Dietz pioneers weight training method

Strength and conditioning coach Cal Dietz’s revolutionary techniques live on.

Strength and conditioning coach Cal Dietz spots Gophers men's hockey player Sam Warning as he lifts weights in the Mariucci Arena weight room Thursday.

Holly Peterson

Strength and conditioning coach Cal Dietz spots Gophers men’s hockey player Sam Warning as he lifts weights in the Mariucci Arena weight room Thursday.

Joe Perovich

He holds a master’s degree in kinesiology, his teachings have become a top-selling book and he’s overseen multiple NCAA titles and more than 400 All-Americans.

Despite all his accomplishments, Cal Dietz’s career is still a work in progress.

Since 2000, Dietz, 41, has been the head Olympic strength and conditioning coach at the University of Minnesota.

His specialty is not being confined to one area — he has developed strength and training programs for numerous Gophers athletic programs since the turn of the century.

Currently, he’s the strength and conditioning coach for the men’s and women’s hockey, baseball and golf teams, among others.

His imprint is wide-ranging and, in a sense, nomadic.

Long before Dietz had the experience he needed to co-author a book, he was a graduate assistant strength coach at Minnesota and worked with former head track and field coach Phil Lundin.

Lundin taught Dietz the importance of personalized player development methods. It was this mental framework that gave birth to his breakthrough model, triphasic training.

That method, which is also the title of his book, addresses three different athletic motions to allow athletes to maximize their potential.

“It’s [through] trial and error that I came up with all of this, and I’ve been very fortunate,” Dietz said.

Instead of focusing on sheer innovation, Dietz recalculated the material and ideas that were at hand, arranging age-old concepts in a manner that best fit individuals. His book revolved around that concept and subsequently received positive reviews from coaches across the country.

Always learning

Dietz used his background in human movement and a keen eye for the latest scientific research to stay ahead of the learning curve.

“Some of my latest discoveries are since the book was published,” Dietz said. “I’m working on trying to integrate how these things adapt to stress into my training protocol.”

Dietz’s newest addition is a machine called the Omegawave that takes brain and heart rate readings and gives him more accessible data than ever before.

“A guy could come in and take a picture and get tests with the computer and … it doesn’t tell me that they went drinking, but I’ll know something [happened] this weekend,” Dietz said. “It doesn’t tell me that they had coffee, but I’ll know their nervous system is in a heightened state for that early in the morning.”

Furthermore, the Omegawave can tell Dietz if one of his athletes is taking cold medicine, if their body responds better to saunas or cold tubs for recovery and if their body is responding to a supplement.

At least two other schools in the Big Ten have the machine, Dietz said, and both of them have strength coaches that are his pupils.

Former Minnesota swimmer Josh Hall said Dietz’s methods acknowledge the fact that everyone grows in a different way.

“He [understands] weight … and the nutrients that are going to aid in your type of body,” Hall said. “He caters your weight program and the way you should be eating and taking care of yourself to what he teaches.”

Dietz’s search for understanding how athletes’ bodies work is constant, and he has dug into the field of psychobiology to further understand the role stressors play in workouts.

“An athlete that doesn’t think the workout was hard [will have] very limited stress, so they won’t really react,” Dietz said. “The interpretation of what the organism believes is going on around him, that’s what really matters. Not whether the workout is hard or not.”

Making a mark before and after college

Gophers head women’s hockey coach Brad Frost said he trusts Dietz. His players feel the same way, as they’ve seen the results.

“There is no doubt that ever since our team has started working with Cal … we’ve been playing our best hockey at the end of the year,” he said.

And Dietz’s teachings don’t just last through the end of a season — they’ve extended to Gophers athletes after college.

Former Minnesota track and field runner HarunAbda, who’s currently competing professionally with the Oregon Track Club Elite, said Dietz had already taught him most of what some of the country’s top runners were learning.

“Cal is really great [and] knows what he’s doing. … All of what [we had done] caused me to know what I was doing when I got here,” Abda said.

For some, Dietz’s influence begins before well before they’re under his tutelage.

“The story everybody remembers with Cal is coming in on your recruiting visit. You sit down with [him], and he’s just dead serious and intense as Cal ever is,” former Gophers swimmer Jared Anderson said. “He opens up the briefcase … and it’s full of Big Ten and NCAA championship rings.”

Hall remembers the moment when he was “briefcased” as well.

“He could fill both of his hands and make it look like brass knuckles. Every single finger, three rings on each finger. It’s pretty insane the kind of hardware this guy carries,” Hall said.

And the next line is what draws athletes in.

“He lets you look at it for a little while,” Anderson said, “and then says, ‘This is what we do here.’”