Keeping A Simple Prescription For Small College Strength

I would like to thank the athletic staff at Beloit College for allowing me to serve as the head strength coach for the past 5 years.  While there, I worked with several sports, including football, soccer, volleyball, women’s basketball, softball, and lacrosse.  I was able to expand my knowledge in several areas during my experience there.  I would also like to thank head athletic trainer at Beloit College, Andy Wier, for assisting me with much of what this article contains.  He and I served several small teams while at Beloit and some of our main targets were building strength and explosiveness, while capitalizing on injury prevention and prehab exercises. 

I would also like to thank Coaches Adam and Heather Lane at Oak Strength in Roscoe, Illinois, for recently hiring me as their director of sports performance.  I am looking forward to learning more about some of their emphases, including mobility and power athlete strength development.  I am also looking forward to contributing my current knowledge to grow the Sports Performance component at Oak Strength. 

 Beloit College Core Emphases
  1. Strength Development
  2. Explosive Development
  3. Injury Prevention

Andy Wier and I were able to develop a common exercise matrix and menu to develop all of our programs at Beloit College.  We varied our program prescription based on sport specificity.  We thought that all sports could benefit from common lifts like the squat, deadlift, hang clean, and push press.  We made sure that we educated our athletes on the technical aspects and the athletic benefits of these lifts.  We picked variations of lifts that we knew would promote the continued and progressive adaptation of muscle fibers. 

An overview of our core lifts would reveal a common thread during our four-day workweeks with football.  We chose two days to do what we called strength lifts.  These included slower lifts like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.  We would substitute or add lifts like good mornings, Romanian deadlifts, inverted pull-ups, and unilateral squats on those days.  In our later phases, we would add banded resistance to our squats and our bench press. 

For the other two days we would perform lifts that we considered explosive lifts.  Work on those days included hang clean, push jerk, and jammer press.  We could substitute or add exercises like box jumps and drops, jammer rotation, and any sport-specific athletic movements. 

For lifts outside of our core lifts, we focused in on four different areas that we thought were vital to strengthening our athletes.  The four areas were unilateral leg development, weighted walks, med ball movements, and neck/shoulder girdle development.  We knew that these lifts would properly develop our athletes in key areas of injury prevention.  We picked four exercises within these four areas that we worked on every week.  Our target was to get technically great with this set of 16 lifts. 

Our unilateral development exercises included explosive step ups, loaded lunges, clockwork lunges, and lunge takeoffs.  Our weighted walks included suitcase walk, waiter’s walk, rack walk, and farmer’s walk.  Our med ball exercises were a series of slam ball exercises.  We worked the sledgehammer, angle slams, rotational wall slams, and explosive toss.  Our neck and shoulder girdle development exercises included wrestler’s neck bridge, front neck bridge, partner rotational resistance, and shrugs.

Keep It Simple

The best thing that we did with strength and conditioning at Beloit College was keep the workout programming simple.  Because of all of the information out there, we wanted our lifters to get really good at a couple concepts.  Overthinking strength will get you in trouble a lot of times.  Some coaches want to do what is “sexy” at the moment.  My advice would be to stick to the fundamentals, because most of us do not have time with our athletes to go beyond that. 

If you have any questions or would like to observe what we did at Beloit College or what we currently do at Oak Strength, feel free to contact me at


This article was edited for length.

Mike Wilson is the director of sports performance for youth programs at Oak Strength. His previous position was at Beloit College as a football coach for eight years and head strength coach for all sports for five years. He has also worked with football and strength and conditioning at North Central College and the University of Chicago. 

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