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'The Home Depot Story': How Ben Herbert Revamped the Chargers Weight Room


For nearly 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon, Ben Herbert's steel gaze scanned the room.

The Chargers Executive Director of Player Performance outlined the philosophy and beliefs around his offseason training program, doing so while directly locking eyes with whichever reporter asked a question.

But there were a few seconds where Herbert broke character, so to speak.

"The Home Depot story," Herbert said as he stifled a laugh and smiled wide.

If the football field is where players shine, then the weight room is where Herbert does his best work.

And when Herbert was hired by Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh in late January, the first order of business was to visit The Home Depot and buy a Shop-Vac to clean up his new office.

"We were leaving the hotel and I said, 'Hey, we have to stop at The Home Depot, I have to get a Shop-Vac,'" Herbert recalled Tuesday. "[Harbaugh] was just like, 'OK, we'll go to The Home Depot and get a Shop-Vac.' There were some other things that we needed to get."

"There we were at The Home Depot," Herbert later added. "Loading the cart, we got the Shop-Vac, we got some Magic Erasers and some things that we needed."


Herbert and his staff got to work, tidying up every inch of the weight room at Hoag Performance Center so that it would be in tip-top shape for players when the voluntary offseason program began Tuesday.

Harbaugh noticed a difference right away after that Shop-Vac was put to use.

"It's cleaner. It's very organized," Harbaugh said. "You can tell the difference. Right away, when the guys walk in, they're going to know the difference."

He later added: "When I tell you that things are squared away … that's Ben Herbert."

Herbert on Tuesday went into great detail about his training program and how he wants to "make players harder to break" so they can sustain the grind of a rigorous NFL season.

But it all meticulously starts with the weight room, even if that means putting weights back perfectly on the rack.

"The room, when you walk into the room, any physical space — to me, if a space is representative of myself, it's going to be a certain way," Herbert said. "It's going to be neat, it's going to be clean. It's just going to be a certain way.

"It's like a five-star hotel. You walk into a five-star hotel, it looks different, smells different, feels different. Every detail," Herbert continued. "When you walk into our training facility, it's just the pride that we take in it. We could occupy that space, it's not mine, I don't own it.

"But, I'm in charge of it, so it's going to reflect how I want it to reflect," Herbert added. "So, I needed a Shop-Vac. We went through every inch, every inch, of that room, and made sure that it was just — I say the phrase dialed in, like we have to get it dialed, we're going to get it tight. So, I needed a Shop-Vac in order to do that."

Players surely noticed how spick-and-span the weight room was Tuesday when they arrived. Offensive players worked in the weight room while defensive players were in meetings. The groups then swapped after nearly two hours.

It was Herbert's first chance to instill his methods to a revamped Chargers roster, a process that included players filling out a questionnaire.

"It was fun. I haven't had that in the NFL yet, a staff like that that is really hands-on and really wants to fix you and see your deficiencies and help you overcome those," said Chargers tight end Hayden Hurst. "Which I think is great because, playing football, you get beat up.

"Everyone thinks squat, bench, clean, throw stuff over my head," Hurst added. "It's like they're really breaking it down to making sure that the soft-tissue stuff doesn't happen, guys are healthy and guys can play this brand of football."

Check out some photos of the Chargers arriving for the off-season program at Hoag Performance Center.

Harbaugh emphasized Tuesday that players can trust Herbert, even if that is a process that will take some time.

After the two spent six-plus years together at the University of Michigan, Harbaugh has seen firsthand how impactful Herbert's program can be.

"The back is just an untapped goldmine of lean muscle mass," Harbaugh said. "We want them to know that we're going to know. In key performance indicators, what's your external rotation? What's your neck strength? Flexion? Extension? Do you want a steel rod in your neck or do you want a noodle?

"A piece of advice, you want that steel rod, a trunk where the roots go into the traps. It doesn't completely make you immune from concussions, but you sure would rather have the steel rod than the noodle," Harbaugh added. "Balance, every part — toe to finger — you try to get ourselves in the best shape of our lives. Strength. Power."

And it will all start in perhaps the cleanest weight room across the NFL.

"We want to get to that center of player development, that weight room, and let's have at it," Harbaugh said at his opening press conference. "You hungry? You want to eat? This is an all-you-can-eat buffet right here. Let's get that work in."

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