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How does a team like the Miami Heat—which has won back-to-back championships; has the reigning back-to-back league MVP LeBron James and a supporting cast of All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, plus a gaggle of three point marksmen; and has recently signed a former number two overall pick (Michael Beasley) to anchor the paint—stay motivated, and, better yet, stay in shape for another grueling season? That's the challenge faced by the Heat's strength and conditioning coach Bill Foran during the 2013-2014 NBA season, now well underway.
Foran has been with the Heat since their inception in 1988, serving as a consultant during the team's first year and coming on full-time in its second. Although he couldn't speak directly about his players' specific workouts (so we'll never know if LeBron James is pulling a semi-trailer through the wet sand of South Beach in his off-days), Foran touched on the team's new training focus, the importance of Pat Riley, and the biggest weight room beast he's seen in his 26 years with the team.
STACK: What were your goals for the team this off-season?
Foran: This was our third off-season that was really short because we went to the end of June. Because of that, it really changes things. It's such a long season, the guys have to get away for at least a month and recover and unwind and relax a little bit. That takes it through July. Then we've got August and September to start getting going again and get ready for the camp at the end of September. The off-season is short, but when we get to August and September, we do four-day split routines. We are sticklers on being conditioned, being at the right weight and the right body fat, and then we want them strong and powerful.
Can we get a glimpse into what the two-time defending champs were doing to ensure their bodies are right to chase a third championship?
We do a lot more hip work and a lot more core stability training. It's a lot different than years ago, when we did Sit-Ups and Back Extensions. Now it's more stabilization and working the core the way its utilized in everyday life and in athletics.
We do total body balance strength training. We make sure that the players do two-legged compound movements, preferably Squats, and if not Squats then a Leg Press. We also do that with a hip extension movement, and we work the hips both two-legged and one-legged. With the upper body, I want to make sure that they are doing vertical and horizontal pulling and pressing movements for balance. We do some shoulder work as well.
When they walk in the weight room, we have two big oversized four-way hip machines, so they first thing they do is come in and not only activate but strengthen the hips in all four directions. Then we go to the cables and do the same thing with the shoulders, with Reverse Flys, External Rotations and Push-Pulls.
We do power movements as well. We make sure that's a category that's covered through Olympic lifts, if they have good technique, or we do some type of simple extension of the legs holding a trap bar if they don't have good form for the Olympic lifts. We also combine that with Box Jumps and the VertiMax. You've got to have the strength work and the power work.
Does this team work harder in the weight room than teams of the past? Or have the Miami Heat always placed a premium on strength training?
I think we have a work culture with the Miami Heat. It was all based on Pat Riley. He understands the importance of strength and conditioning, and so strength and conditioning always had a high priority with his teams. When the former head coach who is now the president of the organization sees the importance of it, it's easier for me to get guys to train and want to train, and they see the success of training.
Ronnie Seikaly was our very first draft pick for the Miami Heat. He was the starting center at 6'11" and 230 pounds, and he just got ate up his first year. He came back and that next summer, he didn't miss a workout. We were on a four-day split and he trained hard. He went from 230 pounds to 252, kept his body fat at 8 percent and increased his vertical jump three inches and was voted the most improved played in the league. From the get go, our organization saw the importance of what strength and conditioning can do for an athlete.
What is your schedule like with the guys when you're in-season like you are now?
Ideally twice a week in the weight room. Sometimes that's hard when we play four games in five nights. Recovery is important. Right after every practice and game, they have a recovery drink at their locker. They also ice, so they're in that cold tub, they get massages and foam roll. We make sure it's a balancing act to get everything done, but twice a week total bodyweight training, they may split that up and do an upper and a lower session.
Finally, in your 26 years with the Miami Heat, what player was the biggest beast in the weight room?
I'll give you two names. The first is Alonzo Mourning. He really understood the importance of strength, and he just went after it and it made a big difference in his career. The other one was Keith Askins. Aksins was an undrafted rookie out of Alabama back in the early 90s. He was 6'8" and 185 pounds. He came in and outworked everybody and made the team. He had to do that five straight years, because he just had one-year contracts. He was 185 pounds, and the next year he was 198, then he was 208, then he was 215. He built himself up and became an NBA player. I've never had a player come to me in the off-season and want to know what my vacation was so he could take his vacation at the same time so he'd never miss a workout. Those are the kind of guys you love.
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