Training Tip of the Week

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Week 1 Tip: Rebounding Drills with LeBron James

 

Before LeBron became "King James," he anticipated big things for himself and his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

"When I was a kid, I looked at the map and didn't see Akron on it. So one of the things I wanted to do was put it on the map. Akron has always been very special to me, and now a lot of people know about it. That's not to say I had everything to do with it, but I might have had a little to do with it [laughs]. I'm always going around the basketball courts there, talking to the kids. It's inspiring to know that where I'm from, the kids love the shoes I put out and the way I play the game of basketball."

One reason LeBron was able to put Akron on the map was his intense training sessions at his high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary, and Speed Strength Systems [Euclid, Ohio]. Owner Tim Robertson helped LeBron improve his vertical explosion through on-court jump training, including variations of Backboard Smacks, which work jumping ability from a set position, and with one step and a running start.

Backboard Smacks

• Standing under hoop, explode upward for maximum height
• Smack backboard at highest point possible
• Land with soft knees; repeat for specified reps 

Variations: Perform drill after taking one step, then three steps
Sets/Reps: 2x4 for each variation

Week 2 Tip: How Dwight Howard Blows Up His Bench

 

Dwight Howard was once skinny and doubted. Playing for a small Christian high school, he was often overshadowed by bigger players at bigger schools in Atlanta's famous prep basketball community. "No one thought I'd ever make it out or do anything with my basketball career," he says.

Using those days as inspiration, Dwight has built his body into a coordinated 6'11", highly explosive 265-pound unstoppable force. While Bench Press is not the best indicator of athletic improvement, Dwight boasts about putting up 365 recently as a testament to his improvement.

Providing direction for Dwight's transformation and increased bench output is Orlando Magic strength coach Joe Rogowski. "The bench press is about total upper body power and strength," Rogowski says. "Dwight uses a pyramid rep scheme to build endurance, strength and, most important for his position, the power of his fast twitch muscle fibers."

Rogowski knows that Dwight likes to meathead out and bench a lot of weight sometimes [good for his strength and psyche], but he counterbalances that with stability, balance or proprioception exercises twice a week.

Bench Press
* Lie with back on bench, gripping bar slightly wider than shoulder width
* Keeping lower back on bench and elbows tight to sides, slowly lower bar until it touches chest
* Drive bar up until arms are straight
* Repeat for specified reps
Coaching Points: Keep core activated // Don't arch your back
Sets/Reps: 1x10, 1x8, 1x6, 1x4, 1x2 (increase weight each set)

Week 3 Tip: First Step Quickness with Allen Iverson

 

Allen Iverson has dedicated himself to an in-season lifting routine to add yet another weapon to his game. Already blessed with speed, quickness and hops, AI will now torture defenders with some new muscle. Denver Nuggets team strength coach, Steve Hess, has designed a plan to increase strength and add about five pounds of quality muscle during the season.

"It's a whole new experience," Iverson says. "Because I've been able to come in here after practice after being a little burnt out, and he'll be able to give me a few things to do to get me better and get me out of here."

One of Hess' exercises, the Lateral Med Ball Step-Up with Resistance, not only gets AI strong, it also improves his already nasty crossover. "A basketball player's first three steps are one of the most important things for him," Hess says. "A point guard has to be amazing with this. This exercise not only works on getting AI's quads, hamstrings and glutes to fire in the correct sequence, it also has him simulate holding a basketball with the med ball in front. This is also working on his stability and balance."

Lateral Med Ball Step-up with Resistance
•    Assume athletic stance with plyo box to right
•    Hold med ball in front and have partner provide bungee resistance from left
•    Push off left leg, open right hip toward box and place right foot on top of box
•    Explode up onto box using right leg while simultaneously raising med ball overhead and driving left knee towards chest
•    Step down to start position and repeat for specified reps. Perform set on other side
Reps: 1x9, 1x13, 1x16


Week 4 Tip: Improve Core and Lower-body Strength with Santana

When Johan Santana takes the mound, opposing bats go silent. His explosive two-seam fastball, biting slider and mocking change-up have helped the leftie post an ERA under 3.00 in four of the last six seasons, including his 2006 Cy Young campaign. Although natural arm strength got Johan to the Bigs, his dedication to strength training has made him one of the best. "You have to be strong to pitch," Johan says. "Because of my training, I can feel my strength in the middle of the season, even at the end."

Minnesota Twins strength coach Perry Castellano, who Johan calls "El Diablo" because of his rigorous workouts, is responsible for keeping Johan and his left arm healthy and strong throughout the 162-game season. "Power and strength are not size," Castellano says, "And putting on size would only hurt Johan. Instead, we want to improve his low back and ab strength, and condition his lower body to overcome fatigue."

To achieve all these goals, Castellano has Johan perform the Split-Stance Rotational Med Ball Throw. "I like to have Johan work his core standing in a weight-bearing position, because that's how he pitches," Castellano says.

Split-Stance Rotational Med Ball Throw
•    Get in split stance, with right foot forward
•    When partner throws ball from left, catch it, rotate right, then throw it back
•    Repeat with left leg forward and partner on right; then with right leg forward and partner on right; last with left leg forward and partner on left

Sets/Reps: 1x12 each way
 

Week 5 Tip: Hitting for Power with Jimmy Rollins

When 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins completed his 20-20-20-20 offensive explosion last season, he could've easily taken time off to rest on his laurels and celebrate the Phillies' dramatic playoff berth. Instead, the powerful shortstop chose to go back to the training that made him one of MLB's best on the basepaths, at the plate and in the field.

Jimmy teamed up with Aaron Sistrunk, strength and conditioning coach at Chestnut Hill Academy, this past off-season to improve his already-flashy speed, power and conditioning. With this training, Jimmy—who stands only 5'7" and 170-pounds—can hit for power with the big boys. Sistrunk uses the Inverted Row on Straps to strengthen Jimmy's mid-back, shoulders, core and hand grip, all of which are crucial to wielding heavy lumber. "If you don't have [a] strong hand [grip], you can't hit a baseball with any power," Jimmy says. "You'll get the bat knocked out of your hands."

Inverted Row on Straps
•    Hold handles at end of straps attached to pull-up bar
•    Lean back until arms are straight and body is at 45-degree angle
•    Keeping body completely straight, pull yourself up by driving elbows back and rotating palms to face each other at top position
•    Lower body with control and rotate palms so they face ground at start position
•    Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 4x15-20
Coaching Points: Squeeze your scapulas when you pull and lower your body with control.
 

Week 6 Tip: Quicker Quicks with Julius Peppers

 

Julius Peppers might own the most impressive body the gridiron has ever seen. He's got a 6'7", 285-pound frame that can overpower O-linemen on one play, and run down a tailback on the next. His rare combination of speed, power and size has made him the benchmark by which all other defensive ends are measured.

So how does Julius' trainer Danny Arnold [Plex, Houston, Texas] challenge this freakish 2002 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year? With Partner Stick Resistance—an exercise that's as unusual as Julius' athletic ability. "This drill can bring an amazing athlete back to reality," Arnold says. "It puts him in an incredibly vulnerable position—the same kind he'll be in when he's playing."

Partner Stick Resistance
•    Hold stick with shoulder-width grip and assume athletic squat position
•    Raise stick forward to shoulder level and allow partner to grasp stick between your hands
•    Without letting head or chest dip or feet to come together, maintain balance and resist partner's movement as he forcefully pushes and pulls stick in all directions

Advanced Modification: Perform set with eyes closed
Sets/Duration/Recovery: 5x10 seconds; rest for one minute between sets
Benefits: Improved balance, quickness, power and reaction
Coaching Points: "Keep your hips low and move your feet quickly to react to and resist the force of your partner. This is not about working your shoulders; it's about working balance and reaction, and training your hips and quads."

 

Week 7 Tip: Fast Times with Adrian Peterson

 

Adrian Peterson was fast when he showed up at Athletes' Performance in Tempe, Ariz., but performance specialist Luke Richesson got him even faster in the six weeks leading up to the NFL Combine.

Richesson helped Adrian drop his 40 time by improving the former Sooner's power, explosion and hip flexibility. "Once we've improved hip range of motion and stride length with a warm-up, we work on putting power into the ground," Richesson says. "[The Single Leg Resistance Squat] simulates the first steps of the 40, and it helps [him] become as explosive as possible with those steps. We hold the bottom position, because in the 40, [he has] to explode out of a completely static, stopped position with [his] front leg."

The speed work at AP paid off for Adrian. He blazed a 4.4 in Indy, solidifying himself as the top running back in the draft.

Single-Leg Resistance Squat
•    Attach bungee cord to waist while partner provides tension behind you and you assume single-leg stance on right leg
•    Keeping left foot elevated behind you, drive hips back and squat down
•    Keeping right knee directly above foot, hold low position for full second
•    Explode forward and up, driving left knee up until you reach full extension with right leg
•     Hold extended position for full second; repeat for specified reps
•    Perform set on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 1x5, 2x3 each leg
Coaching Points: Keep good posture, and focus on getting full hip extension at the top. As you lower, make sure to keep your knee over your foot so you have a good angle from which to drive.

Week 8 Tip: Breaking Through With Reggie Bush

 

New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush is known for his blazing speed and freakish cutback ability. However, to become a true all-around back, the electrifying RB looked to add another talent to his repertoire. "I really focused on getting stronger this off-season," he says. "I wanted to beef up a little bit more and get stronger in that sense. It was…just me realizing I need to be stronger, because breaking arm tackles is very important for a running back."

Reggie turned to Travelle Gaines, director of pro athlete development at Elite Athletics [Westlake Village, Calif.] to accomplish his goal of trampling would-be tacklers. During the off-season, Reggie, who Gaines says is more excited about being in the gym than anyone he's ever met, attacked two-hour workouts, jam-packed with intense exercises, including the Cone Touch With Resistance. "[This] gets him sprinting forward and really forces him to dig because of the resistance," Gaines says. "It improves body control and dealing with resistance—very similar to dragging a defender."

Cone Touch With Resistance

•    Set up two cones five yards apart, five yards in front of you
•    Assume athletic stance with partner providing band resistance from behind you
•    Holding football in right hand, explode forward at angle toward right cone, bend at waist, touch cone with left hand
•    Backpedal with control to start position
•    Transfer ball to left hand, then explode forward at angle to left cone
•    Touch cone with right hand, then backpedal with control to start position
•    Repeat in continuous fashion for specified duration

Sets/Duration: 4x30 seconds
Coaching Points: Pump arms and legs violently // Concentrate on form // Squeeze ab muscles to control body // Use resistance light enough to maintain proper running form

 


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock