A Tour of PSU’s Emerging State-of-the-Art Strength and Conditioning Lab

Brianna Bailey
For ‘The Clock’

It’s undeniable that PSU has experienced several changes over the past year, especially in accommodation to our shifting COVID-stricken world. The realm of athletics on campus has certainly been no exception, however not all changes have been detrimental. The Human Performance Center (HPC) has emerged from what was the old track area of the PE center and, with it, brings many exciting additions. A prominent feature among these is the Strength and Conditioning lab. PSU’s John Thomas, Director of the Strength and Conditioning Lab, provides an inside look at this ongoing space.

“This space is not only the strength training area for all 25 sports teams and over 600 student athletes, but it is also an area for academics…”

Stepping into the vast lab, Thomas showcases its duality with his explanation that “This space is not only the strength training area for all 25 sports teams and over 600 student athletes, but it is also an area for academics. Eventually, as the program develops, there will be more and more classes – not only for health and human performance, but athletic training and physical therapy – also taking place here.” 

The lab itself will be trisected into three specific areas, the first of which contains plate-loaded equipment. This provides injured student athletes with the opportunity to continue their training, as well as strength-training in general. The center of the room will help athletes develop their speed. “We’re going to do some basic form running, change of direction drills, but more specifically our athletic trainer is going to be able to bring athletes in here who are recovering from injuries and do some basic drills with them. Trying to get them back to the whole return to play aspect. So, it’s not just our student athletes, but it’s our students who are in our athletic training program and our physical therapy program that are going to be able to utilize this space,” Thomas said. The tour moves to the final part of the lab, the free-weight area. Its main appeal lies in its size, with a goal of 28 different platforms in this space. This will allow multiple teams to train at once, cutting the need for late-night training sessions. In addition, a space of this size will diminish the chances of over-crowding which can happen in smaller spaces such as the HUB’s fitness center. 

The Strength and Conditioning Lab, while currently restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic, plans to open to the broader public in the future. In doing so, students will be able to concentrate on areas that they’re passionate about while simultaneously bolstering the needs of the surrounding community. Thomas explained that “We want to start developing for our undergrad and grad coaches, if we have a student that has a passion for training first responders and wounded warriors, we want to start developing these programs here. If we have someone who has a passion for training the elderly population then we’re going to provide that program also here. My goal is to get the community as involved as much as we can … I’m going to push hard for whatever passions our students have – whatever route they’re going as far as where they want to affect the community and what they want to do. It’s our responsibility to try to line them up with the people that they can work with.” It’s clear that the lab will provide students with real-world experience and allow them to network and connect on a greater level than ever before. 

Although it’s not complete, the lab’s outlined plans and goals advocate for its necessity on campus. Former PSU alumni, Nick Vailas, added that “Those of us in the strength and conditioning field will tell you, that there’s a lot of misrepresentation, I believe, on how to train people. That’s not scientifically based. And I think it’s important that we, whatever we do, we base it with science, and especially when we’re treating with populations of special needs… This is the beginning. It’s an exciting beginning because I think for a long time the needle really hadn’t moved in a meaningful way to meet the needs of the future. Now we’re off to a great start.” After a long, bleak period of isolation, such a tangible beacon for the community will be a welcome change to PSU’s campus.

The Strength and Conditioning Lab and its goals can be supported with charitable gifts during PSU’s Giving Week at https://www.plymouth.edu/150/giving-week/.