Strength and Conditioning with Coach Eric Klein

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Strength and Conditioning with Coach Eric Klein

This week I had the honor of talking with the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of Minnesota Gophers Football Team, Coach Eric Klein. It was refreshing to talk to a guy like him that’s hungry for knowledge. This guy dived in a lake of knowledge before he even went to Graduate School.

He talked about reading articles from Louie Simmons, Supertraining by Mel Siff, and the Russian Periodicals translated by Bud Charniga before he even started working on his Graduate Degree. That’s exactly what I recommend. If you think that some exercise science program or some Master’s program is going to prepare you to be a strength coach, you are sadly mistaken. Any school simply gives you the base knowledge and scientific principles that help you make solid decisions within your profession.

All of you that are aspiring to be a coach should never rely on a degree or a certification to make you a great coach. Becoming a great coach will require the following:

• Continued education through books, podcasts, and articles
• Meeting people that are having success with their own athletes. This is an area of education that has helped me the most.
• Time under the bar training yourself
• Time in the game of coaching and making observations of the things that work and don’t work
• Of course education plays a big role as well

Coach Klein made a couple of great points as to the applicability of Olympic weightlifting on the sport of football that all of you should take note of:

1. Absorbing force- pretty much in all sports there will be times where the athlete will be absorbing the force of coming into contact with other athletes not to mention from the foot strike during sprinting or the landing during a jump. The Olympic lifts require massive amounts of force absorption during the catch phase.

Offensive linemen and linebackers are constantly absorbing forces of their opponents. There is no better way to train that element than catching a massive clean. Offensive linemen especially are on their heels absorbing the rush when they are a passing team. I would say that a version of the clean is necessary.


2. Overall Mobility- everyone talks about strength and speed when it comes to football, but it’s mobility and movement that makes an athlete exceptional. If an athlete can move, they can play sports. Olympic lifting requires that an athlete reach maximal mobility in the hips, ankles, and thoracic spine. You will never find a great weightlifter that isn’t mobile.

It was good to hear him take all the disciplines (weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, etc), and incorporate them where appropriate. It drives me crazy to hear coaches jump on one camp and declare that disciplines superiority. There is a time and place for all disciplines. Coach Klein even addresses relative strength as the starting point, and he’s exactly right. Before you declare that Olympic weightlifting is superior for coaching athletes, you might want to start with making sure that they can move their own bodies through space.

Powerlifting is great for improving absolute strength. The powerlifting movements are great for developing a base for all other strength development. Powerlifting is also great for adding the muscle mass required for injury prevention especially in a contact sport.


Strongman movements are a great way to prepare athletes for all sports. I use strongman movements to properly develop the core. We use various carries, pushes and pulls of odd objects, farmers walk, and yoke carries. We also use axle bars, dumbbells, and kettlebells for OH carries, and I can tell you that we have noticed a much greater degree of overhead stability in all of our athletes due to these movements.

Anyways these are just a few of the nuggets that I took away from this amazing strength and conditioning coach. Check out Coach Eric Klein on today’s episode of The Barbell Life Podcast right here:

⇒ Coach Eric Klein on The Barbell Life

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