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Do Basketball Players Need Aerobics?
by Charles Poliquin www.CharlesPoliquin.com
Recently a father asked me about the testing protocols used by his sonís high school basketball coach. The coach had been using a mile run to test for aerobic endurance but then switched to a half-mile run. The father wanted to know if this was a wise decision, but he also pointed out that his team had won the state championship the previous year. OK, we have some issues here.
First, to fulfill the definition of sports specificity, an acceptable time for a high school basketball player to be able to run a half mile would be 1 Ĺ to 2 hours. Sound crazy? Letís do some math.
Al Vermeil won several world championship rings when he was a strength coach for the Chicago Bulls. Vermeil says that during a basketball game, video analysis shows itís rare that a single player will run as much as one mile by the time the final buzzer sounds. There are 48 minutes of playing time in an NBA game, but add to that all the timeouts, fouls, out-of-bounds and halftime Ė as a result, a typical NBA game will last about 2 Ĺ hours. It doesnít take a highly developed aerobic system to cover a mile in 2 Ĺ hours. At the high school level, total playing time is only 32 minutes, so even if a player were on the court the entire game, it is doubtful he or she would run a half mile. These numbers should dispel any idea that an aerobic base is necessary for basketball.
As for high school student whose team won the state championship Ė congratulations! But consider that with about six high school sport classifications in most of our 50 states, every year there are approximately 300 state championship basketball teams. And in high school, itís possible that one dominant player can make a significant difference in how well that team performs.
In his freshman year in high school, for example, LeBron James averaged 21 points and six rebounds a game, and his team finished with a 23-1 record and a state championship. Guess how the team did during the rest of Jamesí high school career? My point is that at the high school level, there are many factors that determine success in basketball, and when you do the math, having extraordinary aerobic endurance is probably not one of those factors.
Further, consider that if strength is an important component in basketball (and consider that high school athletes often play other sports such as football that do require considerable strength), aerobic training may compromise this physical quality. Letís explore.
For starters, it has been shown that athletes who have focused on aerobic training have fast-twitch fibers that behave like slow-twitch fibers. In other words, their fast-twitch fibers have greater endurance and smaller diameters, have a slower time to peak force, and are weaker. The fast-twitch fibers normally have large diameters, have a shorter time to peak force, and are stronger; but because in this case they were exposed to high volumes of aerobic work, the fibers adapted themselves to the training response.
Next, when an athlete performs slow cyclical-type activities, the brain tends to organize muscle contractions in that manner. In other words, it is harder for the brain to organize ballistic, high-force muscle contractions. A Japanese study done a few years ago showed that the more you increase your V02 max, the more your vertical jump actually decreases Ė not a desirable result for a basketball player. And a Finnish study showed that doing aerobic work for the upper body makes your legs slower, showing that the negative power adaptation did not come from the muscle itself but from the nervous system.
The bottom line here is that itís important for coaches to conduct physical fitness tests on their athletes, but there are far better tests of endurance for a basketball player than a half-mile run.
Charles Poliquin is one of the most accomplished strength coaches in the world. He has designed workouts for Olympic medalists in 17 different sports, world record holders in 10 different sports, and professional athletes in the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, and UK Premier League. He has lectured or consulted for a variety of high-profile organizations such as the US Secret Service, Walt Disney Corporation and the World Swimming Congress.
Poliquin has written 600-plus articles and 10 books. His works have been translated into 12 different languages: English, French, Chinese, Finnish, German, Italian, Czech, Slovak, Spanish, Japanese, Dutch and Swedish. His innovative work in strength training is frequently cited in peer-reviewed literature.
In January of 2009 Poliquin opened the Poliquin Strength Institute in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. The institute contains both a 5,200-square-foot teaching gym with the best equipment in the world and a 2,000-square-foot multimedia classroom. Coach Poliquin has certified coaches in 56 countries through his Poliquin International Certification Program (PICP), and many of his former students are continuing his legacy with their success in training Olympians and professional athletes. He is the inventor of the BioSignature Modulation Method which has ascertained the relationship between body fat stores and hormonal profiles, and the methodology to improve site specific body composition.
You can read more about Poliquin at his website, www.CharlesPoliquin.com .
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