Mobilize Your Hips and Stabilize Your Core with 3D Lunges

Posted in Mobility/Stability Training on January 26, 2010 by mnover

One of the tests I use to evaluate all of my basketball players is a lunge test.

To demonstrate proper lunging technique and alignment means that the player has good thigh, hip, and glute flexibility and strength. It is also a great indicator of trunk and core stability as it will show me how well a player can hold correct upper body posture during a lower body movement.

This is extremely important for the bigger and taller players as a majority of movements on the court are single leg in nature, or split stance like in the lunge, and accompanied by dynamic arm and hand action.

If a ‘Big Man’ has a weak trunk that cannot support the many overhead movements of catching a ball, shooting, rebounding, and blocking shots during dynamic and explosive ‘lunge-type’ stances, jumps, and cuts then he is going to have difficulty playing the game effectively. So seeing how well a player can perform a lunge gives me an excellent idea of what kind of strength and mobility work they need.

When I spot limitations or difficulties during an evaluation of the lunge, such as the athlete not being able to hold his trunk upright or his feet and knees not being able to maintain sagittal plane alignment, it can mean several things; unstable and immobile ankle joints and tight calf muscles; weak or tight groin and inner thigh (hip abductor) and quads; imbalances between some glute weakness and abductor tightness, etc.

Despite the fact that most players and coaches can’t be expected to properly analyze and recognize all of the causes of a poor lunge, I find that by applying a simple 3D Lunge Series you can realize some very significant benefits and improvements.

What’s really neat about the 3D Lunge is that every time you step in a different direction you mobilize, stabilize and strengthen hip, thigh, and ankle in a much more functional and basketball specific manner then you would from simply performing a one dimensional lunge.

To perform this very effective exercise, start from an upright position, with feet hip width apart and hands on hips. The first version is a Forward Lunge. Perform them by having the athlete step forward and lower the body by bending both knees to 90 degrees. Alternate right and left leg and certify that the athlete is in proper alignment and posture.

The second version of the 3D Lunge is a Side Lunge where the athlete alternates right and left lateral steps. As the hips go back and down, it is really important that they keep their feet parallel and maintain full foot contact with the ground as they lower their body. Gaze forward to keep the chest pointed directly ahead.

The last version is a Crossover Lunge. Instead of lateral steps to the side have the athlete laterally cross-step one leg in front of the other. It is important to note that the heel of the back leg will come off the ground and be supported on the ball of the foot. The front foot however must stay flat on the floor. Pay careful attention to the athlete’s feet so that they don’t rotate out but stay pointed straight ahead. Finally, assure that the hips stay squared to the front and don’t over rotate towards the stepping foot.

Perform 1 to 2 sets of between 5 to 15 reps in each direction. For example, one set would be 5 Front Lunges, 5 Side Lunges, and 5 Crossover Lunges on each foot. The indicator of how many reps are enough is when the athlete begins to tire and loose form.

Try this and I will be looking forward to hearing your feed-back!

The Medicine Ball: Make it Your New Best Friend

Posted in Strength Training on January 25, 2010 by mnover

A Medicine Ball could be one of the single most important tools for developing power and strength for the ‘Basketball Big Man’. I used it extensively in my off-season training program as well as in my in-season maintenance program during my college and pro careers to properly coordinate and fine-tune multiple components of basketball performance in a coordinated effort.

In fact, and your gonna get a kick out of this, I actually lugged a 20 pound med ball around with me as I travelled the world! It wasnt easy to find a med ball that bounced. I used one in the summers that I just loved so I had to take it with me everywhere I went. Probably not the best idea as it cost me tons in terms of extra baggage on international flights! Add that to the space requirements of size 15 basketball shoes and you can imagine what I looked like coming to the airport with a mountain of bags! Anyway, just shows you how important my medball was to me.

It’s one of the ‘Old-School’ tools that is making a comeback in modern day sports training and because of its simplicity and versatility is a must for any developmental program for tall or oversized basketball players.

Sport Specific – With a medicine ball you can train basketball specific movements using your whole body in multiple planes and directions that you cannot train with any other weight implement such as a kettlebell , a barbell, or a dumbbell. Simply by substituting a med ball for a basketball you can perform all types of two hand and one hand passes that you would use in the game. Imagine trying to get away with passing a dumbbell around the weight room?

Core Power – Since core strength is best developed by performing full-body movements, the med ball is especially beneficial for training for core power. The med ball effectively allows you to use your shoulders, torso, and hips as you perform various throws, twists, and jumps. The ‘Big Man’ is only as strong as his weakest link. Because of the length of your limbs and your height, your weakest link is usually your trunk.

Med balls are relatively cheap and because of their growing popularity there is extensive information and access to med ball exercises and videos. Despite all of these benefits, I still get astonished at the way some coaches and athletes try and perform various exercises at the gym or during practice sessions.

Someone said “It is not the recipe but the cook”. It couldn’t be more accurate.

If wrongly implemented, med ball training could be an athletic catastrophe, injury prone.

Therefore, I would like to enumerate some of the guideline and safety techniques to consider when planning, running or/ and performing med ball exercises.

  • The principal problem is the lack of proper form brought on by most athletes using a ball that is too heavy. Most of the mindset of young athlete is to try and get the heaviest weights possible to realize the biggest strength gains. The weight of the ball should be light enough so that proper form is never compromised. Therefore quality of movement should be the focus instead of how many reps and sets you perform.
  • Since quality is key, always have available a light, medium, and heavy weight ball available and initiate each new exercise with a very light ball and progressively work up
  • Since the core is the focus of med ball training, concentrate on the athlete contracting the core muscles during the moves. Have them brace the abdominals as if they were going to get punched in the stomach.
  • Maintain good posture and alignment with the eyes forward and the chest lifted. During catching and throwing work at complete extension of the arms as you receive and release the ball.
  • With any bending movement to pick the ball up from the floor, to squat with the ball, or to lower and jump drop the hips back and down, bend the knees, keep the back straight, look forward and keep the chest lifted.
  • With overhead throws, be sure the athlete keeps the abdominals braced in order to fully support the lumbar spine. Do not over reach the ball excessively over and behind the head.

I will be posting some ‘Big Man Specific’ exercises and workouts with the med ball soon, so keep an eye out! Until then, be safe and shoot for good quality form on each movement rather than trying to do too much.

Importance of Single Leg Strength Training

Posted in Strength Training on January 25, 2010 by mnover

How often during the game of basketball do players have two feet in contact with the ground in a completely equal and parallel stance? Most of our moves on the court are single leg or single  foot dominant; running, cutting, jumping, sliding are all movements where players are either on one leg, transferring from one leg to the other, or in a split-stance. Even though it is true that players come to a ‘jump-stop’ often to shoot and explode for rebounds or dunks off of two legs, the feet are often staggered to some degree and in order to get to the ‘jump-stop’ they are still propelling off of a single leg.

So, if most part of the movements of basketball are single leg, why are the majority of strength training programs out there focusing on double leg exercises??

Many coaches and trainers design their strength programs focusing on double leg exercises most often performed on the leg press, leg extension, and leg curl machines. While I believe there is some benefit from these exercises as well, as from more functional double leg squatting exercises, there is still a significant lack of usage of single leg movements to help develop and enhance basketball performance of the big man.

While most programs for ‘bigs’ are built on simply trying to get them stronger, the focus should be on developing trunk and hip stabilizers that are vital for proper function. Single leg exercises are much more effective at developing theses muscles than double leg exercises.

The quadrates lumbroum in the low back and the glute minimus and medius in the hip are the key stabilizers to the lower body which allow for proper transfer of forces down the kinetic chain. This improved transfer of force will significantly enhance all the single leg movements of basketball I mentioned above.

Of equal importance is the enhanced injury prevention benefits gained from using single leg exercises. The improved pelvic and hip stabilization allows better control of the knee and ankle significantly reducing the likelihood of injury to those joints.

Therefore, single leg exercises such as lunges, step ups, single leg squats, split squats, Bulgarian squats and single leg deadlifts should be the FIRST option and the focus of any lower body strength training program. This is especially important for the younger, oversized ‘big’ who lacks total body strength and control.

So coaches out there trying to ‘beef up’ your ‘big men’ with traditional weight training programs, please, take a step back and design more functional programs that build foundations of stabilization and strength that include more single leg exercises. 

For more information of how to implement more single leg training for your ‘big man’ please visit…

‘Big Man’, Get Up Off the Floor with the TGU!

Posted in Strength Training on January 25, 2010 by mnover

I just got back from a workout and had to write you all about an exercise that I am falling in love with!

It’s called the Turkish Get Up and I really believe that if implemented into your strength training program you will see some amazing gains in total body functional strength and power.

And as you will discover the longer you hang around my site, training for functional strength is the true key to basketball success. I still see way too many players going to the weight room and using smith machines, leg press machines, and shoulder press machines thinking that they are gaining some real strength. Sorry to tell you, but you are not!

Real functional strength and movement for basketball requires all of the bodies muscles working together to accomplish a task. On the court, you are always on your feet jumping, sliding, cutting, holding off defenders, catching and passing the ball, and running. Every muscle in your body is working when you receive a pass on the fast break and explode up to dunk the ball. You can’t develop this kind of true strength sitting on machines and isolating certain muscles while letting others stay supported and turned off.

Functional strength exercises use all of your major joints together; ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. They incorporate the use of your upper and lower extremities in a coordinated effort that best activates your core region. Your core is all the musculature between your shoulders and hips that controls and provides power to your limbs. When you are sitting on machines, you are effectively turning off your core.

Basketball Big Men have larger and longer levers to control and coordinate making it even more critical that total body exercises that activate and strengthen your core are included in your training.

The Turkish Get Up is just one of these exercises. It is a classic old-timers exercise that has seen a resurrection in modern day training with power lifters, weightlifters, and because of the growing popularity of the Kettlebell, with the sports performance and fitness industries. And as the name suggests, you actually start on the floor with a weight in one hand and have to use your entire body to stand up and press that weight directly overhead.

Besides this lift being a tremendous strengthener and stabilizer of your core (you will not find many lifts better than this one!) it also provides great benefits for your shoulder joint. It effectively mobilizes and stabilizes your entire shoulder girdle helping you with all of your overhead movements (shooting, rebounding, and blocking shots) while at the same time building tremendous strength. As a basketball big man what could be more important!

The move is a little complicated so as you learn it, please start with a very light weighted dumbbell or kettlebell.

  1. Start by lying on your back on the floor and with a dumbbell in your right hand, press it directly over your chest towards the ceiling, locking out your elbow. Place your left hand flat on the floor at your side. Bend your right knee and place your right foot flat on the floor.
  2. Sit up by pressing into the floor with your right foot and your left hand and elbow until you are supported on your left hand. Keep the weight locked out overhead and always look at the dumbbell.
  3. Lift your hips up off the floor and bring your left leg underneath you until you can put your left knee down to perform a 1 knee stance.
  4. From their simple stand up pressing the weight directly overhead.

The Secret to Gaining Effective Mobility!

Posted in Mobility/Stability Training on January 25, 2010 by mnover

Mobility gets a lot of attention when it comes to proper warm up and cool down, injury prevention, and athletic development.  Most coaches and trainers are starting to include more active mobility exercises in their training programs and this is a great thing.

But what starts many times with good intentions can in the end be potentially dangerous for the players and the athletes if not done properly. This is especially true when we talk about younger adolescent ‘Big Men’ with their long and gangly limbs that they have difficulty controlling.

First it is important that we clearly define the concept of mobility.

Mobility is the ability of the joints and the muscle groups of the body to move freely through their full and natural ranges of motion.  Therefore, for athletic movements in sport it is crucial to incorporate mobility training, especially in the warm up routines. When the body has restrictions or limitations within the joints or muscles, not only will compensations and injuries occur, but performance will be jeopardized.

However, the danger that I want to call your attention to in this post is the concept of hyper mobility, especially among these big, young developing players that augment the lack of control that they already have. Hyper mobility is when the athlete possesses excessive ranges of motion that lack strength and stability. Along with the innate ‘softness’ of developing bodies, too much flexibility work in static positions and excessive mobility training will create hype mobility.  The dangers of hyper mobility are dislocations and subluxations of joints and muscles pulls and strains due to the inability of the athlete to stabilize these large ranges of movement.

Therefore, the secret to successful mobility training is to always include stability and strength training to help support the new range of motion. Mobilty without stability is instability! Instability in movement, especially explosive basketball movement with contact, can lead to injury.

So you have 2 choices:

  1. Choose for your warm up and mobility program exercises that incorporate BOTH mobility and stability in the same exercise. Such as the Quadruped Hip Circuit.
  2. Or choose more static mobility and flexibility exercises, but be sure to include strength and stability exercises IMMEDIETALY after and before you begin training. For example, after performing standard hip flexor and iliopsoas stretches in a half kneeling position, perform 2 to 3 sets of walking lunges down the court and back.

The Big Mans ‘Powerhouse’: Why Core Strength Is The Key To Performance.

Posted in Core Training on January 25, 2010 by mnover

Core Training and Core Exercises are catch phrases that have become very popular in today’s fitness and sports performance industry. Everyone seems to be talking about the ‘Core’ and how important it is. More times than not, most people still relate the core to the abdominals and performing ab exercises such as crunches.

But the true definition of ‘Core’ is much more than just the abdominals and building a ‘six pack’. If you as a basketball big man are not properly training your core, you could be missing the most important factor in maximizing your athletic ability and play on the court.

You can look at the core more accurately as the ‘Cross Roads’ of your body: the entire region between your shoulders and your hips. It includes all of the musculature of your scapula, mid and lower back, obliques, and abdominals. It is the link that connects your upper and lower body and allows them to work effectively as one coordinated unit. Without the stability of this region, it is difficult for a basketball player to effectively control his arms and legs.

The core controls a players center of gravity and balance. The core stabilizes a players posture and allows him to play upright and ‘big’ like they should. Many times coaches and parents can get the wrong idea when they watch a tall, young athlete on the court struggling to sprint up the floor or having difficulty holding onto the ball in traffic. They say that he needs to get stronger and develop better coordination. Well this is true, but it is even more accurate to say that if they were to improve the power in their core region, they would be better able to use the strength and coordination that they have, as well as improve both immensely.

For this reason I tell my players all the time that the core is your bodies’ powerhouse! You must train your body to work as one unit using your arms and legs together in full-body movements. Real core training means performing squats, lunges, deadlifts and overhead presses. It means incorporating more body weight training like pushups, pull-ups, planks, bridges, and plyometrics instead of sitting on the leg press, shoulder press, and leg extension machines.

These machines effectively ‘shut off’ your core because it is supported in a sitting position. To develop all of your core muscles, they must be activated to stabilize upper and lower body movements together.

Therefore, from now on when you think of developing your core muscles and improving your overall body strength and basketball performance, make sure you search out a proper functional core training program that incorporates full body movements.

For more information and products on this exact topic, go check out my site at…

Ab Crunches; Not the Big Man’s Answer to a Functional Core

Posted in Core Training on January 25, 2010 by mnover

A functional core with strong, stable abdominal muscles is a must for any basketball big man. His ability to move and perform on the court immensely depends on his ability to control his arms and legs. Basketball requires powerful, explosive movements. The core, or as I like to call it the  powerhouse, of the big man’s body must radiate the energy  and strength required  for these precise, explosive upper and lower body movements.

I still see it way too often in todays practices and training sessions for young basketball players. A coach will use Ab crunches as a form of payment for the loosing team in a drill, for example. The tired players flop down on the floor, lace their fingers behind their head and begin to pull their necks forward as they bob up and down like fish out of water. Not only are they not using their abs, but they are putting unnecessary stress and tension on their neck and spine.

Besides this poor execution of the exercise, a basic abdominal crunch is not effectively training the core as it needs to be trained. The core muscles don’t only include the upper abs, but the entire chain of muscles between the shoulders and hips that control stability of the spine and movement of the extremities as I just mentioned. True core function is being demonstrated, therefore, when the body is upright performing dynamic and coordinated upper and lower body movements like receiving a pass in the post.

In this example, the big man must be in a low, seated position with the hips down and back, the chest up and the arms overhead or extended. Powerful hip, back, and glute muscles are being worked here. There will no doubt be a defender pushing from behind, so a strong upper body and trunk are necessary to hold him off. The abdominals also get into the action more directly when the player has to reach out and snatch the ball out of the air and powerfully bring it back into the body.

All this is happening in an upright position where the core is stabilizing the players body alignment and posture. Now, look at a lying on your back abdominal crunch and tell me where the correlation is to an upright, dynamic posture? An abdominal crunch only isolates the upper abs in a lying position where the spine and trunk are all supported by the floor. Nothing is active or engaged.

Core training must integrate upper and lower body in one exercise. That is why simply by performing a front plank, for example, is exponentially more effective and functional for training the abs and the core than an abdominal crunch. The entire body is engaged from head to toe as the core must maintain the alignment and lift of the trunk and legs off the floor.

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