Players Individually Work to Get Stronger and Collectively Get Results*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Evaluating and analyzing an athlete's physique is just one component that assistant head coach/strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson deals with on a daily basis. The longest tenured strength and conditioning coach in the league has dedicated 26 years to enhancing a player's individual performance with a greater purpose of collectively benefiting the team. His duties range from designing workout regiments for each player to selecting the food that is served over training camp and pre-game meals.
Watterson recalled the first pre-game meal he consumed: "The meal in the morning included scrambled whole eggs, bacon, sausage, steak, cereal with whole milk, desserts like chocolate cake and ice cream. And this was before a game." He added, "The concept back then was just to get as many calories as possible for the athlete. Then the second concept was building a diet for the athlete to give them as much food as they'd like - not really trying to educate the athlete or what is most beneficial to optimize the performance."
Watterson compared his process and relationship with the athletes to a math equation, because there are so many dynamics involved. A timeline of goals is created, which Watterson closely examines, analyzes and then systematically designs based upon the position.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
"When I first got here we would sit down and do an evaluation. When I would do that, I would make the athletes come in wearing nothing but their grey underwear. After we talked for a few minutes I made them stand up, look in the mirror and then they had to tell me what they needed to work on because the mirror didn't lie," he said.
If an athlete can bench 600 lbs, but is unable to squat 300 lbs, then there is a problem, Watterson said. He utilizes the opportunity during his individual conferences with players to identify their weakest link. An athlete's flexibility, agility, speed, metabolic endurance, cardiovascular endurance, strength throughout the body (upper and lower), and explosiveness are pieces that make up the puzzle.
Last year Watterson implemented what he called an "innovative, new but old" lifting regiment to the Titans' workout program. He said, "It truly is how the old strong men lifted. It requires balance in your core strength. It requires strength and power. There are multiple activities and complex patterns, which to me are phenomenal in making the transition with our traditional platform work (squats, bench press, etc.), which is still required."
The program uses kettle bells, weighted mechanisms similarly resembling teakettles, which are gripped by the individual and can reach up to a hefty 74 pounds.
Watterson credited tight end Craig Stevens as a great example of someone who has gained greater strength since implementing the new routine. "The good thing about kettle bells is that you can add it to your normal weightlifting. It's cool and it changes everything up. It's just good to change it up and shock your body," Stevens said.
Another player that has progressed in his strength is running back LenDale White. Watterson commented that at the conclusion of last year's season, White expressed concerns to head coach Jeff Fisher that he wanted to get his body weight under control. White has lost an impressive 30 pounds since that conversation.
The offseason is a crucial time period for players in Watterson's program. He mentioned, "The offseason is about rest and recovery and establishing your base fitness components. Maintaining your strength, maintaining cardiovascular endurance, maintaining integrity to your muscular/skeletal structure by maintaining your agility and range of motion – all in the offseason. As you get closer to the season, you need to get more explosive with your routines and working on power."
That is exactly what LenDale White accomplished. "Unlike past years where we rarely saw him in the offseason, he picked up his attendance, and almost exclusively worked with kettle bells," said Watterson. "We made him work out for an hour straight doing these multi complex routines and activities to burn calories and also train the body in the core – work unilaterally and maintain his strength while lowering his body weight and increasing flexibility. He's done well in his performance."
"Traditional weights really isn't my whole thing," said White. "Watterson introduced me to the kettle bell program, which is a continuous and strenuous workout of non-stop moving. I'll do power cleaning, lunges, squats, and it works every muscle in your body. It's definitely better for me because it gives me a workout and conditioning because it's helping my cardio at the same time."
Watterson also coordinates alternative training classes for the players such as yoga and martial arts. The objective remains the same – to establish and improve the player's sense of balance and range of motion. If each player focuses on accomplishing their individual goal, which includes strategic regiments designed for his position, it will hopefully yield to greater performance on the field.