one. You need to sleep like one. You need to do everything in your life like you're a world-class athlete because it's going to be very, very competitive.' And their time playing this game is very short, to make the most of it. Don't leave anything to chance."

As for his verbal style, Clark always strives towards positive reinforcement. He's not a "yeller" until he needs to be.

"I try to sing their praises from the rooftops as loud as I can," Clark said. "But if I'm going to criticize, I'll always try to do it in a whisper."




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