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Wisconsin's Ross Kolodziej: 'Energy was Extremely High' for Return to Strength and Conditioning Activities

Highlights from the chat with Wisconsin football's strength and conditioning coach

The Badgers were back in business on Monday (well, most of them), as the football program kicked off its voluntary strength and conditioning activities. Despite the new safety protocols, the adjusted group training and the time away from the program, Ross Kolodziej thought there was productivity from the players, and they attacked their work.

"It's a much different environment than many of us have grown accustomed to in terms of the social distancing and parameters that we've set up to keep everybody safe, but energy was extremely high," Kolodziej told reporters on Monday afternoon. "Guys were really fired up. A handful of guys even commented they in a way almost preferred kind of training in their little space. 

"But all-in-all an incredibly positive start to the day and really excited to keep building on it."

As Wisconsin's head football strength and conditioning coach, Kolodziej confirmed that 100 out of 123 players were in attendance on Monday for the voluntary activities. Another handful will be added next week. 

"Again, going back to various factors, some of it’s personal, some of it is guys … didn't know when we'd be coming back," Kolodziej said. "It’s all voluntary, and if the guy had something planned with his family, and he's handling his business --which we know he is -- we're not worried about that at all. But overall, attendance is great, and like I said, the energy was really good.”

The modified training conditions and protocols for Wisconsin were laid out last week in a press release in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That included being tested upon coming back to UW via nasal swabs and being mandated to wear masks "at all times unless physical activity is being performed."

For the voluntary strength and conditioning activities, ten student-athletes can participate in a group session, which is watched over by a strength coach. Each player will attend to their own specific rack and area to perform their work while inside of the weight room, and they will be responsible for cleaning it once the session is completed.

Kolodziej explained that Mondays and Thursdays are set for players' "linear speed and power and plyometrics," while workouts on Tuesdays and Fridays will be designated for "multi-directional, change of direction, position-specific type training."

The former Badger defensive lineman turned strength and conditioning coach also acknowledged some of the scheduling involved for Monday's work. The groups started every 90 minutes commencing at 7 a.m. and ran through the last session beginning at 2:30 p.m. About 70 minutes was dedicated to weight room activities which is followed by a five-minute "detailing and breakdown and disinfecting session." 

That was followed by about a five-minute transition time to get on the field.

"Being a linear-speed day, it’s probably about 45, 50 minutes of work," Kolodziej said. "Again, high-quality, little bit more work-to-rest ratio time. So each session was probably coming in just under two hours -- an hour and 55 (minutes) -- which is pretty good when you're doing things like you've never done before, like just intensively cleaning the racks and all that. So I thought we were very efficient. 

"I thought the guys did a great job of taking that knowledge that was given to them beforehand and applying it today. You didn't really have to coach them up a whole lot. They'd already kind of knew what was expected, and I think they did a great job of staying on time and staying on point and every group flowed very smooth.”

One modification of UW's policies set forth last week also included spotting players during lifts "only if absolutely necessary." 

When asked if that would affect the intensity of the workouts and if there would be any changes in routines or potential results later in the summer, Kolodziej believed that is not necessarily the case. In this first phase, he said UW normally would have started a week ago; thus, the team is "not far off when where we'd normally be anyways."

"In your first four-week block of training, anything you'd be doing to failure or along those lines are going to be largely bodyweight anyway. So like today, we did a close grip push up, so no spotting necessarily needed.

"I think as we progress through that, we're so far from the 'end of summer heavy single' for a max effort where you really got a spot. Like I said, where our guys are at today, I'm not concerned at all in terms about percentage volume and the need for that. They've done a great job of preparing themselves for this first phase, and so really feel comfortable about safety in the room and not meeting the spot. Plus like I said, guys are pretty smart, and they know if anything it's just going to challenge them that maybe be a little bit more honest with where their limitations are at the moment.”

Do the student-athletes need reminders to follow the new policies that included social distancing? Kolodziej said the team comes first and this is what they are being asked to do at this point in time.

"So it's not very hard to -- I don't even want to use the word enforce -- because it's not something from that place, it's just a fact," Kolodziej said. "Either you abide and we succeed, or you do what you want, and you fail, and that's again something that is core to this program. 

"I think our guys, whether they may agree or disagree at times, they do a great job of seeing the team goal first.”

Stay tuned for more from from Kolodziej's talk with reporters, including discussions about unique workouts, Leo Chenal and more