Strength Training with the Denver Nuggets

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Like the game itself, the training that makes the world's best ballers even better is constantly evolving. The men responsible for developing these elite athletes are always up on recent advances in strength and conditioning, including the latest and greatest equipment. Steve Hess, strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Nuggets, has found a new system that helps him keep Carmelo & Co. strong and fit throughout the constant travel that is the NBA season. 

"This is my 10th year in the NBA, and I am always looking for new and innovative ways to make sure that my players work at full capacity," Hess says. "One of the biggest challenges I face every year is that we are very limited in what we can do and where we can do it when training on the road. We don't always have a gym."

At home, the Nuggets have a state-of-the-art facility loaded with equipment most athletes only dream of; unfortunately, they can't pack it all up and take it on their frequent road trips. They can, however—rather than lounging around hotel rooms while their conditioning dwindles—pound out efficient and effective workouts with a new band system. "Crossover Symmetry has come up with equipment that is totally transportable and completely effective in providing resistance in a limited space," Hess says. "These bands create a cross transfer and energy transfer that work the muscles amazingly well."

The subject of this praise is a complex system of elastic bands with handles on the ends. The bands have straps that can be attached to any door, or to a bar, which Hess holds. Although the concept of band training isn't new, this way of packaging and providing it is. "I've been using band training for 10 years, and I have been trying to develop creative ways to get good workouts with it," Hess says. "It's much easier now. We can get a full-body workout, including legs, core stabilization and cardiovascular work, from the way these bands are set up."

So far, Hess has been impressed with the results on the Nuggets' bodies. "My primary concern is making sure the guys' muscles are always firing properly," he says. "These bands help everything work right—before, and especially during, a grueling season. We use them to continue our resistance training, which prevents injury and maintains strength. Also, muscle soreness isn't as severe as with conventional lifting."

With the help of this training during the '05-'06 season, the Nuggets stormed into the playoffs after putting up the third-best record in the West.

Hess says high school athletes would especially benefit from this system, because "a lot of times, young athletes do inappropriate exercises. The exercises you do with these bands are safe and teach the muscles to fire correctly—first and foremost. Also, the equipment would be very cost efficient for a high school."

Although the hectic travel schedule makes it difficult, Hess ensures that Carmelo and the rest of the Nuggets perform at least one band workout a week during the season. Since you won't be holed up in a hotel for a significant chunk of time, you can do the band exercises twice a week.

Perform the following exercises in accordance with the set/rep schedules.

Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith demonstrates several exercises during one of his band workouts with Hess.

Standing Squat Row

• Grasp handles so that bands cross each other; assume quarter-squat position
• Pull handles to chest by driving elbows back while squatting
• Return handles to start position with control. Repeat

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Targeted Muscles: Back, legs, rear delts, biceps

Single-Arm Row with Adduction

• Attach bands at low position
• Grasp handles; assume quarter-squat position with med ball between knees
• Pull right handle to chest by driving elbow back
• Perform 4 small-range oscillations* 6 times
• Return right handle to start position
• Repeat with left arm

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Targeted Muscles: Back, legs, core, groin (adductors), rear delts, biceps

Squat with Front Fly

• Facing away from resistance, hold handles with arms out wide to sides; assume half-squat position
• Rise out of squat and bring arms together in front at eye level
• Return handles to start position with control. Repeat

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Target Muscles: Chest, legs, front delts

Single-Arm Chest Press with Abduction

• Attach bands at high position
• Grasp handles; assume quarter-squat position with band cuffs on ankles
• Starting with both arms fully extended, bring right arm back
• Perform 4 small-range oscillations* 6 times
• Return right handle to start position
• Repeat with left arm

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Target Muscles: Chest, legs, core, abductors, front delts

Squat with Reverse Fly

• Facing resistance, hold handles in front and assume half-squat position
• Rise out of squat, then bring arms back and out to side
• Return handles to start position with control. Repeat

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Targeted Muscles: Rear delts, legs, back

Single-Leg Hamstring Curl

• Attach band to ankles, face resistance and stand on left leg
• Curl right leg backward, bringing heel toward butt
• Return band to start position with control. Repeat
• Repeat set with left leg

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Targeted Muscles: Hamstrings

Single-Leg Hip Extension

• Attach band to ankles, face resistance and stand on left leg
• Raise right leg up and back
• Return band to start position with control. Repeat
• Repeat set with left leg

Sets/Reps: 2x12-15
Targeted Muscles: Hip extensors, glutes

Single-Leg Extension

• Attach band to ankles, face away from resistance and stand on left leg
• Raise right knee
• Extend right leg to bring toes toward ceiling
• Return band to start position with control. Repeat
• Repeat set with left leg

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Targeted Muscles: Quadriceps

Single-Leg Hip Flexion

• Attach band to ankles, face away from resistance and stand on right leg
• Raise left leg up and forward
• Return band to start position with control. Repeat
• Repeat set with right leg

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Targeted Muscles: Hip flexors

Single-Leg Tricep Extension

• Facing resistance, hold handles at sides so arms are at 90 degrees
• Stand on left leg
• Extend arms to push handles away from resistance
• Perform 6 reps on left leg, then change legs during set
• Return handles to start position with control. Repeat

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Targeted Muscles: Triceps, leg stabilizers

Stability Pad Bicep Curl

• Facing resistance, assume athletic stance on stability pads and hold handles in front
• Bring handles to shoulder level by curling arms
• Return handles to start position with control. Repeat

Sets/Reps: 3x12-15
Targeted Muscles: Biceps, ankle stabilizers

Small-range oscillations are when you take the movement to slightly less than full range, then perform mini-reps from 70 percent of full range to full range.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASKETBALL TRAINING | STRENGTH TRAINING | EQUIPMENT