Normally at this time of year, Mark Lovat’s office is a noisy place. Normally in the spring of the year, Lovat’s office is a great place to go if you want a pounding headache, which is what the sound of 300-pound men throwing 20-pound balls against a wall, in unison, will produce.
This is not, however, a normal spring. The strength and conditioning program Lovat would be coaching Packers players through has been suspended by a leaguewide lockout. Lovat’s office inside the Packers’ weight room at Lambeau Field is a place of intense quiet.
“If this had to happen, it’s pretty good for it to happen to us this year because we played so long. We were probably going to push our start date back,” Lovat said, searching for the positive. “It’s given us a chance to evaluate our program and tweak it. At a certain point, enough is enough. We’re ready.”
Lovat is the Packers’ strength and conditioning coordinator. He’s one of the guys, along with the Packers’ medical and training staff, that is responsible for the condition of the players’ bodies. Last year, suffice to say, was a tough year for those guys. Imagine their pride that in a season of so many injuries, the players they train were able to win the league’s championship.
“Getting these guys in week eight, week nine to give what they give; people don’t understand what it is … to sustain when it’s hard, when it’s difficult, when you don’t want to. That’s what I was most proud of last year. Our guys did sustain,” Lovat said.
It’s one of his buzz words: Sustain. It appears on a glass sign, superimposed over an image of the Lombardi Trophy, on a wall in the Packers weight room.
Psychology is one-fourth of the focus of Lovat’s strength and conditioning program. He implores his subjects to buy into the regimen. As Lovat walked about his room, gesturing to its free weights and training devices, he wore a shirt that proclaimed on its back: “Train like you play.”
“We focus on psychology or mindset, and we emphasize movement, recovery and nutrition,” Lovat said of his program. “We’re ground-based movement patterns. We’re going to train on our feet through movement. We want to create a stable core and train from the inside out.”
A trained eye will detect that an area in the middle of one of the four walls in Lovat’s weight room is made of cinder block. The trained eye knew immediately what that meant.
You throw balls, don’t you?
Yeah, Lovat is a throw-balls guy. Their legion is growing around the league. We’re talking about big balls, ranging in weight from 6-20 pounds. Big men throw these balls against Lovat’s cinder-block wall. The cinder blocks keep the whole wall from falling down.
“It’s linking your lower body to your upper body in movement. The balls work your whole body in the way it’s supposed to move; real ballistic, violent movement, just like you do in sports,” Lovat said.
Oh, the pounding; it’ll give you a headache, but not this spring because the pounding has been replaced by silence.
NFL weight room regimens would seem to fall into two categories.
“There’s H-I-T; high intensity training, machine training. Then there’s free-weight. Those would be the two major classifications. Inside free-weight you have your power lifters,” Lovat said.
Lovat is a free-weights guy. He’s a member of the legion of strength and conditioning coordinators that believe in the natural motion required to move free weights.
“Things go full cycle. The strongman stuff has come full cycle. It gets refined. Staying current, staying on top of your field is where it’s at. Hone in on the guys that are the leaders in your field,” Lovat added.
He is assisted by Thadeus Jackson and Zac Woodfin, and Lovat was insistent about praising the work Jackson and Woodfin do and achieving recognition for them.
“We do what we think is best for performance and injury reduction and let it rip,” Lovat said.
Nutrition is a big part of performance.
“The focus of everybody’s nutrition should be lean, clean proteins, and fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and eat them as close to their natural source as possible. When you eat those foods in their natural sources, you can eat a lot of them, and drink water,” Lovat said.
Hopefully, the noise will soon return to Lovat’s office.