Vanderbilt linebacker Nigel Bowden noticed a difference after his first workout with Bill Hughan.

The stiffness he typically felt after a weightlifting session wasn’t there.

“What I’ve seen so far is more concentration on flexibility,” said Bowden, a redshirt freshman. “It’s more about being in shape, controlled lifts, and it’s going to keep us healthy. I don’t feel any tightness because we stretch before lifting for about 30 minutes and after for about 30 minutes, so your body feels great.”

The Commodores football program took a new direction toward strength and conditioning training with the addition of Hughan, who arrived in late January after Dwight Galt followed James Franklin to Penn State.

Hughan, pronounced HUE-an, was invited to follow Derek Mason from Stanford after one year as a sports-performance coach with the Cardinal. Before that, Hughan spent nine seasons in the NFL, including serving as head of the New York Jets’ strength and conditioning program from 2011-12.

Hughan’s philosophy is quality over quantity, core strength over bulging biceps. Durability is priority one. That, he noted, translates to players spending less time in the training room.

“We’re training movements, not muscles,” said Hughan, a former Springfield College (Mass.) club hockey player who turned 39 Saturday. “You have to improve movement efficiency. You don’t play this game lying on a bench or with a bar on your back. You play it on the field running.

“It’s not just about lifting heavy weight. It’s about lifting to be safe. It’s about lifting with technique. When you stress those aspects and it’s not just a numbers-based program, then guys are going to get better functionally as football players. Everything you do is geared toward them being better football players on the field. You’re not training body builders or power lifters.”

Much of Hughan’s strength and conditioning program aligns with the system used by Stanford strength coach Shannon Turley. Both were part of Missouri’s strength staff in the early 2000s and reunited in Palo Alto in 2013.

Stanford has been considered one of the Pac-12’s most physical teams since Turley arrived. According to his university bio, Stanford witnessed an 87 percent drop in games missed because of injuries among players on the two-deep chart in Turley’s first six seasons through 2012.

Hughan has similar goals for Vanderbilt, which had an estimated 26 players from its two-deep chart miss at least one game in 2013 because of injury.

“That goes back to his (NFL experience),” Vanderbilt junior safety Jahmel McIntosh said. “In the NFL, those guys play so many games and they take so much physical abuse in every game. That goes back to the durability. So we’re more focused on maintaining our body so we will be able to play every game every weekend and have fewer injuries. This strength staff is more focused about flexibility, mobility and explosion. The (last) staff is concerned about power, and there’s nothing wrong with that. … It kind of balances out great.”