It seems impossible now, but student-athletes were once students before they were athletes. And one of the coaching staff's main problems was to make sure their players stayed active over the summer. Training camp was only two weeks long, not nearly long enough to whip them into shape if they weren't already fit.
USC dug up a letter sent from Hall of Fame coach John McKay to every Trojan in the summer of 1964, outlining a workout routine for them to follow. The end goal: being able to do 50 situps and 50 pushups on the first day of camp.
It is our hope that you are watching your weight and not getting too far out of condition. I and the rest of the staff feel that we had a very fine Spring Practice; but as you know, we do not attempt to get you in top physical condition for spring ball. The time has now come for you to start getting into physical condition that we need to have for a winning football team. Your workout schedule is enclosed. Follow it religiously!
The routine consists of stretching, calisthenics, and plenty of trotting; no weight training at all. The whole thing took about 30 minutes a day. A far cry from today, when team members work out with USC's strength and conditioning staff almost every day during the summer for 90 minutes at a time. Incoming freshmen, who aren't allowed to work with the staff, receive a daily calendar telling them exactly what exercises to do and when, and a DVD that demonstrates each drill.
McKay's plan seems quaint now, the type of routine a high school JV team would have. But it won him four national championships, because it was just as much as—or more than—any other team was doing at the time. Today's 365 days of football is the natural progression of an arms race between programs that took off around the time football became recognized as a revenue sport.
Click to embiggen:
The Evolution of Strength and Conditioning [USCTrojans.com]