Archive for the Strength Training Category

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.