The Evolution of Strength and Conditioning


Recently, we found a letter (click the photos to enlarge) that John McKay sent to the entire team in July of 1964 detailing the players summer workout schedule.

The program consists of daily calisthenics, mostly "trotting" and push-ups/sit-ups, and zero weight training.  The whole routine likely added up to 30 minutes of exercise per day. 

mckay letter 1.jpgThe current USC strength and conditioning team led by Aaron Ausmus creates a plan that is quite a bit more comprehensive than the 60s.  In the summer leading into camp, the players work out 90 minutes per day, four to five days per week.

In the McKay era, they wanted to make sure the players were fit.  Now, they are tasked with making the team faster, stronger and more athletic.

While Ausmus and company are with the team year round, they send out an introductory packet to the signees who cannot lift with USC's staff until camp starts.  As opposed to a two-page letter, the recruiting class receives a full manual with a DVD that includes explanations on how to do every single exercise and drill.  Even more, each student-athlete receives a February to August calendar with day-by-day instructions.

Upon arrival, each player undergoes a battery of tests for strength, speed, power, size and measurements, so they can document annual progress.  While they had no plan to build muscle in the old days, a skill position player could gain upwards of 10 to 15 pounds of muscle in their first year.

In 1964, they only had two weeks to whip the team into fighting shape before the opener.  Technically, camp is about a month long now, but the strength and conditioning staff never really stops working to build championship athletes.

Click the photos to enlarge!  Here is the workout plan...

mckay letter 2.jpg


When John Robinson took over in 1976, he was determined to ramp up the entire program. When he told the athletic trainers he wanted a weight program the job fell to me to engineer. With one Universal machine and three Olympic bars we put together a program that ran through the summer and the team returned in the best shape in recent history. As a result of the program, soft tissue injuries fell 70% during fall practice. We went 11-1 and the era of weight training and off season conditioning had begun.

It is pretty strange that after 50 years, some coaches still use similar work out plans.

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