At the heart of the Mustang Athletics strength and conditioning program is a culture of learning and mentoring that goes well beyond simply lifting weights. When student-athletes come to Cal Poly, each one is given an individual workout plan tailored to his or her specific sport that aims to dramatically increase their athletic performance, fitness potential, and knowledge of the art of strength and conditioning.
Strength and conditioning coach Chris Holder, who holds a master’s degree in kinesiology and a doctorate in Chinese medical Qi Gong therapy, has worked at Cal Poly and San Jose State. “Dr. Holder is an educator above all,” says Cal Poly Athletic Director Don Oberhelman. “He and his staff are teachers, and they honor the teacher-scholar model that we hold dear at Cal Poly.”
Holder’s program includes Olympic-style weightlifting and an intensive speed program with kettle bell exercises at its core. “Combining two unique workouts allows us to play into the explosive power and speed that we are looking for in our athletes,” Holder explains. “It can mean a world of difference when faced with a size disadvantage.”
Here are examples of what that means for individual student-athletes.
Box Jump – This plyometric exercise is essential in developing power, speed and explosiveness in muscles through exertion of maximum force in short intervals of time. This is especially important for track and field athletes focusing on intense bursts of speed. Plyometrics, also known as “jump training” or “plyos,” significantly improves sprinters’ and high jumpers’ performance on the track.
Crooked Arm Bar – This exercise is part of a standard Cal Poly Athletics warm-up routine. It is meant to open up the athlete’s chest and back muscles as well as create mobility in the shoulder, allowing for a more complete workout and helping to prevent injury.
Power Clean – The power clean helps improve explosiveness in the lower body, increasing overall speed, vertical reach and acceleration. “When I met Dr. Holder in the spring of my freshman year I was 200 pounds,” Betkowski says. “With his teaching and guidance, I currently weigh 242 with less than 10 percent body fat, and I am much faster.”
Turkish Get-Up – This exercise requires strength from all muscles to work in unison in order to complete the task. “Since I came to Cal Poly, my vertical has gone up, my speed and endurance during plays have improved, and the time my body takes to recover from work has dropped,” Schleis says.
Kettlebell Loaded Press – This exercise is designed to improve shoulder strength as well as back endurance and is beneficial for a variety of sports. “Under Dr. Holder, I have become a more complete athlete,” Lawrence says. “Most importantly, my knowledge of the field of strength and conditioning has vastly improved.”
Romanian Deadlift – This workout specifically targets the hip extensor muscle group — the hamstring muscles and gluteus maximus — which creates explosive power in sprint races such as the 100 meter and 200 meter dash. “I’ve improved in the weight room and in my athleticism every day,” Finney says. “In fact, many of my track teammates have recorded personal best records under the program.”