How Mason Plumlee Learned the Value of Leg Days and a Good Night's Sleep

Brooklyn Nets big man Mason Plumlee shares some surprising insights about sleep in the NBA.

The Brooklyn Nets weren't supposed to be Mason Plumlee's team. Not this early, anyway. But injuries to Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez earlier in the season forced the second-year forward from Duke into the starting lineup. Since then, his numbers are up across the board. He's scoring 10 points a game, pulling down almost seven rebounds and doubling his trips to the free throw line from last season.

Although much of his improvement comes from the natural progression of a guy in his second year in the NBA, Plumlee has also benefited from learning about taking care of his body. During a recent road trip, STACK chatted with the Nets budding star about the importance of leg day, the problem with travelling to China to play basketball and the value of sleep.

Mason Plumlee

STACK: What have you been doing in terms of nutrition since you've arrived in the NBA?

Plumlee: The team provides healthy meals. I've got two chefs with Brooklyn [Nets]. They do a really good job. Aside from that, I have a pack of multivitamins that our strength coach puts together. Off the top of my head I know it contains fish oils, Omega has seven or eight different kinds in it. I don't understand it all, to be honest, but my mom is a dietitian and she checked it all off for me.

Anything else you've picked up to help get your body right for game days?

Yeah, sleep patterns. It can really snowball and affect you, because you might play four games in a week, a back-to-back or fly out to the west coast. I always take a nap before games. Everyone figures out what works for them. They develop a routine and then stick with it.

Have you ever worn a sleep tracker? They are all the rage these days.

I wore a tracker all last year. There was a study that I read where they showed the number of injuries, trades and cuts happening to players who weren't getting enough consistent sleep. It was a study over time; it wasn't like they just did it for a month. Everybody is going to miss sleep. The way we travel, there is a night you're going get four or five hours. But if you're always just getting four or five, then over time all those guys were either getting traded, cut or hurt. The presentation the Nets did on sleep really opened my eyes.

How did your tracker help you?

So what I actually did is, I would wear the tracker but I would never actually look at the numbers. I never had the numbers reported to me by the trainers. I just had them keep it for their records. I always wanted to track my sleep. Ours is on a 1 to 100 scale of how well rested you are, so I wouldn't want to look at it before a game and see it say 85 and be like, "Aw man I am not well rested."

What's the perfect amount of sleep for you the night before a game?

It's not so much how much you get but what part of the cycle you wake up in. You can sleep over eight hours, but if you wake up in the beginning of the cycle you feel really groggy. We play a lot of 7:30, 8 o'clock games. I always want to take a half hour or longer nap just to shorten the day. I usually sleep for an hour or an hour and a half. To me that shortens the day and you feel fresh at night.

Does all the travel ever throw your sleep schedule off? Has it affected how you've played on a road trip?

In college we went over to China, and this pre-season we went over to China. I struggled big time with both those trips trying to play, and play well. Last year we went to London and I felt fine. The 4 or 5 hour time difference doesn't affect me as much as going across the world or dealing with a 12-hour time change. I've never played well when we do that.

That makes sense. Maybe leave Adam Silver a voicemail and ask that he send a different team to China next season. What's the biggest thing you've learned about your body when it comes to training?

[Former Nets head coach] Jason Kidd talked with me right before he left Brooklyn. My first year, I played heavy minutes the last 30 games or so. I haven't really gone through a season where I'm playing 25 minutes a game for 82 games. I was fine last season. He told me going in to my second year, if you're going to want to play 30-plus minutes a night for the whole season, you have to be really conscious of your legs and keep them strong. You can't just lift your legs pre-season and try to sustain them the rest of the way. Your legs are everything. That's something I've definitely done differently this year.

Lots of leg days huh? What are some exercises they've got you doing?

I do a lot of Trap Bar Squats. I don't like the bar on my back, so I do the Trap Bar Squats. I do a lot of RDLs. I do Single-Leg Squats, where you're balancing. All of those. I do different things, and I think the jump rope is great too.

Are you a guy who enjoys his workouts? Or would you rather be watching Netflix or dropping 30 on an opponent?

I enjoy the results of it. I've learned to love it (laughing). When I retire, I can't say I'm going to say, "I cant wait to get into the gym!" I'd rather be on the court, but if you want to be any good, you've got to get your body right.

Any advice you wish you could have bestowed on a young Mason? Or younger athletes in general?

I used to play outside on the cement. Playing on concrete can be pretty hard on you. Our trainers say you should never play outside. Not everyone can control that, though. I would encourage kids not to start lifting weights until they are fully mature. I see kids lifting who haven't even hit puberty yet. Do bodyweight stuff. Kids are also doing Olympic lifts, which can do more harm than good if you don't have someone watching you. I still need a strength coach helping me with my form, and I'm in the NBA.

Check out the 20-Minute 'No Excuses' Navy SEAL Bodyweight Workout.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock