Ben Herbert Is The New S&C Guy

Submitted by Brian on December 30th, 2017 at 2:22 PM

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"is this a strength coach" visual test: check

Former Wisconsin and Arkansas S&C coach Ben Herbert's name has been floating around as a possible replacement for Kevin Tolbert, for fairly obvious manball related reasons, and now that hire is official:

Michigan has identified a candidate for its strength and conditioning opening.

First referenced by The Michigan Insider's Sam Webb on our premium message boards last week, the Wolverines intend to hire former Arkansas S&C coach Ben Hebert to take over the S&C opening left behind by Kevin Tolbert.

Herbert was at Wisconsin for S&C coach for 11 years, the last four of which as the head S&C guy, before leaving with Bret Bielema to go to Arkansas four years ago. That didn't work out quite as well as Herbert might have hoped, but Arkansas did have some consistently enormous offensive lines, just like Wisconsin did before him. Herbert's time at UW is probably more instructive since the Badgers aren't operating at a severe talent deficit to most of their opponents, and picking someone up from the program that makes the most out of the least recruiting in the Big Ten, and possibly the nation, seems like a good plan.

Post-Barwis I'm skeptical that there's a big difference between any reasonably up-to-date strength coaches, FWIW. I didn't think Michigan's team seemed like it had any major S&C issues—the defense was dominant and the offensive line started mashing guys about midway through the season. Harbaugh's post-OSU comment that Michigan needed to get stronger didn't really mesh with what I saw, which was a team that went toe to toe with the Buckeyes and would have won with a C- QB performance. If anything might have been an issue under Tolbert it's conditioning, not raw gert-orf-me strength.

But unleash the comments, all the same.

Comments

NateVolk

December 30th, 2017 at 2:34 PM ^

It was telling how Harbaugh said that and immediately after the OSU game. He's not prone to being very specific about the  areas of the team's struggles with the media.

I thought the defense ran out of gas at the end of Wisconsin and Ohio State. Whether that was inevitable under the trying circumstances of carrying a weak offense, I am not football smart enough to say.

death by trident

December 30th, 2017 at 3:12 PM ^

I think this is the way I’m looking at it too. Strength, even though Harbaugh said we need to get stronger, did not appear to be our issue this year. It seemed like stamina was a bigger issue. Last year we also showed symptoms of running out of gas. One of the things I hear in the Herbert videos I’ve watched, is that he talks a lot about hydration and diet first.

We have some very incredible athletes on the team. If Herbert can build up the stamina of these athletes, he will be worth his salary. Maybe they get a bit stronger, but I doubt there will be that much of a noticeable difference. Look at Hurst, Gary, Winovich, Higdon, and others to see strength isn’t our issue this year or last. Conditioning might be though.

NateVolk

December 30th, 2017 at 3:27 PM ^

One thing that's interesting is when you look at youtube videos and the resumes of other S & C guys at other schools, there are as many different approaches as there are coaches.

There are likely crossover similarities in philosophy and methods too. 

I don't have a point except to say from Harbaugh's perspective he has a vision for all aspects of his program. He can tell by the eye test in small sample sizes whether it's there or likely to get there.

Then we get Don Brown. Now we get Coach Herbert.

I am very confident he is the absolute best guy available to make Harbaugh's vision for the players and the program happen.  Like with Coach Brown, they have no apparent past professional relationship. And I think that says something. We know the budget was no issue and there were many guys they could have hired.

 

iMBlue2

December 30th, 2017 at 4:32 PM ^

That coach wasn’t seeing significant gains in the weightroom; core lifts like squat, bench, and power clean are often taken as baseline for each individual athlete then map the growth over time. We as fans aren’t going to have access to the weight room sheets, he might’ve been expecting more.

Durham Blue

December 30th, 2017 at 2:56 PM ^

Seems fine as long as the guy knows what he's doing, has a plan and makes the guys stick to the plan.  Just sort of nodding my head in agreement and moving along.  

Max

December 30th, 2017 at 3:14 PM ^

There's a lot to like about this hire, but I have some concerns after listening to a recent S&C presentation of his (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGYB0TOnTWk).

Most pressingly, he apparently identifies players who "lack the mobility" to perform barbell back squats to acceptable depth and has them perform unilateral ("one-leg") squats exclusively.  This is alarming both because it is extraordinarily unusual for any healthy, able-bodied young man--let alone an elite athlete--to actually lack the flexibility or mobility to squat properly, and because a unilateral variation necessarily presents a decreased training effect where the goal is hypertrophy (muscle gain) or strength (because it necessecitates lighter weight).

Relatedly, he asserts that the principal culprit for this purported "lack of mobility" sufficient to perform a proper full squat is a lack of hamstring mobility.  This is an anatomical impossibility, as the hamstrings are "slacked" at the "bottom" of a squat and therefore cannot be the limiting factor.

I know this sounds like nit-picking, but the squat is an essential component of any good strength program.  It's a relief to see that Herbert emphasizes the importance of the squat in general, but there are some disconcerting deficiencies in his understanding of its execution.

Esterhaus

December 30th, 2017 at 3:39 PM ^

But midway through a rugby season I was pretty banged up. I couldn't perform proper squats without great pain and, worse, artificial compensation which itself can produce injuries while working out.

You are correct that properly performed squats can be among the best exercise moves to perform for power, core and even just general health. In fact, if you were a prisoner and could only perform a single exercise three times per week, I would urge the squat thrust move if you were healthy enough.

And so there is that.

iMBlue2

December 30th, 2017 at 6:21 PM ^

I agree the good old fashioned rear loaded squat performed with great form getting low enough is a premier lift in relation to strength, explosion, and power for a football player. However as I’ve grown older I’ve also come to realize individual bodies don’t respond the same to a generalized routine and a more tailored approach for a specific athlete has its merits...think of it like this if an athlete is having trouble getting low and is prone to injury or decreased weight then the effectiveness is going to be curtailed anyway. The adjustment s could be to compensate and prime until the proper form for the basic squat can be reached. Either way it looks like the guy has produced results in my eyes it buys him a couple seasons of optimism before results can really be had.

All Day

December 30th, 2017 at 6:00 PM ^

You answered your own concern. If someone has poor mobility and is at their bottom they wont have enough slack to be in the proper position. He didn't say this was only issue, but he simply said it was one of many possibilities. These mobility and lack of strength in the posterior chain are also severely chronic issues in 18-19 year olds who had previously spent all their time pushing (as he mentions in the video on the sidebar post). 

Also, the Bulgarian Split Squat is one of the absolute best accessory/training movements there is. Athletes need to do (probably a lot more than they do) unilateral training, as that is much closer to the actual stimulus they are going to have on the field. I would also be very shocked if he said that kid was never going to do another back squat. The goal is to strengthen and mobilize properly to get them to be able to those other movements safely and effectively.

Max

December 30th, 2017 at 6:26 PM ^

1. If someone has poor mobility and is at their bottom they wont have enough slack to be in the proper position.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say here.  If your point is that one's hamstring can be too "tight" or "inflexible" to hit depth in the squat, you're wrong.  The bottom of a squat does not put the hamstrings in tension; their flexibility is irrelevant.

2. He didn't say this was only issue, but he simply said it was one of many possibilities.

I know.  My point is that it is impossible for hamstring flexibility to prevent one from hitting depth in a squat, so it's concerning for a strength coach to identify it as even one "possibility."

3. These mobility and lack of strength in the posterior chain are also severely chronic issues in 18-19 year olds who had previously spent all their time pushing (as he mentions in the video on the sidebar post)

His job as a strength coach is to address and correct these mobility and strength deficiencies insofar as they exist, not select inferior exercises to avoid them.  In any event, my point is that almost nobody in the population he's training--and almost nobody in the healthy population at large--lacks mobility sufficient to perform a full squat.

4.  Also, the Bulgarian Split Squat is one of the absolute best accessory/training movements there is.

Agree to disagree, I guess. I'll put my offensive line of guys who squat 600# against your line of guys who split squat 300# any day of the week.

5.  Athletes need to do (probably a lot more than they do) unilateral training, as that is much closer to the actual stimulus they are going to have on the field.

The weight room is for getting bigger and stronger, not simulating the sport.  Practice is for simulating the sport.

6.  I would also be very shocked if he said that kid was never going to do another back squat. The goal is to strengthen and mobilize properly to get them to be able to those other movements safely and effectively.

I hope you're right, but he seemed to be saying that guys who "lack the mobility" to squat simply do not squat.

iMBlue2

December 30th, 2017 at 7:33 PM ^

That it’s a lack of mobility thing I think it’s more yo do with 18 year old kids throwing a bunch of weight on a bar cuz it looks cool forgoing proper form and doing those infamous “half squats” you see from the planet fitness crowd the result is under developed stabilizing muscles. For what it’s worth there’s a tone of methodology and science out there not everyone will agree. Been powerlifting 20 years just my 2 cents.

All Day

December 30th, 2017 at 7:43 PM ^

Agree to disagree, I guess. If your guys are only squatting, then they'll be very good at squatting. If they're squatting in different variations, tempos, and loads, then they're probably going to be good at other things. The weight room cannot be only for getting bigger and stronger- just look at the different training programs for different positions and sports. I also disagree with the hamstrings role in mobility for squatting, but oh well. And if you think that NOBODY in his population of athletes have no mobility issues, then you severely underestimate the typical issues athletes face and overestimate the level of training found in the average high school weight room. 

Jonesy

December 30th, 2017 at 9:25 PM ^

I'm no expert but while the bottom of the hamstring across the back of the knee joint is slack, the upper half is being stretched out across the posterior, yes? But you sure don't need much hamstring flexibility, i've got crappy hamstring and calf flexibility and i can sit ass to ankles forever. Furthermore, if someone has poor flexibility isn't it his job to improve that?

 

Simulating sport to some extent in the gym is the best way to get bigger and stronger for that sport, but the squat does that better than anything else. It's why you do a squat instead of a leg press, it works all the smaller stabilizing muscles that something artifical like a leg press doesn't and those muscles are important if you ever want to translate that weight room strength to real life application. An OL is going to be sitting in a squat a lot and exploding out of it and from the waist, what simulates that more than a squat and a clean/snatch?

Sione's Flow

December 30th, 2017 at 3:48 PM ^

Reading a little about him, he puts a big emphasis on nutrition first "you can't out train a bad diet". He also has a very Harbaughian method to him, using two fern plants (the Governor and the Deacon) to emphasize healthy choices. Seems like a solid hire.