Watching Steve Nash run the high-powered Phoenix Suns’ offense can leave fans feeling exhausted. To find out how Nash and his team consistently run opponents off the court, we hit up Erik Phillips, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, with a few questions.
STACK: Give us your general thoughts about conditioning.
Phillips: It’s very important, but what some people don’t realize is that being conditioned involves more than being able to run up and down the court. It involves all your movement planes, like jumping off two feet, jumping off one foot, running and turning. Being strong and conditioned in each of those movements will help keep you fresh and injury-free.
How does the stop-and-go nature of basketball affect how you should condition?
Phillips: You want to keep your interval and speed training consistent and attack it from both avenues, so you achieve a balance—having short bursts of power and sprints, plus the ability to last the duration of the game.
What role do endurance and being able to recover quickly play?
Phillips: Endurance is necessary so you can run up and down the court and perform those movement planes without fatiguing. Recovery goes hand-in-hand with endurance; if you’re conditioned, you’ll be able to perform those movements better and for a longer period of time.
How do you build endurance and quick recovery with the Suns?
Phillips: A great example is Steve Nash. He is our go-to guy for everything concerning what we want an athlete to do around here. When he gets back in town from the off-season, I do a lot of individual conditioning with him. We hike mountain trails, do interval work on the parking garage ramps and run full stadium stairs.
When you do this individual training, is it all running?
Phillips: We do different sorts of bounding, high knees and butt kicks with those exercises to work different movement angles. All of those are great ways for an athlete to establish his endurance, recovery, movement plane and interval training.
Does the length of rest time determine the kind of conditioning you’re doing?
Phillips: Yes. When we interval train, some exercises are 30-second intervals with 30-second rest; others are 60 to 90 seconds hard with a 20-second rest, which simulates five or six consecutive trips down the court before stopping for a timeout or foul. All of this ultimately builds a player’s endurance and recovery.