Pilates for the Basketball Big Man

Posted in Core Training on January 25, 2010 by mnover

Many top athletes and trainers’ today swear by certain types of strength and training techniques. They rage on the internet and argue about which form of training is getting them the best results. And when they choose one, they go on to proclaim that it is the new ‘revolution’ in athletic development.

The problem with this is that it places a lot of confusion and mis-information in the minds of well-meaning coaches and parents looking for the best solution for their players and children. I get many questions about what I believe are the best methods to use and why. After my long career as a professional basketball player competing around the world and as a strength and conditioning professional, I believe that there is no single technique or style that will produce ‘magic’ results or all of a sudden create the ‘perfect’ athlete.

Variety is the spice of ‘training’, and when you are looking to help young athletes and players improve their performance, you should be open to a global, multi-lateral approach to your programs.

Pilates is one method that a lot of people have begun to swear by in the sports industry. I believe that it is a great supplement to any program and can dramatically help the basketball big man develop his core strength and overall performance. NBA stars such as LeBron James, Jason Kidd, and Ben Gordon have become Pilates fans and use it regularly to stay on top of their game and to prevent injury.

So what is Pilates exactly?

Pilates was designed as an exercise system by a german therapist and world-class athlete back in the 1940s. To improve the physical condition of returning vetereans from the first world war, he created a group of principles that would help condition the entire body from the inside out. It had within its principles a strong inter-relation between the mind and body as it required focused concentration on strengthening, stretching, and stabilizing specific muscle groups.

The ‘Pilates Principles’ were created to educate the body in: proper alignment, centering, concentration, control, precision, breathing, and flowing movement.

Speaking as a Big Man myself, I wouldnt need to have any other motivation for using Pilates than the above stated principles! What more could any basketball big man want than to possess each and every one of those qualities in their game??

For now, let me just focus on one specific principle: Centering.

Centering is another way to explain what we already know is very critical to a Big Mans success; Core Strength. Mr. Pilates himself called the very large group of muscles in the center of the body – encompassing the abdomen, lower back, hips, and buttocks – the “powerhouse.” He believed that all energy for movement began from the powerhouse and flowed outward to the limbs. In other words, the physical energy exerted from the center should coordinate the movements of the extremities.

Therefore, Pilates is the essence of what I have talked about in previous posts. Developing core strength is paramount for the success of all aspiring basketball big men and should be an intricate part of their training repertoire.

The fact that some NBA star guards are using it in their training should turn a light on for all of you big men out there that need to improve your athleticism, strength and coordination! The big man has larger and longer limbs to control which require even more so than smaller players, the development of a powerful core musculature system. The more powerful your center, the more explosive and strong your extremities will be.

Here are a couple of exercises for you to try.

Leg Pull Front is a core strength builder that engages every part of the body. Leg pull front takes a standard static plank exercise a step further. By lifting one leg off the floor, you introduce instability that challenges the abdominals and shoulders to keep the trunk and pelvis stable as you move

Start on your knees. Place your hands on the floor in front of you, fingers pointing straight ahead. Keep your arms straight and your elbows unlocked.

Engage your abdominals and lengthen your spine, extending through the top of the head as you lean forward to put your weight on your hands.
Your shoulders should be directly over your wrists and settled in your back. That means there is a lot of space between your shoulders and your ears.

 With your abdominals lifted, extend your legs back so that they are straight and together. Your toes are curled under so that some weight is on the balls of your feet.
Your ears, shoulders, hips and heels should be in one long line.

Extend one leg from the hip so that your foot lifts off the mat a few inches. Your foot can point softly as it is released from the mat.

As you extend your leg from the hip, your hip will lift slightly, but the challenge is to keep the rest of your body stable in plank position. This requires extra work from your abdominals, shoulders and back. It is important that you initiate this move with your powerhouse and through the hip, not just from the back of the leg. Try not to get tense; use only as much energy as you need to keep perfect form. Focusing on length will help a lot.

Return your foot to the mat and extend the other leg.

Repeat the lift five to seven times on each side

Shoulder Bridge is an advanced Pilates exercise. It requires a lot of strength from the abdominals and hamstrings as they stabilize a lifted pelvis against the movement of a fully extended leg

Lie on your back in neutral spine, with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Your arms are extended along your sides.

Inhale: Press down through your feet to lengthen your spine and press you hips up. You will come to a bridge position on your shoulders with your knees, hips and shoulders in one line. Your abs and hamstrings should be well engaged.

Pause at the top of the bridge to practice lifting one leg, then the other, off the mat. If you are stable with this part of the exercise, proceed to step 2

Inhale: Fold one knee in toward your chest and then extend that leg toward the ceiling. The rest of the body stays still. Relax your shoulders and neck, the work is in the abs and hamstrings.

Exhale: Lower your leg so that your knees are side by side. As you lower your leg, go for as much length as you can. The knee of your supporting leg, the extended leg, and the tailbone are reaching for the wall in front of you as the top of your head is reaching away in an opposing stretch.


Core Muscles, The Big Mans Natural Back Brace

Posted in Core Training on January 25, 2010 by mnover

As a professional basketball player overseas I enjoyed a 12 year career playing in beautiful locations around the world including Spain, Portugal, Japan, and Italy. I consider myself one of the lucky few who got the chance to have such an awesome experience. So many ballers finish their career after high school or college and never get the opportunity to get paid to play a game!

However, it almost never happened. Half way through my rookie season fresh out of Indiana University I injured my low back. I was turning to sprint down the court after a rebound and ‘Zing!’ I felt a shooting pain go down the back of my left leg. I crumpled to the floor as I felt my low back give out on me. Subsequent exams showed I had developed several bulged discs in my lumbar spine and at the ripe old age of 22 I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease (DDD).

DDD is a degenerative condition of the intra vertebral discs that causes varying levels of pain and discomfort. This disc degeneration is a natural part of the aging process and over time all people will exhibit some form of change in the disc.

But because of the high level of forces and compression that playing the game of basketball can put on our bodies and especially our vertebral discs, many young players suffer varying forms and degrees of back pain. For me, it was a continuous fight to maintain my level of back health to complete 12 years of pro ball!

Because DDD is basically a chronic condition that never truly goes away, I had to religiously train and strengthen my body to effectively support and stabilize my weakened lumbar spine. In the early years, unknowingly, I even began using a back brace. In the beginning it was helpful in giving me the support and confidence to get back on the floor and play. The problem came later when my body became dependent on it because it had lost its own proprioceptive ability.

Proprioception is our bodies unconscious sense about information regarding the location, movement and posture of our bodies in physical space. Sensory receptors in our joints, muscles, and tendons send signals to our brains that let us know where we are in terms of everything around us and under our feet. Essentially we lose all movement, balance and stability when we lose our proprioception.

This is exactly what happens when we rely too much on braces for our backs or ankles. These devices ‘soften’ our proprioceptive sense and turn off many of the signals that support and balance our joints.

This is the problem that many athletes and trainers have to be aware of and the entire idea behind PREVENTITIVE TRAINING AND REHAB. If my training through high school and college had focused more on the core stabilizing techniques that I had learned over the years, my body would have been more prepared to endure the rigors of the game and avoid ever developing DDD in the first place.

So for every young ‘big man’ out there working to improve it is crucial that you include in your program the proper core training exercises that will be your ‘natural back brace’ and keep you healthy and strong for a long and successful career!

Here are 4 ‘cant do without’ core building exercises that you can start using in your workouts today.

  1. Single Leg Posterior/Anterior Reaches
  2. Push Up Crawl
  3. Quadruped
  4. Side Raises

Why Rocky III should be in your DVD collection!

Posted in Agility Training on January 25, 2010 by mnover


The reason I created this blog and the reason why I like to work with taller and bigger athletes is because of the transformation from one type of athlete/player to another type of athlete/ player that is possible.

I like to relate many of today’s young ‘Big Men’ to Rocky Balboa in Rocky III. If you can recall from this 80’s classic, Rocky was literally a slow-rolling rock that could take a beating but would never quit and eventually overpower his opponent with brute strength and determination. With the guidance of his old nemesis and new trainer, Apollo Creed, Rocky transforms himself into a completely different type of fighter during the movie. He goes from a methodical, clumsy bruiser to a lightning fast, agile fighter with amazing footwork. (Just check out those moves in the training ring with Apollo here! Survivor – Eye of the Tiger (Rocky and Apollo Training)).

I see many of my ‘Basketball Big Men’ the same way. The bigger, slower, more immobile post player cannot cement himself down on the low block and use overpowering size and strength to dominate games anymore. Pounding the ball relentlessly inside to a dominant ‘rock’, for better or for worse, has become extinct. Today’s game has evolved into a ‘speed and quickness’ game that runs circles around a stationary post player. More and more we are seeing how amazing athletes are dominating basketball with their speed, quickness and explosiveness. The game is so fast now, that this slow, stationary post player simple gets in the way.

The post player of today possesses many of the athletic qualities and traits of guards and forwards. They have become HYBRID POST PLAYERS; players with size and strength that can run the court like a deer, shoot threes, and defend on the perimeter. Therefore, if taller, bigger players want to survive and succeed in the modern game, they MUST transform themselves into agile, mobile, and versatile Big Men.

How do you do this??

With ‘Athletic Big Man’ training techniques that show you how to develop into this new hybrid big man! If you are interesting in learning how to develop yourself into the new generation Hybrid Big Man, then go check out….

About Me

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2010 by mnover

My name is Matt Nover and I am an ex-professional ‘Big Man’ and current Strength and Conditioning Specialist certified by the NSCA. I have been playing and working with basketball players around the world for over 20 years. I specialize in training ‘Big Men’ to develop and improve their athleticism and that is why I have created the ‘Athletic Big Man Source’.

My own basketball career spanned parts of 3 decades and I enjoyed success at many levels. From 1989 to 1993 at Indiana University I battled inside against many of the top Big Men in basketball at that time; Juwan Howard, Chris Weber, Christian Laettner, and Shaquille O’Neal to name a few. Our teams had great success winning 3 Big Ten Titles, being ranked #1 in the country, and making it to the Final Four in 1992. (I eventually went on to make a Hollywood film in 1994 with my ‘Big Man’ counterpart Shaq called ‘Blue Chips’! 😉 We starred along side great actors such as Nick Nolte, J.T. Walsh, and Alfre Woodard).

Afterwards, I embarked on my professional playing career that lasted 12 seasons and took me across the globe. While playing in various countries like Spain, Puerto Rico, Italy, and Japan I had the opportunity to cross paths with many talented coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, and fellow athletes. The information I was able to share and gain during those playing years was invaluable! It wasn’t always glamorous as I had to endure many injuries battling in the post against big, strong, and powerful athletes (broken ankles, herniated lumbar discs, and inumerable muscle pulls and strains…). However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. During my various recovery periods, I discovered that I had a deep interest in athletic training and injury prevention. I began absorbing as much information as I possibly could about preventing future injuries and building my athleticism to enhance my performance. I didnt want to miss any more opportunities to play on the court; I wanted to maximize my potential to be the best athlete and player possible!!

By experimenting and studying numerous rehabilitation and training methods (such as yoga, pilates, strength and fitness training, acupressure, acupuncture, osteopathy, traditional physical therapy, functional therapy and training, chiropractic therapy, athletic development and sports performance enhancement) in both eastern and western philosophies, I gained a comprehensive knowledge of what it takes to become a powerful, fit, optimally functioning athlete.

Being a ‘Big Man’ myself I have first-hand knowledge of the difficulties that most over-sized players have in agility, coordination, quickness, and speed. With all the knowledge that I was able to acquire, I realized that I was in the perfect position to help other ‘Big Men’ overcome these difficulties and become better athletes for basketball!

So when my playing career finished in 2004 I successfully acquired degrees and certifications in the sports training industry. I became certified as a CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) with the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), became a Certified Pilates Instructor by the Physicalmind Institute of New York, and earned a Level 1 Youth Fitness Specialist Certification from the IYCA.

I truly believe that I am in a unique position! My mission is to share the understanding and knowledge that I have gained over the last 20 years and help train and develop ‘Bigs’ of all ages and levels to be the best that they can be!

I hope you enjoy our information, and thank you for checking us out!

Your ‘Athletic Big Man’ Coach

Matt Nover

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2010 by mnover

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!