By TOM MULHERN
It might be the unofficial start to summer -- as the school year comes to a close -- but that hardly means a vacation for the University of Wisconsin football players.
They will be getting back to work on Monday with the start of the seven-week summer conditioning program, which features some new twists this year.
First-year strength and conditioning coach Evan Simon provided a glimpse into the summer program during an interview last week.
One of the biggest changes is the players will do conditioning on all five workout days, Monday through Friday. While that's more days than they've done it in the past, the total amount of conditioning should not change -- it just will be spread out over more days.
"It's more than they've done in the past," Simon said. "Other places I've been, they've done three conditioning days.
"To me, what I've noticed. every athlete is different, every team is different. What I've come to, there's a certain amount of yardage I'd like them to get in over the course of a week, that I feels prepares them for camp."
Simon spent the previous four years as the strength and conditioning coach for football at Utah State under current UW coach Gary Andersen.
"What we're trying to do is develop the guys in a good way," Simon said of spending more days on conditioning. "Once again, that's one of those where 'coach A' is allowing me to take a chance.
"I wouldn't say our run volume, because we're doing five days, is that much greater than some of the other teams you look at, since we're spreading it out."
Another change is the summer program will be seven weeks, instead of the eight allowed by NCAA rules. Andersen decided it was more important to give his players an extra week of "discretionary" time.
Simon said they did they same thing at Utah State, with good results.
"We would have had to bring the guys back (last) week, to get that extra week," he said. "We wanted to give them three weeks away from campus, if they had the opportunity to have that. In the long run, it works out well. We challenge them, the way the body works, if this is their base line, we're looking to improve that base line.
"To improve that base line, there has to be a stress that brings them down. You want them to compensate (with rest) and bring it back up.
"All of the things we ask of the guys, I think seven weeks is the right amount of time. I think the guys know -- and we do a good job of explaining to them -- you're having one less week together than most universities, so the way you work at home is going to be pivotal."
Simon laid out what a typical week will be like for the players during the seven weeks of conditioning:
Monday -- This is a power day, focusing on the lower body, with a variety of exercises -- both conventional and unconventional. That means work in the weight room, as well as lifting assorted objects, like flipping tires. The day will also include a "tempo" run, which means 75 to 80 percent of capacity.
Tuesday -- A big strength day, focusing on the upper body. Also, speed improvement, "working on the guys' fast-twitch muscle ability, to be able to activate, work on running technique," Simon said.
Wednesday -- This day is devoted to conditioning and the only one of the five in which the players don't lift. A big focus is put on agility.
"To me, the definition of agility is the ability to accelerate, decelerate, then re-accelerate with great body control and minimal lag time," Simon said. "So, we're going to do some specific drills for the guys to be able to work on their agility component."
Thursday -- This is another heavy strength day, focusing on muscle balance and the lower body. It's also another tempo running day, with an emphasis on the ability to recover between plays.
Friday -- This is the hardest of the five days, with a focus on speed, upper-body power and metabolic conditioning.
"The metabolic conditioning day is about your ability to give that great effort during the play," Simon said. "So, if the tempo day (Thursday) is about recovery after the play, the metabolic conditioning day is about effort during the play."
During the course of the seven weeks, players will build up something Simon calls, the "four-quarter drill."
The first quarter is devoted to change-of-direction shuttle runs, or short sprints of 10 to 15 yards, with 30 seconds of rest in between.
"Essentially, what we're working is the work ratio of what a football play can be, from your shortest football play, to your longest one and everything in between," Simon said.
The first quarter will consist of 10 repetitions, followed by a 2-minute break, which is the length of a quarter break during a game.
The players will then come back and do the same thing for the second and third quarters.
The fourth quarter will utilize the use of weighted sleds, called "Prowlers," which the players push and have been used in the past. "As we build up over the summer, we'll build up to eight to 10 total 20-yard pushes with that sled," Simon said.
"At the end of the summer, if they're able -- which I believe they will - to complete the four-quarter drill, to me that means they're ready to complete a game at a high level."
Simon doesn't want the players to emerge from the summer in peak shape, since preseason camp also including a conditioning component. He wants players to have room to improve in camp, so they are peaking for the season.
"A lot of times strength coaches look at, are they prepared for the game, are they prepared for the season?" Simon said. "Really, in my mind, the most stressful time on their bodies is camp.
"We want to make sure, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd like to send them into camp at a 7 or an 8. I say that because you want room for growth in camp.
"I want to make sure they have room to grow still, so they don't hit camp and they're over trained. With the five (conditioning) days a week, even though it may seem like a lot -- 'Wow, you're running them five days' -- our volume would equal what most teams do over three days."