Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26, 2011
Several years ago, during Chip Kelly's first season as Offensive Coordinator for the University of Oregon, the Ducks were marching up and down the field. An historic win over the Michigan Wolverines started off the season. This was a season of promise.

As the Ducks rolled through their schedule, they faced a stiff challenge at home against a top 10 ranked Cal Bears team. The game was as exciting and close as many expected, possibly turning on a pivotal fumble near the end zone. The Ducks lost that game, but their season had plenty of promise. For the first time in a lifetime, the Ducks inched their way towards a possible national title. Many people still believe the Ducks could have won the National Championship Game that season; had they been at full strength.

Unfortunately, another trend had developed early in the season; injuries. Lost to season ending injuries were several key players on the team, including WR Brian Paysinger, RB Jeremiah Johnson and WR Cameron Colvin. Through these injuries, though, the Ducks kept playing at an extremely high level.

Then came the worst sight in recent Duck memory as Dennis Dixon, during a home win over Arizona State, fell to the ground with a knee injury. Duck fans were told it was not serious and that Dixon would play against the next opponent, Arizona. Play he did. In the first quarter, Dennis Dixon took a QB run up the middle 39 yards for a touchdown. There was relief and joy. Duck fans began to think about the impossible; a National Championship. And then the season fell apart. Dixon again fell to the ground with no contact. His season was over. By the time Civil War week rolled around, the Ducks were down to starting a fifth string QB.

Along this ride, I heard quite a few Duck fans begin to question whether the offense and/or the strength program was leading to the spate of injuries that befell the Ducks that season.

Strength Coach Jim Radcliffe (Photo Courtesy
Fast forward four years and I think many Duck fans have come to realize, the little man, Jimmy Radcliffe, a 52 year old dynamo of a man that can still outrun men less than half his age, is the reason for the Ducks continued rise to national prominence. Injuries can happen in a sport with so many strong men creating vicious physical contact. Football can be a brutal sport. Not just from the physical standpoint, but from an injury standpoint. Injuries are going to happen.

Jim Radcliffe is considered one of the top Strength & Conditioning Coaches in the nation. He has been a pioneer on many fronts and is a published expert in plyometrics. One of his pioneering methods is ice baths. After heavy workouts, the Ducks, for years, have taken ice baths. Ice is an incredible recovery assistant that most people forget is an important part of any good workout. Ice is not just for injuries.

Ice baths constrict blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. Ice baths don't only suppress inflammation, but help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles. And this is something Oregon has been doing for years; especially during fall camp doubles days.

When Kelly took over as head coach before the 2009 season, he asked Radcliffe if he wanted to change anything about the team’s regimen. There were some ideas Radcliffe had that would fundamentally change the way Oregon prepared each week.

Now, as soon as the game ends Oregon players ice down. The benefit? The Ducks are now ready to go hard and fast on Monday. Most football teams, including the places I have coached myself, take Sunday and Monday as recovery days, then go hard on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before backing off on Friday. With after game ice baths, the Ducks are ready to go hard on Monday. Following two more hard practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Ducks back off on Thursday for some recovery.

What about Friday? While most teams are doing a walk through, the Ducks train hard; they ramp back up so that they are an an upswing of performance for Saturday.

"If you’re backing off on Friday, you’re really downloading when you want to be your fastest and quickest and strongest and most explosive. We want to be working back up to our peak on Saturdays,’’  Radcliffe told Ken Goe of The Oregonian. 
During his 26 years at Oregon, the program has changed significantly. Along with it, Jim Radcliffe has stayed on the cutting edge of strength & conditioning. As long as Jim Radcliffe has been the Strength & Conditioning Coach at Oregon, the Ducks have had strength in all the right places.

That is one advantage no one can take away.

University of Oregon Weight Room


  1. Excellent post! Rapid recovery and a decrease in debilitating injuries is a trend I've noticed with the Ducks but haven't heard articulated as well as you've put here. Another great step to injury prevention is joint mobility work (Steve Maxwell and Scott Sonnon have done much work on this, while the classics are Nikolay Amosov and Joseph Pilates) Are you aware of specific training that Radcliffe does with that or is it more or less incorporated into the repetition of drills?

  2. Coach Rad does a lot of different things for joint mobility... I cannot be specific as to what he uses for each workout... there are differences applied for each specific sport... I can say that most of the College strength coaches use some form of a dynamic warm-up before any exercise period that employs joint mobility work as well as working up to plyometrics.

    The trick for Rad is that he is too smart to fall into "gimmicks" and strength fads. He is a firm believer in Olympic lifts and focuses more on explosive movements when lifting weights than "strength" movements.

    When I was coaching, he gave me some great advice about recovery and strength.

  3. Cool to hear. Just from personal experience I know that joint mobility and dynamic warm ups have helped my game tremendously, given me something to do in between heavier lifts while watching the clock, and a path towards recovery if a specific joint is giving me trouble. Looking at some of the ancient exercises--hindu squats, hammer work, stone lifting--there's equal emphasis on strength and mobility similar to olympic lifts. Strength isn't of much use unless you can apply it, huh?

    I recall seeing Huff in a short clip on the RG or somewhere catching passes behind and to his side while standing in place but pumping his arms in a sprinter motion and twisting back for the reception, similar in movement to a medicine ball toss. In the context of this conversation and his lower leg injury, cool to see him working everything from the knees up in that drill and further getting rid of debris through the repetition of movement, all while practicing a common game scenario. Especially since the pumping arms and shoulder work help maintain leg turnover. Great stuff!

    Have to say I'm a little jealous of the facilities! My ice bath is usually a contrast shower with as cold as I can get it to come out of the nozzle substituting a good soak.

  4. I don't bath in it... my persona lifting is of a powerlifting sort... but I do ice down my chest after most of my pressing workouts...