When the Texans begin their offseason program on Monday, it might take players a few minutes to get their bearings in the weight room at Reliant Stadium.
New strength and conditioning coach Cedric Smith, who replaced Ray Wright in February, has given the place an entirely new look.
Smith cleared out half of the weight room and filled it with eight "combo racks," dual-sided racks on power clean platforms. Both sides of the racks can be used at the same time, allowing more players to train at once. The racks can be used for a variety of exercises, including power cleans, squats, bench press, incline bench, flat bench and pull-ups.
"I believe these exercises most translate the weight room to the football field," Smith said. "These are football exercises in the weight room that, what I believe and what we believe as a strength staff, are what's going to enable our guys to get better on the field."
The combo racks aren't the only difference. Smith also brought in plyometric jump pads, and a new set of dumbbells that will enable a wider range of motion during exercises.
There's little emphasis on machines in Smith's training philosophy, which he shared with HoustonTexans.com on Thursday.
"We want to work a little bit differently than they did in the past," Smith said. "We basically believe more so in training on your feet. Stabilization, more explosiveness, power and strength; those are some of the things that, if you want to look at a broad view of what we do, would be involved in it. Posterior chain movements, back movements, core movements, corrective exercises (are involved) as well."
Smith joined the Texans after three seasons as the head strength and conditioning coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. He was an assistant strength coach with the Denver Broncos from 2001-06 and a fitness manager and consultant with Gold's Gym in Phoenix for two years before that.
Much of Smith's coaching philosophy, he said, is drawn from his experience as a player. He spent seven seasons in the NFL as a fullback for the Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings. He was a 1990 fifth-round draft pick out of the University of Florida, where he blocked for NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.
"A lot of what I do is based on kind of having an idea and a pulse for where guys are – where they feel like as a player, where they've been," Smith said. "I try to look at it from a player's standpoint. Based off of my own experience, I definitely believe that the explosive movements – squatting, cleaning, all your posterior movements, your pull-ups, your upper-body movements from bench press to shoulder press – it's imperative that you do those to be better as a ball player."
Smith, assistant strength and conditioning coach Matt Schiotz and their staff have been working 12-15 hours a day this week to assemble the weight room to fit those needs.
"Any time you're changing your weight room and kind of putting things together, those are the hours, and to be honest with you, coaches' hours are that way," Smith said. "I do believe for a strength coach, you've got to get up early and you've got to kind of stay late to be really good at it and to help be a part of the success of the team that you work for, so that's kind of how I look at it."
Players going through rehab have been working out at Reliant Stadium all offseason, giving Smith a chance to become familiar with part of the team already. He's eager to get acquianted with the rest of the players and officially kick off the team's 2010 offseason on Monday.
"I'm very excited to be a part of something special here," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. I believe this is a championship-caliber ball club. It's a great organization to work for and it's great people to work with.
"We've got a great weight room, we've got great equipment; now, we've got to go to work and see if we can continue to develop and get better every day."
The Texans' offseason program will run for six weeks leading up the start of organized team activities in May.