Chargers’ new strength coach wants more than bigger, faster, stronger players – Orange County Register


COSTA MESA — On the first day of the rest of their lives, the Chargers underwent baseline testing in their weight room on Tuesday with Ben Herbert, whose title of executive director of player performance sounds significantly more impressive than merely their new strength and conditioning coach.

The Chargers also met with Jim Harbaugh, their new head coach, who generally goes by more plainspoken title of coach. Or just Jim. Harbaugh sat in on separate meetings with the offensive and defensive players. Special teams meetings are scheduled to take place Wednesday morning.

It was the same as any other opening day of optional spring workouts in the NFL

Only different.

Much different.

“Most people think of Jan. 1 as the start of the new year,” Harbaugh said, speaking for all concerned in his own special way. “Those who espouse Christianity, Catholicism, correlate it with the birth of Christ. But us in football, it’s today. April 2, is the start of the new year. It’s a great day.”

It was a day to forge new relationships, especially between the players and Herbert, whose six-year tenure with Harbaugh at the University of Michigan, brought them together again with the Chargers. Or more to the point, it kept them together after Harbaugh was hired as coach Jan. 24.

The Harbaugh Way involves many things at many different times, many of them linked to Herbert, a former defensive lineman who helped the University of Wisconsin win consecutive Rose Bowl titles before he entered into the strength and conditioning game at his alma mater for the 2002 season.

Herbert also worked at the University of Arkansas for five years before joining forces with Harbaugh for the 2018 season. Together they helped Michigan win the national championship this past January, with only two players on a roster of 145 suffering season-ending injuries.

When the Chargers’ players arrived at their training facility Tuesday morning, they were handed a detailed questionnaire. How many times could they bench press 225 pounds? What was the range of motion of their hips? Or their ankles? Were they good athletically? Were they elite? Were they superior?

There were no wrong answers.

When the actual workout began, the players learned of the attention to detail that will be asked of them between now and the end of the season in January. Or February. For instance, they learned they must stack the weights a certain way, so that they line up neatly. Haphazard is not a word in Herbert’s vocabulary.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the second plate or the 10th plate, it goes back precisely,” Herbert said in his first meeting with reporters. “It’s no different than a (defensive back’s) footwork. Or a lineman’s. The way we practice is with an attention to detail. We train the same way, how we keep the room.

“How we do everything, there’s a certain level of detail.”

Herbert declined to comment on whether that element was missing under the previous regime, with Brandon Staley as coach and Tom Telesco as general manager. Hebert smiled when asked about the trip to Home Depot he took with Harbaugh to buy a Shop-Vac to clean the weight room.

In fact, there was more to it than sprucing up the work space. Herbert spent time arranging and rearranging all sorts of things, including the weights and the elastic bands that are used for resistance training. There had to be a sense of order, according to Herbert, before the real work could begin.

Bigger, faster, stronger is but one mantra for Herbert.

Consistency and stability in all ways is another.

Actions speaking louder than words is one more.

“I don’t change,” Herbert said. “I told the guys, ‘I have a wife, two boys, two dogs, a car with four tires. If I get a flat tire, I’m not going to take it out on you.’ If something happens, I don’t change emotionally. When I walk into the facility, who you know me to be is who I am. Every day. It’s never changed.”


The Chargers signed former Baltimore Ravens fullback/tight end Ben Mason, who played for Harbaugh at Michigan. The Ravens drafted Mason in the fifth round in 2021 and he spent time with Baltimore and the practice squads of the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears before returning to the Ravens in 2022.

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