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Keeping Things Simple Helps Athletes Excel At Ben Davis High School

Ben Davis High School is a prime example of the monumental effect that a well-planned strength and conditioning program has on athletics.

Strength and conditioning coach Kevin Vanderbush joined the staff at the high school in Indianapolis in 1984. At that point, the school’s football team hadn’t surpassed sectionals in the state tournament. Since then, the Giants have won nine state championships and have reached 20 final fours. 

“Back when I started in the mid-80s, strength and conditioning at the high school level was almost nonexistent,” said Vanderbush. “The successes of our athletic programs in the last 38 years is indicative of what can be done by taking the athletes you have and making them better.”

Football isn’t the only sport that has benefitted the school’s dedication to strength training. The Giants have also claimed four girls basketball state titles, three in boys basketball and three in boys track and field.

Vanderbush, who was inducted into the NHSSCA Hall of Fame in 2021, stresses simplicity when it comes to his coaching philosophy.

“I can fit 50 kids on upper body, 50 kids on lower body,” he explained. “A lot of schools have gone with a rack system. We believe in a standalone system where in the short amount of time that we have kids in here we want them to be able to rotate and move and not have any time when they need to set up equipment.

We keep it very basic. We don’t change the lifts up a whole bunch because every time we change there’s a teaching process. By keeping the system the same and very structured, my students understand what’s going on when they get in here, and they know when they make progress.”

The impressive weight room where Vanderbush goes to work every day is dominated by free weights and plate-loaded pieces—simple, but effective tools that fit his straightforward training approach.

“I have felt that the engineering that goes into Hammer equipment takes care of everything I need,” added Vanderbush. “I like big solid pieces of equipment. I like the color schemes they have. I like the way the finishes are. It  just looks like what it should look like in an athletic weight room.”