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Saints coach on the art and science of training during a pandemic — with the help of Excel

There is an art and a science to New Orleans Saints strength and conditioning coach Dan Dalrymple’s trade.

The science part has been easy enough to follow as the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the world operated this spring and summer. Dalrymple has Microsoft Excel, and he knows how to use it. He crafted a modifiable training schedule for players to follow with nifty pulldown menus depending on the equipment at their disposal.

But the art? The act of physically being there to provide a spot or some instantaneous feedback â€" Dalrymple has missed that, and he’s had to adapt.

“The whole idea of the communication, the different technologies that are available and things like that, it was a big adjustment for us,” Dalrymple said. “But I think we did as good a job as could be done with the situation that we’re under.”

It was a changeup, he said, but nothing they could not manage with the help of some information.

Dalrymple and his staff reached out to players to assess their individual situations. Did they have access to a facility? Were they working out in a home gym? Did quarantine limit them to exercises with body weight and resistance bands?

From there, Dalrymple opened Excel.

“I put together a workout that had some drop down lists and some categories, some different things you could do â€" barbells, dumbbells, exercise bands, cables â€" so guys could tailor the workout a little bit,” Dalrymple said. “Body weight stuff, different variations for every exercise we did, so a guy could look through that and say, ‘I could do this.’”

Maybe it is hard to imagine an NFL player achieving the necessary physique for a grueling season simply using their own body weight as resistance, especially when considering the resources that are typically available for a modern professional athlete during the offseason.

Dalrymple had a deadpan counter argument ready.

“Yeah, I’m old enough to remember there was a guy in the NFL who had a pretty good physique and the story on him was all he did was pushups and situps: Herschel Walker,” Dalrymple said.

The point he was trying to make is that in the current moment, when everyone is dealing with limitations in terms of places to go and things to do, sometimes it is best to trust the basics.

So he has not tried to get especially creative when building a training regimen outside of giving players variations on simple, functional exercises depending on the equipment at hand. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when the target audience includes some of the top athletes in the world.

“These guys can do some pretty spectacular things with some basic equipment if they’re willing to work hard,” Dalrymple said.

At some point, potentially as early as late next month, the Saints players will return to the team’s Airline Drive facility.

Dalrymple said the team has “very strict guidelines in place” for when that day comes and is confident the team will be able to operate in a way that keeps players safe.

As far as the training facility itself, Dalrymple believes it is well-suited to allow players to maintain a proper social distance when training.

“We allow a 10-by-10 area per player when the building was built, so that allows us to have a lot of players without having to be smashed into one area,” Dalrymple said. “Now, some teams have a lot smaller weight room than we have. I walk out one door to one side and I go into our indoor facility â€" we could use that for some of our training. I walk out the either side and I'm on our grass practice fields.

“We can spread things out and we can handle a lot larger number. We probably can physically handle a lot larger number than what the league will eventually allow us to do at one time.”

The game in Seattle last season, New Orleans Saints running backs coach Joel Thomas said, is one that shows that Alvin Kamara at 100% is one o…

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