Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring Basketball Training

Almost all of the high school basketball players I train also play AAU ball through the spring. Although they usually only practice 1 -2 times per week, their weekend schedule could involve as many as 5 - 7 games in a weekend. That's a ton of basketball games for a week, let alone a weekend. Now I am not going to get on my high horse and bash the AAU tournament circuit, but let's be real.....professional and college teams play 4 games per WEEK max, usually 2 -3.

Anyways, I have to be aware of how my clients feel after these weekends. If they train on Mondays, we will spend a ton of time recovering and very little time doing speed drills. Then, we primarily focus on upper body lifting. I try to keep our heavy leg day in the middle of the week to give ample time to recover until the next tournament. If we jump at all, it is low volume and usually to boxes to reduce landing impact.

Basically, its all about recovering and getting stronger. Speed and conditioning can wait until summer.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mental Toughness

A while back, I asked readers to suggest some topics for me to write about. I had a request on the great topic of mental strength or what I like to call "Mental Toughness". I actually wrote about this topic in a newsletter last year, so I decided to dig it up. Since then, I have ready many strength and conditioning books that touch on the topic. One quote that stuck out to me came from world renown trainer Alwyn Cosgrove - "Psychology trumps physiology every time." I read this in Mike Boyle's latest book - Advances in Functional Training. Mike was shocked that the college hockey team he worked with was getting stronger with a circuit model that usually does not elicit strength gains. Cosgrove's answer was simply saying that the athletes were responding to the competitive environment the circuit style of training created.

I felt this was great quote because it can work both ways. As in Boyle's case, the team was accomplishing way more than he expected because the guys were mentally tough. On the other hand, it is easy for some athletes to "psych themselves out" of performing well. I always tell my clients that I will never force them to do something I know they cannot do, but I will make them do something that they THINK they cannot do, but I KNOW they can.

I am not an expert on sports psychology, so the article below is more a description about how I feel about the subject and how mental toughness is part of our programs without the clients really knowing it.


When I watch some of the top athletes in the world such as Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant, the one thing that sticks out to me is how mentally tough they are. Even though they don't win every tournament or game, it seems like they are relentless in their pursuit of success. Kobe might miss 5 shots in a row, but he is going to keep shooting. Tiger might miss a putt or two, but when it comes to the 18th hole, you know he is going to make the putt to get into a playoff or win.

Now obviously we are not trying to turn 12 year old kids into Kobe Bryant over here at SOAR. But I see a lot of high school athletes who are very physically gifted, but lack mental toughness. Its easy for them to back out of a set of pull ups after 6 reps when I know they can get 8 or 10. When they make mistakes, they get rattled and frustrated instead of taking a deep breath and concentrating. I also see the opposite - kids who are not as physically gifted, but very successful because they will stop at nothing to get better. They make mistakes, but they don't let it get in the way of their improvement.

Working on mental toughness is an indirect part of our program. We certainly don't take time away from training to walk over hot coals. But when you have to drag a sled with 200lbs in it 40yds, there is a mental aspect to that. It would be easy to stop at the 35 yard mark when your quads are screaming and your body is telling you to stop. Or for our younger kids, its would be easy to stop a prone bridge or plank at 20 seconds when we are going for 30 seconds. Certain exercises and drills like that can help develop mental toughness in young athletes without them really knowing it.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Single Leg Box Blast

The box blast is my favorite single leg explosive exercise for many reasons. For one, the box reduces the amount of impact the jump has on the body. Since one foot will hit the box first when the body returns to the ground, it greatly reduces the impact of the landing on the knee joints. It is much easier for beginners to perform then power lunges and split squat jumps.

I also like it because my advanced athletes can perform it with weighted vests on or DB's in their hands with no problem. It also promotes the explosive push into the box that I am always trying to get my athletes to give into the floor when they run. This exercise can either be performed from a static position (pause in between jumps) or rapidly with as little time in between jumps as possible. One thing you want to look for is a strong torso. If the athlete or client folds at the center of the body when they land, that will greatly reduce the amount of force they can put into the box for the next jump.

It is not the only single leg plyometric we do, but besides box jumps, it is the one explosive exercise that all of my beginner clients can perform with ease and almost no chance of injury.




video

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Basic Glute/Hamstring Exercises

This is the second part to the last blog. Here are our two basic Hip/Hamstring dominant exercises.


video

Basic Leg Exercises

One of the hardest things for the general fitness client to do is determine what leg exercises they should do. Let's start with what you should not do: 1. Skip legs entirely 2. Use machines such as leg extensions and leg curls. #1 is bad for obvious reasons if you are looking for a tone butt and legs. As for #2, leg extensions and leg curls are single joint exercises that only allow for movement from the knee joint and can probably do you more harm then good. Besides, you walk and run on your feet, so why train your legs in a chair.

If you are someone that experiences knee pain from squats or lunges, then chances are you are not doing them right or you need to strengthen some other areas of your body such as your glutes and hamstrings. We are going to stick with single leg exercises for now because I feel that they are the easiest to do correctly. The exercises in the videos below are basic single leg exercises that can be done with little or no equipment. Here is a sample set up for a legs in a total body workout.

Day 1 Step up 2x 8 each leg (the box in the video is 12" and a good height for beginners)
1 leg RDL (cone touch) 2x 8 each leg

Day 2 Split squat 2 x 8 each leg
Cook hip lift 2 x 8 each leg

The following week, move up to 2x 10 for each. In week 3, perform 2 x 12 each leg. After that, start to add weight or increase the height of the box for steps ups. Obviously, you know yourself better than I do, so if these exercises as shown are very easy, then you should add appropriate weight immediately. Remember, keep that heel on the ground or in the box!

Video for 1 leg RDL and Cook hip lift will be in the next blog.


video

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