Sorry, fellas. Bigger is not better, according to the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks football team. Don't believe them?
One of the smallest teams in stature in the Ontario University Athletics conference, the Hawks say they pride themselves on being among the fittest, fastest and winningest.
The proof, they say, is their 33-7 (won-lost) record and the national title they've rung up since the team adopted a new off-season training regimen with its emphasis on working muscle groups together, according to the Hawks' strength and conditioning coach Dwayne Cameron.
Cameron, who once worked for the NBA's Toronto Raptors , figures it's no coincidence Laurier's grid squad took off after he introduced his whole-body approach to training based on one used by Louisiana State University.
"I don't think a lot of people have any idea what goes into the off-season and the commitment that these players make," he said. "It truly is where the foundation is laid for the upcoming season."
Actually, the Hawks took some convincing, too. When Cameron presented the new program to the team in January 2005, he was greeted with puzzled stares.
"It was an eye-opener when we first started," remembered former Hawks linebacker Anthony Maggiacomo, a member of the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers since last season.
"A lot of guys had doubts because it was so different than what we used to do."
Instead of building big, bulky muscles one at a time, Cameron's program maximizes a player's on-field strength by targeting groups of muscles working together.
And Laurier's January through August training program was a revelation, said Maggiacomo, of Cambridge.
"Everyone was coming in with the idea that you just go do bench presses as much as you can and get as big as you possibly can.
"Our workouts don't isolate any one muscle group at a time. It helps you get stronger from head to toe which translates better onto the field."
One of Cameron's "star" pupils, undersized defensive end Chima Ihekwoaba said he can hardly believe the turnaround in his fitness and his game.
The Burlington, Ont., product is one of four Hawks destined for the East West Bowl on May 9 in London, Ont., an all-star showcase for CFL draft eligible players in 2010.
Laurier's resident strongman (Ihekwoaba weighs 245 pounds and can squat lift 491 pounds) said he expects to wow the pro scouts during fitness testing in London and swat aside offensive linemen with equal aplomb.
"That balance of strength and speed, as opposed to size, enables us to move quicker and swarm to the ball when we need to," Ihekwoaba said.
Their program is so good that the Hawks are often joined in the gym by former teammates like Maggiacomo, fellow Blue Bomber Ian Logan, Dante Luciani (Edmonton), Justin Phillips (Calgary) and Yannick Carter (Saskatchewan) who are in training for the upcoming CFL season.