Weight lifting: a strength for HHS

A key step toward athletic success this next school year for Hillsboro High School athletes is taking place this summer-and every summer, for that matter.

As the sun begins to rise on many summer mornings, you’ll find a troop of Trojans already hard at work-or rather, working out hard-in the school’s weight room.

It’s no coincidence that HHS consistently produces teams and athletes who are competitive at the state level.

“We’d like our athletes to come in and lift on as regular a basis as possible,” said Darrel Knoll, who oversees the summer program. “We try to coach them on how to lift, and encourage them to follow the program that we have set up.”

Knoll, who coaches middle school football and high school basketball, arrives at the weight room each Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 5:30 a.m.

The weight room is open those four days from 6 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. at no cost to the student-athletes who choose to use it. Athletes can work out there throughout the summer.

“Four days a week is enough lifting for the program that we’re on,” Knoll said. “This is a general strength program. If you over-lift, your body gets tired.”

Knoll said most of the athletes who take advantage of the facility during the summer are high school athletes, but some alumni also use it along with a few middle school athletes.

Knoll has been at Hillsboro for about 15 years, and has seen the benefits of the program.

“When I first came here, I was a little surprised the kids weren’t lifting during the summer,” he said. “That’s why I started opening (the weight room) in the summer time.

“I just felt in order for us to compete at the state level in basketball, we needed to be stronger,” he said. “I felt like we were getting moved around a little the first couple years I was here.

“In basketball, you have to be able to body up against people and it’s a pretty physical game these days,” he added. “You have to be able to muscle other people, and we want to make sure we have enough strength to be able to do that.”

Although Knoll coaches basketball, the benefits of the summer weight lifting program aren’t limited to that sport.

“I think every sport can benefit from gaining overall strength,” Knoll said. “Athletes who lift just have more strength. This program improves your overall strength and balance and those kinds of things.

“That’s a big benefit when competing at a higher level.”

While Knoll admitted he’s not a strength coach, he does have considerable knowledge about the benefits of an overall strength-conditioning program.

“I’ve done a lot of reading about lifting,” Knoll said. “And I’m pretty familiar with lifting techniques.”

Knoll also relies on athletic director Max Heinrichs to tailor the program to the needs of the athletes.

“When Max came a number of years ago, he kind of took over as strength and weightlifting coach,” Knoll said. “We’re basically using the program he instituted at that time.

“I’m sure Max has modeled the program, to some extent, after someone else’s program, but also has his own flavor on it too,” Knoll said. “Most of the stuff we do is similar to college programs and places like that, that have researched it and are really up on what works and what doesn’t.”

Knoll said the program is based on lifting four days a week, and targeting specific areas of the body on different days.

“We want the kids to do upper body lifts two days a week, and lower body lifts two days a week,” Knoll said. “Some have deviated from that, but we try to have them follow our program as closely as possible.”

Knoll said it’s important to maintain balance between strength and agility.

“You have to have agility,” he said. “Just strength isn’t enough. You have to be able to change that strength into motion.”

While the largest majority of the 45 or so athletes that consistently use the facilities each morning are males, many female athletes also take advantage of the opportunity.

“The girls sometimes do more repetitions and lighter weights,” Knoll said. “It just depends on what the particular athlete is trying to accomplish.

“A lot of the girls are more concerned with toning muscles rather than building muscles.”

Knoll said his job is to see that the athletes use the proper techniques.

“Safety and lifting correctly are the most important things we stress around here,” he said. “The kids also have to understand that you need to let your muscles rest, that you can’t lift every day and expect your muscles to respond the correct way.”

Knoll said he doesn’t try to target specific muscles for specific sports.

“There are some athletes that have done certain lifts for certain sports, but generally this is an overall strength program,” he said. “But we can tailor our program to specific areas of muscles if we need to.”

While the program is strictly voluntary, Knoll said some facets of the program have structured rules.

“We don’t allow any horsing around,” he said. “And the lifters are required to have spotters.”

Knoll also said if the athletes are going to lift, he prefers they do it consistently so the program will do them the most good.

Knoll also noted the athletes lifting doesn’t end when summer vacation ends.

“Most of the students try to maintain as much lifting during the school year as possible,” Knoll said. “We do try to lighten it up during school, when it becomes more of a maintenance program.”

Knoll said he can’t emphasize enough the importance of lifting if student athletes want to maintain an edge.

“If you’re really good, you might be able to compete against most of the other athletes, but ultimately you’re going to reach a level that you’re going to come up against someone who’s a little stronger and a little faster.

“This is especially true when you get to the higher levels and state tournaments,” he said. “You have to do whatever you can to keep up with the other athletes.

“You need to lift to get strong, but you also need to do the speed work and different kinds of agility work to transfer that strength into speed.

“I think it’s really important to lift,” Knoll said. “Sports takes strength.”

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