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Tough As Steel

Pittsburgh's strength and conditioning coach gets the team ready for Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa Bay

MF recently caught up with Garrett Giemont, the strength and conditioning coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, to find out what he's done to help prepare his team for the Super Bowl. Read on to find out how the Black & Gold plan on bringing back another championship to the Steel City.

Relative to the beginning of the season, how healthy are the Pittsburgh Steelers right now?
We've been grinding away for many, many, many months. Players are what they are right now. All in all, we've been doing pretty well.

How do you prepare for the inevitable wear and tear on the players?
Certain times during the season, certain guys are going to get certain injuries along the way that need to be handled in the athletic training room in order to recover and rehabilitate — then we rejuvenate them in the weight room.

One of the biggest concerns has to be Hines Ward. What kind of update can you give us on how he's doing, and what you've done to get him ready for Sunday?
Hines is doing really well. His upper body is doing great — that's what I've been working on. The athletic trainers have been working on the lower aspect of his body. That's how this system works. When someone has an injury, the injured player goes into the athletic training room. Once he's ready to go, I get him back.

Has there been any kind of organized lifting during the past two weeks?
Absolutely. We've basically tried to maintain our normal pattern, both last week and this week. Monday we start off by warming up the lower body. We do step-ups, Power-Plate squats, holds, and some explosions. Then bar squats or Smith squats, followed by some functional hamstring work. We go into some functional lateral leg stuff, kettlebells, and side lunges. And we do some around-the-world knee extensions or modified step-ups. We get into some bus drivers for shoulders, followed by shoulder presses. We always finish up that day with Swiss ball work. We'll incorporate plates or elastic to get some resistance.

Tuesday's off, and then Wednesday we come in and do chest, neck, and back. Our multi-joint movement is either a hang-clean or a power pull, depending on what week it is. We'll do Power-Plate pinch punch, or a Power-Plate pause pushup, and we'll start off with a rotator cuff exercise.

Thursday we work on unique functional stuff — Power Plates, balance work, and TRX work. We finish the week on Friday and Saturday. We try to maintain our normal schedule, and get done what we need to get done leading up to this game.

Do you have the guys benching?
This week, we're using dumbbells. Last week we bar-benched. It rotates through. The program always changes as far as the various apparatuses that we use. You could classify us as a bar-based, functional-training team. We're not a high-intensity machine group. We use Airex pads, Swiss balls, TRX's, and Power Plates. We use a variety of the functional tools out there today and organize it within the skeleton. The skeleton remains the same during the year: Legs and shoulders on Monday. Chest and Back on Wednesday. Functional work on Thursday, as well as bi's and tri's. Then Friday/Saturday off in the weight room, so the players can recover and rehydrate, and get ready to play the game. Players who don't have as many plays are on a four-day split and they have a little bit of a different program.

You described the program as a functional training bar-based system. What advantages does that have over other ways of organizing the program?
Basically, you get load with balance. And when you play football, that's what you get. You're imposing your will on another person. You have the ability to do it with athletic balance.

There's always a discussion about peaking — have you been trying to get the team to peak every Sunday, or have you tried to save something for the end of January, early February?
You have to take it individually on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis. No two games are the same. Some days, the offense has 78 plays and the defense has 49 or 50 plays. Some Sundays it's vice versa. The reality is that you planned every day to make sure that you maxed that day so that you just stack great days on top of one another, and you always have this game in mind.

You've been involved in strength and conditioning in the NFL for years, working with the Rams in the '80s and so forth. How has the league changed in terms of strength and conditioning?
It's changed a lot and it continues to change a lot. As information continues to be processed, [fitness] manufacturers can continue to tweak things and improve things, and that certainly has occurred. When you look at the game today, compared to the game of yesterday, you have bigger athletes who are stronger and play at a higher rate of speed —that's what you're seeing in the NFL as we speak. It's a fun place to be right now.

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