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Strength Training For Newbies
by Danny McLarty, CSCS www.DannyMcLarty.com
Take a look around. What are you seeing more and more in basketball? Guys on the court that are as big and wide as a barn-yard door. I was watching a NBA game last night and there happened to be a game playing on that ESPN classic channel at the same time. I found myself flipping back and fourth between commercials. I knew today's players carry quite a bit more muscle mass then the players of the early 80s. But WOW, I couldn't believe the difference. When you have the chance to see both eras playing at the same time, the difference becomes even more apparent! If Michael Cooper were to attempt to take a charge with Lebron coming at him with full steam, I think Coop would be sent flying into the 10th row. And back then, Mr. Cooper was one bad boy!
Times Are A Changin'
Actually, times have changed, and this will only continue in the years to come. Get strong or get left behind. But where do you begin? If you do not have an experienced strength coach to work with, what are you to do? There are a couple things you can't risk happening.
-You don't want to get hurt. And if don't know what you are doing, that can easily happen.
So, if you are new to the strength training world, are you simply out of luck? NO! I'm hear to help. What can I say, I'm a giving guy. :)
Everyone thinks they know how to do pushups with proper form. But from what I've seen, most people do NOT do them properly. This is especially true of beginners. To make sure you are know how to perform these with proper technique, lets go over the correct form. As you start the descent, "pull" yourself down with your shoulder blades, tuck your elbows 45 degrees relative to your torso, keep your head/neck neutral (in line with your spine) throughout, and keep your abs tight. (like you are about to take a punch to the stomach) Make sure to have the chest lead the way to the ground (or bench), NOT the chin. Go down slow and controlled, and explode up to the top. This "explosion" is controlled speed. Think of keeping your body rigid throughout. Do not let the hips or upper back lead the way on the ascent. The hips and shoulders should be as one.
Single Leg Movements
In the early stages of your strength training "career," you don't need to throw a heavy bar on your back and perform squats. Controlling your body on one leg should provide plenty of resistance for now. Plus, single leg movements are great for improving the stability of the muscles around your knee. As far as form - keep your chest high, abs tight, and the weight on the heel of the forward foot. (do NOT let your weight shift towards the front part of your foot)
Setting Up a Program
Now that you know how to perform these movements, the next step is to incorporate them into a program. To start with, you should pick an exercise from each "category," (Pushup Category, Single Leg Category, Plank Category) that challenges for 3-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions with PERFECT form. So, if you can do multiple sets of more than 15 "bench pushups," then it is time for you to progress to a more difficult version. Same thing with the single leg movements. When it comes to the plank variations you can just hold the position longer, or push the ball out further, (like in the Swiss Ball Plank) or bring your feet in closer together (making your body more unstable, causing your muscles to fire harder in attempt to better stabilize yourself) for the elbow & pocket touches, to make it more challenging.
Once you can complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps of the most difficult version of the pushups (spiderman pushup) and complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps per leg for the most difficult single leg movement (Bulgarian Split Squats/Deadlifts), THEN it is time for you to hit the iron. You will have earned the right to do all sorts of "fun" lifts, like sumo deadlifts, bench presses, push presses, and squats.
In the early stages of your strength training career, keep it simple. Use your body weight as resistance, build a solid base, and practice perfect form with each repetition. When it comes time to lift some heavy weight, you will have prepared your body for a an injury-free career that will have you running right through the competition. You will no longer get pushed around on your way to the basket. With this new strength, the most common thing you are going to hear is, AND-1!
Danny McLarty, CSCS is a fitness coach at Flex Personal Training in Danville, California.
Danny earned a place in the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007 for his high school and college career.
He accomplished this while standing at a height of 5'7".
He is also a basketball skills coach, helping players improve their ability to get open, with and without the ball.
You can read more about Danny at his website, www.DannyMcLarty.com .
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