As a veteran strength and conditioning coach, Rock Gullickson possesses a belief in emphasizing free weights versus machines that is supported by more than his experience as a powerlifter and an undersized college football player.
There are books, studies, and even his own research behind it as well.
Gullickson focused his graduate studies at South Dakota State in the mid-1980s on how athletes, particularly football players, get stronger. A humble but well-respected expert in the field, Gullickson had begun designing workout programs in school and has stuck to his core belief from the beginning.
"When I first got interested in the field, I did a lot of reading and research," Gullickson said. "I didn't see a lot of research that backed the idea that simply training with machines could do what free weights do.
"I spent time in the library and watched body builders train and came to my own philosophy on how to do things the best way."
Gullickson has brought that expertise, as well as 28 years of experience in coaching strength and conditioning, to the Green Bay Packers under first-year head coach Mike McCarthy.
After redesigning the team's weight room and workout programs, the fruits of the transition and the players' heavy labor will be tested for the first time beginning Friday in the first post-draft minicamp.
The Packers begin their first full-squad workout under McCarthy Friday afternoon, followed by a pair of practices Saturday and a final session Sunday. Unfortunately, because Hinkle Field isn't ready and Nitschke Field is too small for such a large squad, the Hutson Center workouts will be closed to the public.
Gullickson has seen many players make tremendous strides with the new offseason program but admits the team's change from a combination (machines and free weights) program to one almost exclusively free weights hasn't been easy for some.
One notable statistic is that the Packers have averaged roughly 80 percent attendance at the offseason workouts, a team record, which has pleased Gullickson.
"Have they all bought into it? No," Gullickson said. "That's hard sometimes for pro athletes who have done things certain ways for a long period of time. Maybe they have a favorite strength coach from the past or really believe in the way they were training before.
"But it's nice to have the fellas here to build the team chemistry to be successful. That's a key component that is overlooked."
Running back Samkon Gado can attest to that chemistry. Having focused on free weights in college, Gado has felt comfortable from the start with Gullickson's program.
He credits fellow running back and workout partner Noah Herron for helping push him through some of the grueling sessions, and the two have taken the lead at times in pushing others.
"Noah coined this phrase, and it's catching on with several guys in the weight room," Gado said. "We say 'Let's eat.' When we feel like we can't push it anymore, we say 'Are you hungry? Let's eat.'
"We want to leave our mark."
Gullickson is certainly doing that but he knows his job is far from complete. He credits the support of McCarthy and the team's administration for making the changes in the weight room happen quickly. He also pointed out the strong teamwork he and assistants Mark Lovat and Brandon Johnson possess.
Other strength coaches have told him a complete transition for the players could take as long as three years, but Gullickson's willing to see it through because he's already seen some of the gains.
And no one is going to successfully refute his research, either.
"We're consistent, we're solid in our beliefs, and we're unwavering," he said. "Our approach is that if each guy is a little stronger, if each guy is in a little bit better condition, if each guy comes in in shape, our whole team is better."
Packers Mini-Camp Schedule
As a new head coach, McCarthy is permitted by the league to conduct an extra mini-camp. While many teams opt to schedule that additional mini-camp in March, McCarthy instead will hold both mini-camps after the April 29-30 NFL Draft. Installing a new offense, the coach wants all his players - rookies, newcomers and returning veterans - to start from the same point. No one will be left behind.
That decision also means plenty of Packers football in the months of May and June. Before training camp begins in late July, Green Bay will scatter six practices over two mini-camps and utilize the NFL's allotted 14 days of organized team activities (OTA).
Friday, May 5 (first mini-camp)
Saturday, May 6 (first mini-camp)
Sunday, May 7 (first mini-camp)
Friday, May 19 (second mini-camp)
Saturday, May 20 (second mini-camp)
Sunday, May 21 (second mini-camp)
Wednesday, May 31 (OTA)
Thursday, June 1 (OTA)
Friday, June 2 (OTA)
Monday, June 5 (OTA)
Tuesday, June 6 (OTA)
Thursday, June 8 (OTA)
Friday, June 9 (OTA)
Monday, June 12 (OTA)
Tuesday, June 13 (OTA)
Thursday, June 15 (OTA)
Friday, June 16 (OTA)
Monday, June 19 (OTA)
Tuesday, June 20 (OTA)
Wednesday, June 21 (OTA)
Mini-camp practices and OTA sessions will be held inside the Don Hutson Center. Unfortunately, for space reasons, the team cannot open Hutson Center practices to the public.
Additionally, training camp dates will be announced at a later date.