When Boyd Epley became the country’s first paid strength and conditioning coach at Nebraska in 1969, most football coaches told their players not to lift weights.
Much has changed since then.
Epley, the National Strength and Conditioning Association founder, will be in town today and Saturday for the organization’s coaches conference at the Nashville Convention Center. Former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer will be the keynote speaker at 4 p.m. today.
The conference returns to Nashville for the first time since 2009.
“There was this myth that it would hurt performance, and people would get slower and become muscle-bound,” Epley said.
“When Nebraska started lifting weights in 1969, they had just lost to Oklahoma 47-0 (at home) in the last game of the 1968 season on national television.”
Nebraska wanted to do something to turn things around so assistant coach Tom Osborne asked Epley, a pole vaulter who spent a lot of time in the weight room, if he would help get the players stronger.
“They were just getting beat up, so we put in a strength program, and the next year, 1969, Nebraska beat Oklahoma 44-14 on their home field,” Epley said.
“So then people started noticing. ‘What the heck did Nebraska do?’ “
His training program helped the Cornhuskers produce five national championships and 356 wins in 35 seasons. Nebraska became known as a powerhouse that routinely turned out mammoth offensive linemen.
Injury prevention has been emphasized a lot in strength and conditioning during the past year.
“It centers around leg muscles and the ACL,” said Greg Nockleby, NSCA director of communications. “(Preventing those type of injuries) is very popular. Just making sure proper warmup and proper strength training techniques are utilized in order to make sure athletes perform a lot better on the field.
“Force absorption is another trend. The more force an athlete can absorb, the more force the athlete can produce.”