Most people go to the gym and go through the motions and then wonder why they aren’t getting results. It is quite obvious to me if you look at it….people are in a soft-environment and no one ever taught them that they are supposed to attack their workouts, no holds barred. If you train in this manner, you shouldn’t be able to go for more than 3 days per week. I was unable to walk correctly after one set of squats last week, thats one set for the whole week and I can guarantee it was a hell of a lot harder than what you will see anyone do at the ‘gym’. I always tell my players are about how intense Michael Jordan was. (As a side note, I officially feel a little ‘old’ when I have to tell my players and students about Jordan as if an old-timer was talking to me about Mickey Mantle or something along those lines.)
I remember one instance in which Jordan punched his then teammate, Jon Paxson, in the face because Jordan didn’t think he was practicing hard enough, something that was totally unacceptable to Jordan. Jordan wanted to win more than anything and you have to carry the same attitude into each and every workout if you want the results you are after. Stop going through the motions and get INTENSE!
While reading Brawn, 3rd Edition, McRoberts said something that made so much sense but in a way that I have never heard before. I was excited because one of my upcoming BIG articles is about how to construct an in season program for an athlete. The goals during the season are maintenance of muscle mass and maintenance of strength. It makes ZERO sense to train your butt off during the off season only to have the strength and muscle size of a 90 year old by the end of the season because you couldn’t ‘find the time’ to train during the season. All it takes is one time per week, but I will save that for a different discussion. The key areas to train along with maintenance work are the thighs, hips and back (upper and lower). When McRoberts said this, I thought about it. Have you ever seen an athlete with well developed thights, hips/glutes and back that weren’t powerful and jacked? You can do all the arm work and isolation work that you want, but you won’t grow and get stronger until the key areas are stronger. So when putting together an in season program for some of my basketball players, I focus on different movements such as the deadlift and squat (different variations), low back/posterior chain work, auxillary work for strength in the shoulders and mobility in the ankles, health of the knees and some core work. I was already doing this in my own language but McRobert’s made the point even more clear. Put it to use!
While I was reading the Charlie Francis Training System book this morning, he said a few very interesting things. For those of you not familiar with Charlie Francis, he was perhaps the greatest track coach in recent decades. He was responsible for the fastest human the world ever saw-Ben Johnson. Now some of my main sports are baseball, basketball, football and volleyball but I realize the importance of reading all of Charlie Francis’ work. I am constantly trying to get my basketball players to keep their hips loose as tight hips will really inhibit performance. In his own words:
“The body must use protective inhibition in the presence of such spasmed tissue in order to survive training and performance without injury.”
He is talking about the need for massage, stretching, soft tissue work and tissue regeneration. If your fascia and muscles are tight and never given the chance to recuperate, your performance will be inhibited-IE-it won’t be nearly as good as it should. So in closing, all you athletes must take time to roll out, stretch, etc. Keep those hips loose!
For any of you strength coaches out there that are starting out training a high school or for that matter, a college team, you must realize that time is much more limited than during the summer and off-season. I am lucky if I get two 30 minute sessions per week with the team. So with so little time, I have had to trim all the excess fat off of the workouts and get down to business. There are also other issues that you may have to deal with such as player cramping and the mental side of the player. This article will hopefully serve as a guide to you, whether you are a player, coach or strength coach. As a little bonus as the end I will highlight a great drill I use to build tougher players mentally and physically.
So with 30 minutes, I realize that the main priority is to maintain the hard earned strength and size we gained in the off-season. Every player went up at least 8 pounds; one went up as high as 22 pounds. During a typical basketball game, a player that plays significant minutes can go up to 5 miles in an interval fashion, leading to huge excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (aka-EPOC or oxygen debt), and leading to a huge calorie deficit. With this in mind, I choose three essential movements: a press, a pull and a single leg movement. The multi-joint movements stress a lot of muscle mass and cross several joints. I keep the reps in the 6-10 range and only perform 3 sets at each station. The players start a set on my whistle which is normally every 90 seconds. This is done for a few reasons, the first being that I want to stay away from making the players sore, as usually can be seen with reps in the 12-15 range (bodybuilding style). I also do not have a lot of time with the guys during the season. Secondly, I want to maintain strength levels. I know that ideally we would work even lower for strength typically, but I do not care for the players to try and set PRs during the season. Weights in the 1-3 RM range can also be a larger stress on the CNS, something that you want to avoid at all costs during the season. The games and for that matter practices, place a huge stressor on the nervous system, so we have to try and balance recovery, strength maintenance and performance. The players can try to increase weight from week to week.
Another area that must be addressed is core and flexibility. As with almost everyone I ever come across, the basketball players are extremely tight in the hips. We always stretch the hip flexors, hip rotators and low back. This can be done after or before the workout, just make sure you get it in! You will also surely be faced with the problem of cramping during games. A lot of the times, athletic trainers want to deal with this problem with bananas and making sure the player is hydrated, which is fine and dandy when talking long-term, but if its money time in the 4th quarter and one of your go to players is cramping, you better have a quick solution. Luckily for you, I picked one such solution up during my competitive bodybuilding days. Calcium or more simply, TUMS or Rolaids taken before a game, at half time or even if the player takes them once cramping has started should do the trick. The calcium helps with the actin-myosin cross bridges that have become locked leading to a cramp. For you muscle heads, this also works before a big leg day in the gym (I figured this out after I almost landed in the emergency room with a severe case of cramping that lasted for three hours). I would also have your players supplement with magnesium throughout the season as most hard training athletes are deficient in magnesium.
Be sure to continue to monitor the mental state of your athletes as well. Basketball is a game of streaks. A player can be on a hot streak and they can also go into such a slump that they can no longer hit the side of a barn with the ball. Visualization will work wonders and the players will take to this surprisingly well if you explain why they should be doing it. Lastly, the drill I used the other day was more of a football drill, but I used it for mental toughness and to teach the players how to land after diving head-first for a ball. I had a mat laid out with a line of players lined up behind the mat. At the end of the mat was a medicine ball. About 30 feet beyond the end of the mat was a cone. In that empty space, I placed a player that had a stability ball. This was his ‘weapon’. The next player up in line was to dive out on the mat and grab the medicine ball. The player then stood up and carried the ball like a football and had to get to the cone and touch it while the player with the stability ball was trying to prevent him with his ‘weapon’. The players had a blast and I believe if we continue this drill, the mental aspect of it will show up on the court. Use whatever training you can to get the edge on the competition and work hard!
My book recommendation for the day: