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Sweet 16 Basketball Training Tips

by Andrew Heffernan, C.S.C.S. Male Pattern Fitness

Our thanks to Andrew for allowing us to re-rpint his Men's Health article. Visit Men's Health for more fitness articles or click here to read the original "Sweat 16" article

Need more flash in your drives? More lift in your layups? Try these drills from the NCAA's elite strength and conditioning coache

HOOPS IS A GAME OF ATTRITION, A FACT THAT BECOMES painfully clear every March. The strongest, healthiest, and best-conditioned teams are the last ones standing. So to help you elevate your game, we recruited 16 of the NCAA's top strength and conditioning coaches, whose teams often play long after everyone else has gone home. Use their favorite training tricks and tips to pick up your performance. But the real reward is this: These routines blast fat and build muscle. Who says your best days on the court—and in front of the mirror—are behind you? (And if you really want to elevate your game, you have to try The Super-Athlete Workout.)

1. Break Fast
University of North Carolina

To make sure his players are the first ones down the court on a fast break, Sahratian has his Tar Heels do resisted sprints: One player runs as hard as he possibly can while a partner stands behind him and slows him down using a special harness. To buy your own, search for "resistance trainers" on the Perform Better website ($45, performbetter.com). You can achieve a similar workout, though, with an everyday bath towel. Wrap the towel around your waist and have a workout partner stand behind you and hold its ends. Then run as fast as you possibly can for 10 to 20 yards as he provides resistance. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat the drill five times, and then try it once without resistance. And to see the total-body conditioning workout that Sahratian uses with the Tar Heels. It's a muscle-building, fat-blasting routine that requires only an 8-pound medicine ball.

2. Crash the Boards
MIKE MALONE, c.s.c.s.
University of Kentucky.

The Wildcats dominate the boards because of the band overhead squat, a warmup move that adds spring to their steps. Grab a half-inch-wide resistance band, with your hands shoulder-width apart. Stand on the band and spread your feet slightly beyond shoulder width. Press the band overhead and hold it there with your arms straight; this is the starting position. Push your hips back and squat until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. (Keep your torso upright and your back naturally arched.) Explosively spring back to the starting position. Do 2 or 3 sets of 6 to 10 reps before any game or workout.

3. Grab and Go
RYAN CABILES, c.s.c.s.
Syracuse University

Great basketball requires relentless movement—setting rock-solid screens, boxing out for a big rebound, and playing dogged defense. Cabiles puts his Orange to the test with a drill called around the world: Set an empty container under the hoop. Distribute five cones evenly along the three-point line, or about 20 feet from the container, and place a tennis ball on each cone. Starting at the container, sprint to the ball farthest to your right, grab it, sprint back, and drop it into the receptacle. Spin around, retrieve the next ball, and sprint back. Repeat until you've retrieved all five. Do this drill 8 to 10 times, alternating your starting direction. Rest 30 to 45 seconds between drills.

4. Stretch Your Boundaries
CHARLIE MELTON, c.s.c.s., s.c.c.c.
Baylor University

Basketball is a game of length, and the farther you can extend your limbs in every direction without hurting yourself, the more distance you can cover. The Bears boost their range of motion with the spiderman crawl, a lower-body drill that builds mobility. Assume a pushup position. Now take a big step forward with your right foot and place it outside your right hand. Pause for a few seconds, and then lower your head and chest for a deeper stretch in your thigh muscles. Walk your hands out until you're once again in a pushup position, and step forward with your left leg. Do 8 to 10 reps on each side.

5. Get Tenacious on D
University of Wisconsin

To build strength and endurance in the defensive quarter-squat position, the Badgers do the triangle of terror. You'll need an exercise band with handles. Grab the handles and stand on the band, over its center, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and press your arms straight out from your sides so you're in a D stance. Mimic how you'd move on defense by shuffling 10 steps to the right and then 10 steps to the left. Repeat 5 times. That's 1 set. Do 5, resting 1 minute in between.

6. Achieve Liftoff
ANDREA HUDY, c.s.c.s.
University of Kansas

True power comes from quick, strong movements—similar to what happens when you jump to block a shot or box out for a big rebound. That's why explosive lifts, such as the dumbbell single-arm snatch, are a staple of the Jayhawks' workouts. In a hip-width stance, grab a dumbbell in your left hand and hold it, using an overhand grip, at arm's length in front of your hips. Then bend at your hips and knees until the weight hangs just above your knees. Now jump, shrug your left shoulder, pull the dumbbell up, and catch it overhead with your arm straight. Do 4 sets of 3 reps with each arm.

7. Hunker Down
TIM BELTZ, c.s.c.s.
University of Pittsburgh

Squats are tricky for hoops players—long limbs and torsos may make it tougher for them to maintain optimal form. The Zercher squat lowers the center of gravity, so Pitt players stay safe while still squatting heavy. Set the bar in a rack just below chest height. Holding the bar in the crook of your arms, lift it off the supports. Step back, holding it against your abdomen and keeping your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Return to standing. Do 3 sets of 5 reps, resting 2 minutes.

8. Stick the Landing
BOB ALEJO, c.s.c.s.
North Carolina State University

The higher you jump, the harder you land, putting you at risk for serious injury. That's why the Wolfpack does eccentric stepups, an exercise that strengthens the muscles that help protect your knees and hips. Holding your arms straight out in front of you, keep your right leg straight and place your left foot on a step or bench that's 18 to 24 inches off the floor. This is the starting position. Without using your right leg, push down through your left heel to lift your body until both feet are on the step or bench. Take 2 seconds to return to the starting position. Complete 12 reps. Switch legs and repeat.

Click here for Part 2 of the Sweet 16 Basketball Training Tips!

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