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BTB Housekeeping: We Appreciate Your Help!

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Just a few BTB housekeeping items on a Friday. We'll get back to football in a bit, but I wanted to say thanks for a few things and pitch a few things, with your indulgence, of course.

-- Yesterday SB Nation launched its free app for the iPhone and so far it's been a huge success; it's the second most-downloaded sports app at iTunes. So if you have an iPhone, go over and get it. One of the most-asked questions we got was about an Android edition (I'm an Android user, too). I was told that maybe later this year there will be one ready. I'll continue to put pressure on them to come out with one. But thanks to all the people with iPhones that downloaded the app.

-- BTB is involved in a prediction contest with our tickets partner, TiqIQ, where you could win some free tickets to a Cowboys game. You can also help BTB win a bonus from TiqIQ, which is nice. To help us, all you have to do is go to this page and click on the "Like" button towards the top. Seriously, just clicking on this link, then clicking the "Like" button helps out BTB. Once you're there, you can enter the contest to win $200 worth of tickets (description here) to a Cowboys game. As always, TiqIQ offers sweet deals on tickets, just click the navigation at the top of the site, the tab "Tickets".

-- Thanks to everybody who bought a copy of the Maple Street Press Cowboys Annual. We really appreciate your patronage! And for anybody who didn't buy one, there is still time to get one. Buying one online helps out this site, so if you have $10 bucks to spare for a quality Cowboys annual, head on over and get one.

And for one more taste of the magazine, we present an excerpt from a piece on Mike Woicik after the jump. This particular piece was penned by our own rabblerosur.

rabblerosur:

In mid-February, when Mike Woicik was hired to be Dallas'  Strength and Conditioning Coach, Cowboys Nation was awash in reports outlining his impressive resume, which can be summarized in two words: six rings. As reported by our own O.C.C. as well as by NFL Films Woicik (aka "Mr. Six Blings") was an integral part of the last two NFL dynasties, winning three Lombardis in four years with both the Cowboys and Patriots.

In a contribution to the Maple Street Press Cowboys Annual, I took a closer look at one important secret to Woicik's success: plyometrics.

What makes Woicik so successful? Patriots tight end Kyle Brady, who came into the league with the Jaguars before signing with New England as a Free Agent, offers a useful comparison between the two teams’ strength and conditioning programs. They proved to be quite different; whereas the Jaguars focused more on traditional weightlifting, with smooth, controlled ups and downs, Woicik’s workouts emphasize the explosive movements associated with plyometrics, a training method developed in the 60s for Eastern Bloc Olympic athletes.

Plyometric exercises are specialized, high intensity training techniques designed to develop both speed and strength; they help athletes develop "speed power." To understand the distinction between plyometrics and traditional weightlifting, its important to distinguish between muscular power and muscular strength. Traditional weight training programs, like that employed by the Jaguars, ask players to develop strength, the measure of how much force can be applied. Plyometric exercises emphasize power, a combination of strength and speed or, more properly, strength at speed.

Consequently, plyometric drills are particularly useful as a training tool for sports that feature "explosive" moves. The most common lower-body plyometric exercises involve some measure of bounding (where oversized strides are used in the running action) or jumping and landing: standing jumps, jump squats, depth jumping (off a box or platform) or multiple jumps over a series of hurdles. Typical upper-body exercises include push-ups with a hand clap or catching and quickly tossing up a medicine ball to a partner from a prone position.

All of these movements create a very specific series of muscular contractions: a rapid muscle lengthening movement followed by a very brief resting phase, then an explosive muscle shortening movement. This invokes what is known as the myotatic reflex, a muscle contraction in response to stretching within the muscle. Because plyometric exercises stretch muscles before they contract them, the muscle’s nerve cells are trained to stimulate a specific pattern of muscle contraction so the muscle generates as strong a contraction as possible in the shortest amount of time. This helps develop "speed power."

The exercises that Woicik will ask his players to execute have a clear, direct correlation to what they will do on the field. In Management Secrets of the New England Patriots, James K. Lavin elucidates the connection between plyometrics and football:

Many football challenges require brief bursts of tremendous power. The key to plyometrics’ astonishing results on the football field (and in other sports requiring quick power bursts) is that muscles that rapidly contract-and-expand become optimized for power bursts….Clap push-ups prepare an offensive lineman to punch at a defensive lineman’s chest and knock him backwards…or a cornerback to shove a receiver trying to get off the line of scrimmage.

Lavin goes on to point out that plyometrics (clap push ups for example) better prepare players for short bursts of action—moments that require "speed power"—than similar resistance activities like regular push ups or bench presses can.

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One would think that, for new head coach Jason Garrett, one of the greatest frustrations brought on by the NFL’s labor dispute had to be that Woicik didn't have access to these players and so they missed the opportunity to jumpstart his new program in the way that Woicik and Jimmy Johnson did in the early nineties.

Yet, we must hearken back 1993, the last time the NFL experienced (an admittedly brief) labor unrest and players were denied access to team facilities. That season, after the the Cowboys had captured a second straight Lombardi, people within the organization praised Woicik because, prior to the lockout, he had drafted individualized workout plans that each player could execute without a coach present.

That's why I am encouraged by whispers that Woicik did the same for his players this year. A while ago, I found further support that this might be the case. In an otherwise mundane video of Cowboys players working out, there is a shot (go to the 2:00 minute mark) of several players, two of whom are engaged in plyometric-style jumping exercises. Of course, this might have been a part of a regular (i.e., non-Woicik designed) workout program. But I'm choosing to take it as proof that Woicik found a space in which to work his particular magic.