Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lift weights if you want to be competitive on the basketball court

A story in today's Des Moines paper begins with this line:

Lift weights if you want to be competitive on the basketball court.

"It's that simple," said Rick Wanamaker, a long and lanky member of the Drake basketball team that reached the NCAA Final Four in 1969. "Everybody was skinny, scrawny and mostly weak back when I was playing, but in comparison, when I watch games today, everybody's muscular and strong. It's one of those good evolutions of the game. The typical thought among basketball coaches back then was that you'd get so muscle-bound that you couldn't make a basket."

Today, coaches understand how critical weight-training is to a player's success.

"It's really important," Drake coach Mark Phelps said of basketball weight-training. "Guys can get stronger. They can get leaner. They can gain flexibility. They can gain explosiveness. They can gain power - and they can still be the graceful athlete, our game calls for."

Iowa State coach Gregg McDermott agrees:

"Strength training improves your quickness," McDermott said. "It can improve your ability to have balance and strength, especially if you're playing on the interior, but I think one thing it does more than anything is it improves your confidence. Just having the strength and the confidence to be able to battle with somebody one-on-one and not get knocked off your spot because you're not strong enough, does a lot for the rest of your game."

Bobby Hansen, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound guard who helped Lute Olson's Iowa team to the 1980 Final Four before going on to play for nearly a decade in the NBA, said his introduction to weight training came when he reached the pros:

"When I got into the NBA, that's when it became a big part of my workouts. [Hall of Famer] Adrian Dantley lifted all the time. We'd watch him lift, and no one could keep up with him. [Two-time league MVP] Karl Malone was just country strong - he was a big ol' country guy, but he took weight-lifting to a different level. Michael Jordan lifted weights all the time, relentlessly. So did Scottie Pippen. Sometimes I woke up in the morning and it felt like I had 450 pounds on my shoulders, but it increased my vertical jump, maybe by 8 inches."