U of M - The Team Behind the Team: Strength and Conditioning

U of M - The Team Behind the Team: Strength and Conditioning

Provided by U of M

Aug 29, 2013

During each week of competition throughout the cross country season, MGoBlue.com will highlight a member of the support staff that helps the Wolverines succeed on and off the course!

Meet strength and conditioning coach Matt Segura:

Matt is in his second year as the strength and conditioning coach for the Wolverine men's and women's cross country teams. He also works with the throwers and pole vaulters on the men's and women's track and field teams and assists with U-M's volleyball program. Matt received his B.S. in exercise physiology from California State University Chico and is currently pursuing his master's degree at Eastern Michigan University.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The most enjoyable aspect of my job is seeing a student-athlete develop from when they first arrive here at Michigan. A lot of them come in with very little experience with the Olympic lifts or lifting in general, so to see them continually get better day-by-day is very rewarding. Not only that but, also seeing juniors and seniors beat their personal bests in the squat/power clean and to see how excited they get when they do it, is a great feeling as a coach. Finally, I really enjoy being able to put on the block M every day and represent Michigan. "This is Michigan" as the saying goes and I am very grateful to work for the director and team that I do.

What makes working for Michigan Athletics special?

I would say all the department activities make working for Michigan athletics special. For example, the upcoming flag football game should be a lot of fun, and I don't know of too many other places around the country that would do things like this for their athletic department. Michigan really lives the saying, "The Team, The Team, The Team" not only with their athletic teams, but also with its employees. By doing all of these activities, it allows people within the athletic department to interact with each other where we may not have an opportunity otherwise. Thus, making the athletic department a stronger team.

What do you tell prospective student-athletes about what makes Michigan Strength and Conditioning great?

I tell them that we are here to help them excel as an athlete in every way possible and this is accomplished by doing things that are evidence-based. We don't just pick things out of the air and have the athletes do them; we have a reason and plan for doing what we do. Not only that, but we have one of the largest staffs Michigan has ever had. The benefit of that is that while the cross country team is working out, we always have a lot of eyes to make sure they are doing things correctly and safely -- those two things are very important to our staff. Finally, I tell them that their coach, our athletic training staff, and I are always on the same page as far as what they are doing. So if there is an injury or something is bothering someone, I can adjust their workout accordingly, which is one of the ways we individualize our programs for each athlete.

How do you tailor your training approach to cross county?

Strength and Conditioning for cross country athletes is much different from most other sports. Most other sports are strength and power sports and as such they need to be trained to improve those abilities. Cross country athletes are endurance athletes so the approach needs to be tailored toward improving some aspect of running performance. That being said, the primary reason for strength training these athletes is to improve running economy. This is the ability to efficiently utilize oxygen at a given speed, which is linked to increased performance. To do this, I have to be careful not to overload them with all the miles they put in each week. So during the summer time, I will have them do more traditional strength lifts such as the back squat, while their mileage hasn't hit its peak yet. This allows their bodies to get used to a heavier external load while their mileage is down. This increased strength that they will gain over the summer time is important because it will allow their own bodyweight to feel lighter while running, thereby reducing fatigue and ultimately increasing running economy. Once the season comes along, I will reduce the load by changing the squat to a dumbbell squat-to-press or bodyweight squat. This will allow them to keep their strength levels, while also improve muscular coordination which is tied into increasing running economy.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?

When I am not downstairs working, I like to fish as much as I can in the summer time, which all my athletes know.

How did you get interested in strength and conditioning and how did you ultimately arrive at Michigan?

When I first started college, my plan was to take over my father's security business and I declared as a business major. However, after I worked for him the first summer of college I figured out that I didn't want to follow in his footsteps and I wanted to do something that I enjoyed. During my first year of college, I got more into exercising to improve myself and nutrition. While I was working out, I always saw personal trainers training others and I really liked the idea of helping others live a healthier lifestyle, so I pursued that. After about a year or so, I didn't really enjoy training the general public, but I really liked training athletes, which is how I got into strength and conditioning. From that point, I sought out how to get into the field and a reoccurring theme I found was that I really needed to get some experience. So, I helped out with the Butte Junior College football team for the year. After that year, I took an internship with the Arizona State Sports Performance team for the summer. Upon completion of that, I came back to Butte where I was hired as the strength and conditioning coach for the football team, where I worked with them for four seasons. After the season ended, I knew unless I took a chance somewhere, I would be stuck at that junior college, so I applied and acquired an internship with the University of Michigan. When the internship came to an end a graduate assistant position opened up and through my hard work as an intern, I earned the position that I'm in now.

Contact: Whitney Dixon