Strength Training with the Orlando Magic

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When the '05-'06 NBA regular season was all said and done, the Orlando Magic didn't have much to say or do. After finishing 10 games under .500, the players were forced to pack their bags, head to their off-season abodes and watch 16 other teams battle for the title.

League pundits predicted that the Magic—despite an abundance of young, talented players—would have to endure a few more rough seasons before their time would come. But the big men on the team refused to accept that fate.

Enter head strength coach, Joe Rogowski. After he created and implemented a power-enhancing training plan, the newly inspired Magic turned into the most explosive shot blockers, rebounders and dunkers in the NBA. With Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic unapologetically punishing rims and opponents league-wide, the Magic's new-found domination under the hoop has boosted them beyond their previous season's performance.

"Our two bigs, Darko and Dwight, have worked really hard on their explosive power recently, and both have seen great results," Rogowski says. "They can dunk the ball and block shots with tremendous force. They enjoy training for power in the weight room and have spent countless hours there looking to improve; that's why they've had this power carry over into their games."

Basketball demands both speed and strength, according to Rogowski. He says, "Those elements combined determine an athlete's explosiveness, so we train both. From a physiological standpoint, we are initiating their fast twitch muscles."

To understand the difference between explosion and general, run-of-the-mill strength, glance around your local gym. You'll notice a handful of weightlifters who can move a mountain of weight slowly, but very few who can convert their strength to elevate for a rebound or block a shot explosively—which is one of the reasons why they aren't on the NBA hardcourt. "A guy who can bench 225 in half a second is much more explosive than one who takes a full second," Rogowski says. "That makes all the difference when grabbing a rebound, blocking a shot or dunking on a guy."

Because such a fine line delineates explosion and strength, monitoring the weight his players use is not enough for Rogowski. Since his main concern is the power they generate while lifting, he attaches a Tendo Unit—a device that measures and analyzes power outputs for each rep—while the Magic perform power movements. The Tendo has revealed some ridiculous information. "We used the Tendo on Dwight while he was performing Pull-Ups," Rogowski says. "He's able to generate 1,400 watts of power. That's a lot of light bulbs."

Not sure what a 6'11", 265-pound man-child generating 1,400 watts of power looks like? YouTube Howard's performance at this year's Slam Dunk Contest. On one dunk, he almost ripped the rim off with a two-handed throwdown; then he touched 12'6" with his off hand on the next. Beyond this flashy exhibition, Howard's long hours in the weight room have turned him into a monster on the boards. This season, he's averaging more than 11 rpg and almost 18 ppg.

Milicic has also powered up his game, becoming the player the Pistons expected when they picked him second overall in the 2003 draft. This season, the big center is posting numbers well above his career average— a respectable five rebounds and eight points a game, most of which come from powerful moves near the hoop.

The Magic and their big men have set the stage for a potential playoff appearance by continually overpowering post opponents. There's a new reality show in Orlando, and it's upstaging the fairy-tale attractions of Disney World.

Workout

Use the following four exercises to make your game as explosive and rim-wrecking as Orlando's two bigs'.

Reverse Wood Chops

• Attach handle to cable machine at foot level and hold handle with thumbs pointing up
• Assume athletic stance perpendicular to machine with right shoulder closer to it
• Keeping core tight, explode off right leg and drive cable across body to opposite shoulder
• Return cable to start position with control; repeat for specified reps
• Perform on left side

Sets/Reps/Frequency: 3x6-8 each side; 2x per week

Variations:
1. Attach band to low position on stable object and perform against band resistance
2. Bigs can add drop step

Rogowski: This is a great total-body explosion exercise. It simulates a basketball movement, starting with the leg drive and ending with the hands above the head. Equally important is that this exercise is a multi-plane movement that works your core in a diagonal muscle pattern.

Wood Chops

• Attach handle to cable machine at shoulder level and hold handle with thumbs pointing up
• Assume athletic stance perpendicular to machine with right shoulder closer to it
• Keeping core tight, explode off right leg and drive cable across body and down to opposite foot
• Return cable to start position with control; repeat for specified reps
• Perform on left side

Sets/Reps/Frequency: 3x6-8 each side; 2x per week

Variations:
1. Attach band to high position on stable object and perform against band resistance
2. Bigs can add drop step

Rogowski: This has the same benefits as the Reverse Chops, but you work your explosion in an opposite pattern.

Dumbbell High Pulls

• Assume athletic basketball position with knees slightly bent, back flat and chest high
• Hold dumbbells with straight arms just above knees
• Explode upward by fully extending hips, knees and ankles and shrugging with straight arms
• Pull dumbbells up keeping them close to body and elbows above hands

Sets/Reps: 3-4x6; 2x per week

Rogowski: Like the Chops, this is a full-body explosion exercise simulating a basketball movement, but it is on one plane. An added bonus is that the exercise increases hand and grip strength, because you have to hold onto the dumbbells. This improves our players' ability to hold onto the ball better in the post.

Med Ball Dunks

Perform following basketball movements and dunk med ball:
• Drop step left
• Drop step right
• Straight on

Sets/Reps: 3x1 each way; 2x per week

Variation: If you are unable to dunk, perform lay-ups instead

Rogowski: This helps increase explosion and power while dunking or going up with the ball. Because it is a power exercise, keep the reps low.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASKETBALL TRAINING | STRENGTH TRAINING | POWER | EXERCISE | STANCE