Jermaine O'Neal's Training Plan

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Jermaine O'Neal spent his early years wowing crowds in Columbia, S.C., with his athleticism on the hardwood and blacktop. Although tall and lanky as a preteen, he possessed speed, quickness and jumping ability that put his game way beyond others of his age.

A natural lefty, Jermaine was a force driving to and scoring on that side. In grade school, though, he broke his left wrist. Although it was a hindrance at first, his cast turned into a blessing in disguise. Angela, Jermaine's mother, taught him how to write with his right hand, and he soon became completely capable with it. A few months later a fully healed Jermaine returned to the court with a reinvented, ambidextrous game.

At the age of 14, a 6'4" Jermaine brought his double-threat skills to Eau Claire High School. With his ability to drain threes, run the break and beat defenders to the hole, he played the guard position with flair and success. In his sophomore year, the young phenom experienced a five-inch growth spurt, which affected his court presence dramatically. While maintaining the coordination and speed of a guard, Jermaine became a dominant rebounder and defender in the paint. His new body, new role and dazzling play led Eau Claire to its third straight division 3A state title.

When he was 16, Jermaine jumped on the opportunity to capture the recruiting spotlight from better-known prospects. At an ABCD summer camp, in front of an audience of college coaches, he dominated Tim Thomas, the nation's top prep star. Further solidifying his status as a top recruit, he posted an impressive senior season, averaging 22.5 ppg, 12.4 rpg and 5.2 bpg. These big numbers earned him All-State First Team honors, the title of South Carolina's "Mr. Basketball," and a spot in the McDonald's All-America Game. Phone calls and visits from coaches became a frequent thing for the high-profile recruit.

Shaky grades, however, jeopardized Jermaine's college eligibility. So, he changed course and set his sights on the NBA. Although some advised against it, Jermaine looked at his ability to hold his own against fellow South Carolinian and NBA rising star Kevin Garnett, and convinced himself that he had what was necessary to make the jump.

Confirming Jermaine's self-assessment, the Portland Trail Blazers took him as the 17th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. As he grew into the NBA game, Jermaine charted a few unspectacular seasons with the Blazers; and in 2000, he was dealt to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Dale Davis.

Finding a better fit with Indy, Jermaine became a different player from day one. In his first season with the Pacers, he tripled his scoring and rebounding averages; and in his second year, he jumped to 19 ppg and 10.5 rpg, earning the NBA's Most Improved Player award. Over the next few seasons, he averaged enough high-digit double-doubles to put him in the exclusive 20-10 club.

Although his stats and performance remain elite by anyone's measure, Jermaine's recent injuries have slowed his ascension—and, therefore, the Pacers' pursuit of a championship. "Injuries have been my Achilles heel recently," he says. "I hurt my shoulder on a freak play. Someone grabbed my arm as I was going up for a dunk. Things like that really wear on you." His frustration—exacerbated by post-season disappointments—has set the stage for another Jermaine-style revival.

"At times I feel like packing it in, but the motivation from my family pushes me through. They are the biggest source of inspiration in my life," Jermaine says. "I am rededicating and refocusing myself, because I want my kids to be able to live a certain way. They are going to see me working hard and challenging myself, so they will know how to do it, too."

Jermaine's resurgence got the impetus it needed in June. "This was the first summer that I was healthy enough to not wait until August or September to start my training," he says. "Two weeks after we lost, I was back in the weight room getting my body ready for this year."

Gone are his trademark cornrows and nagging injuries of the past; it's a brand new season for the Pacers' big man. "I feel like I took a step back last year," he says. "But I'm getting back to my original high level this year to make an MVP run. And I'm going to get my team back on top."

Back on top
In 2005, shortly after joining the Pacers as head strength and conditioning coach, Shawn Windle accepted responsibility for helping Jermaine revive his body and game. "When I got here, Jermaine was hesitant about working with me," Windle says. "He was doing his own thing—a lot of upper body work and exercises like leg extensions. Then one day, he came to me and said, 'Let me see what you can do.' So I worked him out, and he couldn't walk for a few days. He knew it was going to be good for him, though. Since then, he's handed his body over to us and dedicated himself to getting back to where he was."

Recalling his introduction to Windle, Jermaine says: "I didn't do any sort of training in high school—but I wish I did. Even after I got to the NBA, I usually just worked my arms and shoulders. Shawn really changed things up for me. I knew his stuff was good when I started getting sore in my legs, core and other areas that never got sore."

To put Jermaine's game back on top, Windle crafted a plan to streamline the center/power forward's 6'11" frame. "Jermaine is very big and strong on top because of the upper-body work he was doing," Windle says. "He's gotten a lot bigger in recent years, which got him away from the athletic game for which he was known. He turned into a real banger. Last year, he was 266 pounds. We're trying to get him to 250 to help him get back his lift, explosiveness and quickness."

Jermaine's work with Windle has already resulted in big gains for the perennial Eastern Conference All-Star. "I've lost 11 pounds this off-season and have got a lot of my quickness back on the court," he boasts. Windle's emphasis on functional core, hip, glute and leg training is the catalyst for this early success. "All of these things will prevent future injuries, increase his conditioning and improve his movement," Windle says.

Check out the training Jermaine has been using twice a week to shape his resurrection.

Glute Activation & Core Stability Series
Jermaine has improved strength and stability in his hips, low back and abdominals with this routine. When performing it, Windle suggests thinking of your body as a flat tabletop that nothing can roll off. Keep your hips high and make sure your pelvis doesn't rotate at all.

High Plank with Forearm Touch
• Assume push-up position with hips in line with shoulders and knees
• Lift left hand; touch it to right forearm
• Lower left hand to floor; repeat with right arm
• Continue alternating for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 1x6 each arm

Bridge
• Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on ground
• Form straight line from shoulders to knees by raising body so only feet and shoulder blades touch ground
• Hold
Sets/Duration: 1x30 seconds

Bridge with Leg Rotation
• Assume raised bridge position
• Raise left leg a few inches; rotate it outward so left foot touches right knee
• Lower left leg; raise and repeat rotation with right leg
• Continue alternating for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 1x6 each leg

Plank
• Lie on stomach with elbows bent beneath you
• Keeping body in straight line, raise onto forearms and toes
• Hold
Sets/Duration: 1x30 seconds

Physioball Plank with Knee Raise
• Assume push-up position with feet on ground and hands on center of physioball
• Keeping body in straight line, pull right knee toward chest
• Place right foot back on ground; repeat with left knee
• Continue alternating for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 1x6 each leg

Plank with Leg Raise
• Assume raised plank position
• Keeping body in straight line, raise left leg 12 inches off floor
• Lower left leg; raise right leg
• Repeat pattern for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 1x6 each leg

Bridge with Leg Extension
• Assume raised bridge position
• Lift right leg and straighten it
• Lower right leg; raise and straighten left leg
• Continue alternating for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 1x6 each leg

Resistance Training

Single-Arm Split-Squat to Press
•Place end of barbell in corner of room
• Face corner and assume lunge position with left leg forward. Hold other end of bar with right hand at shoulder level
• Maintaining stable base, quickly drive bar up and out until arm is straight
• Perform specified reps; then repeat with right leg forward and left arm pressing
Sets/Reps: 3x10 each side
Technique: Do not allow your shoulders to twist; keep your base stable; be quick and light with the press.
The Payoff: The lunge position works leg strength, because you're in a functional position; and the unstable stance works your core and balance.

Physioball Leg Curl
• Lie on back with feet on physioball
• Raise body into straight line so that only shoulder blades touch floor
• Keeping hips high, curl ball toward butt
• Slowly allow ball to roll back out until legs are straight
Sets/Reps: 2x10
Technique: Keep your hips above your heels the whole time, and keep your body in a straight line.
The Payoff: Lower back, glute and hamstring strength.

Single-Leg Squat to Box
• Place knee-high box behind you
• Balancing on right leg, slowly sit back into squat until butt touches box
• Raise up and forward into start position
• Repeat with left leg
Sets/Reps: 2x8 each leg
Technique: Make sure to lower with control—do not drop down. Sit back so that the squatting knee does not go over your toes.
The Payoff: Single-leg strength and balance.

Ankle Band Shuffle
• Loop ankle band around toes of each foot
• Assume balanced stance with knees slightly bent
• Slowly shuffle to right for specified reps
• Repeat to left
Sets/Reps: 3x10 each direction
The Payoff: This strengthens the abductors and gluteus medius—a weak spot for many NBA players. It also strengthens the ankles since the band is around your toes.

Single-Arm Split-Squat to Row
• Face cable machine in lunge position with left leg forward
• Hold handle from low position with right hand
• Quickly rotate right, pull handle toward chest, then raise handle up and right
• Return to start position and repeat for specified reps. Perform on other side
Sets/Reps: 3x10 each side
The Payoff: This has benefits similar to the Press, but the row portion works trunk stability and rotational strength, because you're keeping your upper body stable when you pull.

Cover Sounds
The mix that was spinning while Jermaine was grinding

Lil' Wayne & DJ Drama: Dedication Part 2

The Best In The Business
Get 'Em
They Still Like Me
I'm The Best Rapper Alive
Cannon [feat/ DJ Drama,
    Freeway, Willie The Kid, Detroit Red, Juice]
Workin 'Em
Sportscenter
Welcome To The Concrete Jungle [feat/ Juelz Santana]
Spitter
South Muzik
Dedication 2
Weezy On Retirement
Poppin' Them Bottles [feat/ Currency, Mac Maine]
What U Know
Where The Cash At [feat/ Currency, Remy Ma]
Ridin' Wit The Ak [feat/ Currency, Mac Maine]
Weezy On the Streets Of N.O.
Walk It Off
Hustlin'
Gettin' Some [feat/ Pharrell]
A Dedication After Disaster
No Other [feat/ Juelz Santana]
Outta Here
Georgia… Bush


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASKETBALL TRAINING | SQUAT | GLUTES | CORE