Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gun Club - Off Season Work Outs

The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas
Hogs Hit The Weight Room To Get Bigger, Faster

By Alex Abrams
The Morning News
FAYETTEVILLE -- Several Arkansas football players wanted to do something to stay motivated during what was sure to be another grueling offseason workout program.

So one of the players stood on a box he had dragged across Arkansas’ weight room and made changes to the team’s 2008 schedule, which had been on display for everyone to see.

He removed the names of all five schools that lost to the Razorbacks last season, but he didn’t mess with the seven teams that beat them. He left those names on the wall as motivation.

“So that’s what we looked at for two weeks,” Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Jason Veltkamp said late last week.

Fueled by the disappointment of a 5-7 season, Arkansas’ players have spent the past three months trying to meet coach Bobby Petrino’s vision for a team filled with bigger, stronger and faster playmakers.

A year ago, the Razorbacks had a difficult time keeping up with the fast pace that Veltkamp demanded during offseason workouts. And players weren’t quite sure what to make of his intense, military-like approach to getting into shape.

But Veltkamp said there has been a noticeable change in the weight room this winter, helping some players bulk up considerably since Arkansas’ offseason workout program began in late November.

Arkansas defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard has put on around 16 pounds. Defensive end Damario Ambrose is up 20 pounds. And Veltkamp said the Razorbacks’ once-undersized defensive linemen are on average 15 pounds bigger than they were only a few months ago.

“We’re able to progress a lot farther than we were last year,” said Veltkamp, who’s in his second year overseeing Arkansas’ strength and conditioning program. “Last year our kids were in survival mode. They were just trying to get through what we were throwing at them.

“And now they’re driving through what we’re giving them and they’re making gains from it. And they’re asking for more.”

Along with making players train four days a week, Veltkamp started a Saturday morning workout for those individuals who wanted to do some extra lifting for their arms. Those workouts have a special nickname — “Gun Club.”

Arkansas’ linebackers have become regulars at Gun Club, and as a result, they’ll look noticeably larger when the Hogs open spring practice next month.

Veltkamp said sophomore Jerry Franklin has gained 10-12 pounds. Redshirt freshman Tenarius Wright is up 13 pounds, and junior Freddy Burton had added 15 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame.

“We’re going to look like SEC linebackers this year,” Veltkamp said in his usual gruff voice.

Veltkamp is a fan of using unconventional training methods to help players bulk up and at the same time build team chemistry. So he decided to bring back his grueling boot camp drills known as Full Metal Fridays.

Instead of making players carry 100-pound rocks and scale a jagged stone wall like a year ago, Veltkamp came up with a single-elimination tournament to see which player could pull a 550-pound sled the fastest.

But there was a catch: There was only a losers’ bracket. The winners were eliminated from the tournament, and the losers advanced to the next round and had to pull the heavy sleds again.

“We still did the Full Metal Fridays. This year they were much more competitive in nature,” Veltkamp said. “Last year ‘One For All’ was the theme a lot. This year it was ‘Compete.’”

The focus of Arkansas’ offseason workout program has been for players to get bigger and faster. And while the defensive linemen have put on weight since November, Veltkamp said it hasn’t affected their speed.

In fact, they’ve gotten a bit faster, too.

“That’s key because we don’t want to be big and slugs,” Veltkamp said. “We want to be big and be flying around the football.”

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