I picked up this book a few years ago for two reasons. One, I was in university and wanted to get back into basketball shape for a fun league. I hadn't played organized basketball since my high school team so I was in need of some 'fine tuning' let's just say. The second reason I bought Condition The NBA Way was because, I'll admit it, Shaquille O'Neil (then of the Orlando Magic) and Alonzo Mourning (then of the Charlotte Hornets) were on the front cover and I was a huge fan of both (still a part of the SHAQ-pack, actually). What really drew me to the book was the explanations of each exercise and how both female and male figures were used to demonstrate. Yes, both women and men can train the 'NBA way' according to the 14 NBA strength and conditioning coaches who put together this book. Even though this book is titled Condition the NBA Way, it provides the staples for any workout regime: warming up, stretching, cooling down, conditioning, weight-training and nutrition. It also touches on plyometrics (an exercise designed to produce fast powerful movements), speed and agility which where sport specific training comes in. These are the areas I am going to focus on since these are the most basketball specific.
Plyometrics - A Burst of Energy
When I worked at WTSN, I was waiting for a source at the training facility in our broadcast center and had a chance to see how some NHLers do their off-ice training. In one exercise, the trainer set up the treadmill at a sprint speed and had the player do one lap of the track at an easy pace first. Once he reached the treadmill, he would straddle the sides, then jump on with a burst of power for about 30 secs to a minute (the average length of an NHL shift). This exercise was designed to mimic the motions and power it would take to fully utilize his time on the ice. Now, this will obviously be similar but remarkably different for NBA athletes since they still need that burst of energy for steals and fast breaks but different since their shifts are much longer and different skills are needed. Some coaches and trainers consider plyometrics training as high on their list of priorities since having the power to go from zero to a hundred in the shortest time possible will give you that edge over an opponent, especially on that fast break or vertical jump for a rebound. I liked how the book used Doc Rivers (as a playing member of the New York Knicks at the time) to show how plyometrics can affect all aspects of your game. In the three months of off-season training, Doc Rivers drastically improved his on-the-court performance by giving extra attention to plyometrics training. This season watch how the players perform in transition or on a fast break. When the camera zeros in on their expression, see if you can tell if they are showing signs of fatigue or a "ready to get back out there" mentality. When you see steals on the fast break or especially in transition, this may be as a result of fatigue which causes the silly mistakes like turnovers. This book tries to show how plyometrics training can help correct this.
Speed - Getting From Point A to Point B
It is as simple as that. How fast you can drive to the basket can mean the difference between points up on the board, change in possession and momentum. In Condition The NBA Way, it explains that for basketball, speed doesn't only mean sprinting straight ahead. It includes: "the defensive shuffle; the back pedal and change of direction". And while sprinting straight forward can affect all of these movements, speed is measured by how often you repeat your stride times your stride length. I was a little concerned in this section since they named Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway and Muggsy Bogues and how if you have a goal to be as fast as they are, "you can do it". As much as I appreciate what this book did for me personally, in no way shape or form can you be NBA ready after reading this book. I think that would discredit all the work professional trainers and coaches are doing to prepare their athletes for games. This book is really meant to give you some tools you can use in your own training to improve your game or give you some fresh exercises to provide you a more motivating work out. I agree that by breaking down each sprint action into parts, practicing each part and bringing it back together will definitely improve your speed - it's just like reading and breaking down each chapter and each sentence. But to suggest you can be "just as efficient and explosive" as an NBA player after doing these exercises, is doing a disservice to the strength and conditioning coaches who put this book together. Oh wait, that's who told us we could be just like them. Hmmm.
Agility - Stop on a dime and Give Me Nine Cents Change
"For every level you go up in competition, your weaknesses will be magnified another degree" (Condition The NBA Way). This is true. I think if the average high school or college player picks up this book and takes some of the exercises in it seriously, they will definitely improve on those magnified weaknesses - but not erase them. Training with a team coach or team trainer and the book as an added bonus, is a better way to look at it. The book breaks down the actual definition of agility in basketball terms: "...being able to change your body direction quickly, explosively, efficiently and in balance (under control)". And again, just like any other skill, your agility improves with practice. Picture this: I'm in grade eight, a point guard with a lot of promise. Insert important tournament, nerves and oh yeah, and eye glasses. So as I am about to pivot and turn to guard my player and doesn't someone flip me a pass square in the face? Clearly, agility and the ability to read the direction of the play was an issue for me and my teammate. Incidentally, we laughed about it afterwards and how I had to wear black electrical tape to keep the arm on my glasses for the rest of the tournament. I now know better and wear contacts. (Another reason to advocate for all basketball players to wear mouth guards). Aside from this, the book actually breaks down the agility work out with individual and team exercises. I think this is important given my personal example. You can train as an individual until you are blue in the face but until those skills are put into practice in a team situation, you can't really judge what level you are at - especially when you will be competing against basketball players with varying levels of agility.
Flick Pick of the Week
I know I have mentioned it before in "Jiggly Bits" here on the DNB, but I am officially making it this week's Flick Pick of the Week. You need to watch "Into The Wind" produced by Steve Nash and his cousin Ezra Holland. It's a documentary on ESPN's 30-30 right now and is about Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope. There are a few documentaries out there about Terry Fox and I have seen just about every one of them so you will understand why I kind of thought "oh no, here we go again" when I heard about this one. Kudos to Steve Nash and his cousin for this outstanding documentary and interviews with Terry's parents, friend Doug and how all the footage was put together. You will learn Terry Fox was a great basketball player and it was his basketball coach who brought him an article about an amputee and how he ran a marathon. Really well done and worth watching.
For next week, we are going to look at two "how-to" basketball books for the younger player. I am even going to enlist the help of some age-appropriate helpers to gauge their opinion on the material. I picked up The Young Basketball Player by Chris Mullen and Basketball: How to be a Star Player by Matt Parselle from my local library - where I find many of the books we've discussed here on "Basketball on the Floor". See you on Tuesday here on the DNB for "Jiggly Bits" and until then, happy reading.