GREEN BAY PACKERS
STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING
By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Winter 1997
Editor's Note: The following biographical information is taken out of the Green Bay Media Guide. Coach Johnston has a great and varied football and strength coaching experience.
Affable Kent Johnston, who directs and coordinates the Packers' strength and conditioning program on a year-round basis, has been credited with making a key contribution to the Green and Gold's on field success over the past five seasons, punctuated by last January's triumph in Super Bowl XXI.
Implementing a comprehensive program upon his arrival in Green Bay, one which has included weight control and nutrition as well as conditioning, Johnston has contributed to the cause in areas beyond his customary domain, the weight room. Primarily, he has been credited with rendering valuable assistance in the rehabbing of injured players while also helping with advice and guidance on nutrition.
Since joining the Packers, the soft-spoken Texan has structured specific training programs for each player, as he previously had done at Tampa Bay, where he implemented karate as a segment of the Bucs' conditioning regimen. In the process, he also has conducted karate classes as an element of the Packers' conditioning program.
Johnston also has traveled around the country in the off-season to monitor the conditioning progress of those players who do not live in the Green Bay area on a year-round basis.
The 41-year-old Texan was honored in February of this year for his professional excellence over an 11-year career in the National Football League when he was selected "Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year" by the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches' Society during the organization's annual meeting in Indianapolis.
Kent earlier earned high marks as a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Alabama under then-head coach Ray Perkins in 1985 and 1986 when the Crimson Tide's weight program was regarded as one of the nation's finest. The athletes he helped develop during that span include premier linebackers Cornelius Bennett (Buffalo Bills) and Derrick Thomas (Kansas City), as well as Derrick Mckey of the NBA.
Johnston launched his coaching career in 1978 at Teague (Texas) High School as an assistant coach before signing on at Northwestern (La.) State in 1979. He next moved to Northeast Louisiana as strength coach in 1980 before returning to the prep ranks as a graduate assistant for two seasons (1983-1984) before being named strength and conditioning coach in 1985. When Perkins became head coach at Tampa Bay in 1987, Johnston joined the Buccaneer staff as a strength coach and tight end coach.
A graduate of Stephen F. Austin University, he played defensive back in football en route to earning his bachelor's degree in physical education and history. He secured his master's degree in physical education from Alabama in 1984.
Born in Mexia, Texas, February 21, 1956, Allen Kent Johnston graduated from Mexia High School where he participated in football, tennis and track. Kent and his wife, Pam, have three sons -- Kody (born 5/30/90), Kile (born 5/7/92) and Clay (born 8/8/96).
Coaching Background: 1979 (Northwestern La. State); 1980-81 (Northeast Louisiana); 1983-84 (Alabama, graduate assistant); 1985-86 (Alabama); 1987-91 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); 1992-97 (Green Bay Packers).
Coach Johnston is ably assisted by Barry Rubin who is in his third year with the Packers. Barry has had 16 years of experience including being the head strength coach at Northeast Louisiana. Coach Johnston and Coach Rubin never sit back and watch their Green Bay players workout. They actively coach every minute. The workout for the day is posted. The players come in and get right to work on the plan.
I asked Coach Johnston about the difference between Division I college level and Pro-level of strength and conditioning. Coach Johnston replied, "You have to do a lot better job selling your players on your program, they have got to believe in your program to do it properly.
"Because of Free Agency and Collective Bargaining you see a lot of new players each year. In college you have the players four to five years. The age difference is also a factor. An 18-year old is not the same as a 25-year old.
"I'm going to train multi-joint movement lifts and explosive lifts. Most of this type of training is done with free weights. Some people may question the safety factor of my philosophy, but to me there is a certain risk when you train to win and to be a thoroughbred. It's my job to teach the players perfect technique and to train smart.
"I want to come across as someone who wants them to perform at their highest level. If a player sees that you always want what's best, they will respond. I try to serve the players and do the little things that make a difference.
"We also do plyometrics. We have Plyo Boxes and Plyo Hurdles. We do a number of variations of ground plyos. We teach sprint techniques and have speed and speed endurance days. I really like over-speed training which is done especially in the off-season. We do some parachute training but I like over-speed training a little better. We have a number of devices for over-speed training; some very expensive and some very economical.
"Another thing I like is sled work. Dragging the sled and doing sled lunges with a sled harness can be great. I don't look at sled work as speed tools but I use them to develop functional strength."
The Packers incorporate martial arts training for flexibility, joint mobility and range of motion. They do this two to three times per week in the off-season. "We stretch our players for five minutes before practice," said Coach Johnston, "but before that we do a lot of functional warm-ups like high knees, waking lunges, butt kicks, etc. We also do the BFS Dot Drill on a regular basis in the off-season."
The Packers do Power Pulls which is a Power Clean movement in addition to Dumbbell Cleans and Dumbbell Cleans and Presses. Overhead Squats are done with a snatch grip for balance, along with a ton of medicine ball work.
At Green Bay, if you miss a scheduled workout, you are fined. "We haven't had anyone miss for two years," Coach Johnston recollected. "In that instance, Coach Holmgren really let that player have it at practice. Coach Holmgren is a super person to work for. If any player didn't commit to weights, Reggie and Brett would take care of them anyway."
I marveled at the similarity between the Green Bay and BFS Strength and Conditioning programs. I shrugged, "Well Ken, we're either on the Green Bay program or you're on the BFS program." We both laughed. Coach Johnston remarked, "Bigger Faster Stronger has a great deal going for them, especially for the high school coach."
Coach Johnston believes in Box Squats and Partial Benches. These two lifts form the backbone of the BFS program. They make everything hum along like a beautiful song. They create a huge advantage during the season especially at the high school level. They create a nice advantage during the off-season with speed and jump drills. They help the athlete avoid plateaus in all lifts but especially with the Parallel Squat and Bench Press.
Since many wieght rooms do not have a Power Rack, we at BFS evolved to the Towel or Padded Bench Press instead of Partials. I learned the Box Squat and Partial Bench Press secret in Los Angeles in the late 1960's. Louis Simmons, now from Columbus, Ohio, learned the same secret from the same source. Hence, he cal