Balance On-Court Play With Off-Court Training

Get better at the sports you play and the life you lead at STACK. Improve your training, nutrition and lifestyle with daily

STACK's 8-Week Workout, developed with St. John's Strength Coach Patrick Dixon, will keep you playing and gaining.

What To Do: Fit strength and conditioning workouts into a busy summer season.

1. Get into Top Physical Shape. Even if you play all day, every day, you'll not play yourself into the kind of physical shape that is necessary for on-court success. You need power to drive your vertical jump higher; agility and quickness to execute offensive moves and make defensive stops; raw strength to rip down rebounds; physical conditioning to be able to play game after game, day after day throughout long seasons; and mental preparation to stay sharp for the competitive demands of high-level competition.

2. Remember that Something is Better Than Nothing. Too often athletes decide that if they don't have time for a complete training program, they might as well do nothing. Big mistake: Research shows that athletes can continue to improve performance with brief, focused drills and exercises. The trick is to zero in on one variable. Work on agility drills 15 minutes twice a week or a super leg circuit three times a week. The key is to do something. If you don't train, your performance levels will start to drop by the middle of summer, and so will your game. NBA All Star Dwyane Wade says, "We might do only a 30-minute workout, but it will be an intense 30 minutes."

3. Adapt to Game-day Training. With travel and back-to-back game and practice days, finding time for strength and performance training can be tough. Sometimes, your only option will be to double-up with training and playing, which many believe hinders on-court performance. However, you can successfully do both if you follow two rules: work out at moderate intensity (about 60 to 70 percent of your max); and complete the workout at least six hours before the game or practice. Review your schedule and squeeze in a workout in the morning before afternoon games or practices, or around lunchtime for evening court-time.

4. Use Train-on-the-go Equipment. You don't need a gym or training facility to complete strength and conditioning workouts. With simple, portable gear—a medicine ball, elastic bands/tubing, a suspension training system, and a few cones—you can do a total body workout that will help you achieve your training goals. Steve Hess, strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Nuggets, understands the advantage of using mobile equipment, "We love how you can take the equipment anywhere and be creative with it." Much of this equipment can be thrown into your gym bag or backpack.

What to Avoid:

1. Becoming a "Road Warrior."
With lots of travel and late nights, it's easy to fall into bad habits: lousy sleep patterns, poor nutrition and an unfocused training program. Livestrong.com reported that participants who ate fast food a minimum of twice a week gained 10 more pounds than those who ate fast food less often. Avoid these performance killers by setting up and following a schedule. Get up at the same time each day, establish good eating and hydration habits (see pages 18 and 20), and follow a targeted workout routine.

2. Focusing on the "Mirror Muscles."
We all have a tendency to train the front side of the body—the chest, shoulders, arms and front abdominals—because that is what we see in the mirror. Don't let this happen to you. Achieving the highest level of performance and staying injury free demand total body training. Work your backside, and watch how a strong upper back provides shoulder stability for better shooting; strong hamstrings and calves improve your speed and jumping; and a strong lower back increases your mobility and agility.

3. Overusing or Abusing Your Body.
With constant play and a program to get stronger, you need to be careful that you're not doing too much. For example, you want to improve your jumping ability, and you know that following a good, solid plyometric/jumping program can help. But just adding this to what you're already doing might push you into overload—and injury. Too much training causes the body to break down and produces fatigue, irritability, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, depression, decreased immune system and increased chance of injury. Consult with your coach to ensure you're doing the right exercises and drills at the right time, and that you're not overdoing it.

Who's Coaching?

Patrick Dixon Head Strength and Conditioning Coach St. John's University Dixon became the strength and conditioning coach for the men's and women's basketball programs in May of 2007. He holds certifi cations from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Association and National Academy of Sports Medicine.

At St. John's, he is responsible for all aspects of speed, strength and agility training for both basketball teams, as well as coordination of nutrition and training table.

How It Helps

Coach Dixon's Philosophy

Summer is the best time to get after your weakest points. Being sore and tired is O.K., but you have to have a plan!

I encourage my athletes to start off simple with their exercises, so I can teach them the basics, and they can build a base to operate from. I think too many athletes rush to add weight when their technique is terrible. You should take your time and do it right. The learning curve may extend longer, but you'll progress more efficiently in the long run.

Every workout consists of simple exercises designed to connect the body and make sure you have the core stability to be explosive. The first set of exercises is your warmup, where you should focus on technique and execution. Then take five minutes to stretch out with a band or foam roll before you attack the second set of exercises.

In basketball, it doesn't matter how much you Bench or how much you Squat. The real question is whether or not you can take that strength and apply it on the court.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock