A look inside how Chris Doyle organizes Iowa's offseason training program
While you’re still putting together summer vacation plans … the college football season is coming fast.
At Iowa, returning players reported Monday for workouts at the Stew and Lenore Hansen Football Performance Center. In a few days, incoming freshmen will report and begin summer classes.
“We’re really entering the final seven-week phase of our offseason,” Iowa director of football and 20th-year strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle said Wednesday night during an appearance on the Register’s weekly “Hawk Central” radio show on KxNO (1460 AM) in Des Moines.
This, on the Hawkeye football calendar, is Phase Three of Doyle’s training program. He admitted Wednesday he (and others in the industry) in the past tried to “peak” everything at once — strength, speed and conditioning.
That was like trying to chase multiple rabbits at once, he said: ineffective.
Today, Iowa breaks its offseason regimen into three distinct segments.
The winter phase, which starts in January: strength training (building lean body mass and functional-movement corrections).
The spring phase, which is well-covered and runs from mid-March to late-April: speed and power training. (“The harder you push against the ground, the higher you jump and the faster you run,” Doyle said.)
The summer phase: conditioning. “Moving weights fast,” as Doyle put it.
This is the calculated period when players take the strength and speed they’ve accrued and built up durability to sustain that throughout the course of a 60-minute game on Saturdays in the fall.
That’s what is happening now, and it might be the least-publicized portion of college football’s offseason grind — while the rest of us outsiders focus on preseason predictions and what's going on the grill.
"As we get into July, the conditioning will really ramp up, the position-specific conditioning," Doyle said. "And, really, the final touches of football preparation are put together here. It’s certainly an exciting time because you can smell it. It’s right around the corner."
In truth, it’s even more intense than it sounds.
Especially for the newcomers.
As mentioned, rookies report Monday — just after Saturday’s Iowa Ladies Football Academy (which, this year, will have topped the $2 million mark in funds raised for the next-door UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital).
Wednesday, Doyle spoke at length about the challenges freshmen typically face after officially putting on the Hawkeye shorts and workout gear for the first time.
For the most part, he correctly pointed out, every incoming recruit was “the best kid on the field on Friday nights.”
Complexity is one of the biggest challenges they’ll face. In high school, these players typically deal with much simpler football schemes — as you’d expect. They also used to be able to maybe get away with going 80 percent during high school practices (or even games) and still dominate the field.
“You can’t get away with that here. There are 100 other guys that are as talented as you are,” Doyle said. “So the intensity ramps up; the volume ramps up, the anxiety. Everything that is happening is happening faster and more intense. So not only does it require great focus and concentration when you’re training, but the lifestyle and recovery commitment is greater.
“In high school, there probably wasn’t a lot of time spent on recovery — they didn’t need to; there wasn’t a lot to recover from.”
(Ready to work out yet?)
After this conditioning phase, it’s fall camp. That starts at the end of July — next month. That’s when pads will be popping, coaches can actually coach, and when things get ramped up in time for the Sept. 1 season opener.
As Doyle said, we're flying fast toward football season.