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Tips for Maintaining Peak Performance Levels on a Season-Long Basis

Conditioning Article from Tom Emma, President of Power Performance, Inc.

Nothing is more frustrating for a basketball player than to come into a season in top shape, sporting razor sharp skills and a sky high attitude, only to see his performance gradually decline over the course of the competitive campaign until by post-season play he is but a shell of his early season self. It is absolutely crucial that athletes take the appropriate steps to avoid this performance deterioration. If they don't, a successful season will be an impossibility.
Presented below are strategies players can incorporate that will help them maintain peak performance levels throughout the long and grueling basketball season. Follow the suggestions closely, and you can look forward to a rewarding, injury free, and peak performance season.

Eat Right, Play Right
Eating a balanced, nutritionally sound diet provides the body with energy, aids in recovery, and contributes to the maintenance of lean muscle tissue, all major components of season-long peak performance. Many athletes, especially young athletes, neglect this important aspect of performance maintaince, and therefore suffer the consequences of lackluster play.
Below the basics of balanced basketball nutrition are discussed. Following these simple steps will help you be at your best from pre-season practice to post-season play.
  • A minimum of eight to 10 12-ounce glasses of pure water should be drunk each and every day. Water comprises approximately two-thirds of your body mass, so remaining optimally hydrated should be a basketball player's first nutritional priority.
  • Five to six medium sized meals should be consumed per day as opposed to the traditional three larger ones. Eating in this manner will provide you with more energy (bigger meals require large amounts of energy to digest, thus leaving you with less energy for performance in-between the lines), and should help in the muscle building and maintaining process.
  • Balanced nutrition for basketball players should entail approximately 60% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 15% fat.
  • Hard training basketball players should consume approximately five grams of carbohydrates and .60 grams of high quality protein per pound of body weight each day. During training breaks carbohydrate intake should decrease to approximately three grams per pound of body weight per day. Protein consumption should remain about the same regardless of activity level.
  • Late night, high carbohydrate snacks should be avoided, as should alcohol, excessive caffeine, and carbonated soft drinks. Learn more about how alcohol affects the body.
  • Dietary supplementation is not needed or recommended for athletes who eat in a balanced, nutritionally complete manner.
  • Experimenting with steroids or other so-called "performance enhancing" substances is strongly discouraged.
  • Missing meals is not an option for a competitive basketball player.
Cool-Down Sufficiently After All Games And Workouts
Perhaps the most neglected aspect of sports physical conditioning is the post-game/workout cool-down. The reasons (excuses) for abdicating this activity are many. Let's just say it is tedious and delays more pleasant off-court activities. (A warm shower and a filling meal with your friends are certainly more appealing than 10 minutes on the Stairmaster and a stretching circuit.)
Cooling down effectively after intense physical exertion is extremely important to the recovery process. It helps rid the body of lactic acid, a substance that contributes to muscle and joint soreness, thus allowing players to perform at their best day after day. Cooling down also has the added benefit of promoting sound sleep, which as you'll see below is crucial to maintaining peak performance.
A proper cool-down for basketball players consists of light activity such as riding a stationary bike for eight to 10 minutes, followed by an abbreviated stretching routine which focus on the lower back and hamstrings. Some callisthenics and low intensity abdominal training can also be included.
Sleep: An Important Variable In Maintaining Performance Levels
One of my favorite counselors at the famous Five-Star basketball camp once said to me, ‘if you want to soar with the eagles in the day, you can't hoot with the owls at night." Sound words. Words all competitive basketball players should heed. Although sleep requirements vary from person to person, seven to eight hours per night should suffice for most. Younger ballplayers (16 and under) will typically need more sleep than their older counterparts.
Detailed below are some helpful hints for getting a good night's sleep.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and colas late in the day.
  • Engage in some wind down time just before going to bed. This might include a little light reading, performing some easy stretching movements, or just clearing your mind and sitting quietly.
  • Drink a mug warm milk an hour or so prior to retiring.
  • Avoid mind stimulating activities close to bedtime. Getting your mind racing prior to hitting the rack is a sure way to keep you up.
  • Avoid late evening exercise if possible. (Night games are of course the exception.) This revs up your metabolism and can delay the onset of sleep.
  • Take a 20 minute warm bath two to three hours prior to going to bed. This will contribute toward lowering your body temperature, which leads to sound sleep.
Continue to Strength Train
Some well meaning but misinformed basketball coaches discourage their players from strength training during the season. Reasons range from working out in the weight room will deplete energy leaving athletes sluggish and tired by game time to the age old myth in basketball circles that lifting weights in-season will hinder shooting touch.
The above myths and others like them are in a word, erroneous. A carefully planned and properly implemented in-season strength program provides many benefits to basketball players, not the least of which is helping them to maintain their performance on a season long basis. This fact is not lost on top high school and college basketball programs. Most of these schools employ full-time basketball strength and conditioning coaches whose responsibilities include monitoring mandatary attendance in the weight room throughout the competitive campaign.
Listed below are some tips that will help you stay current with your strength program during the season.
  • Use Multi-Joint Exercises in Your In-season Workouts: Multi-joint movements such as squats, incline presses, push presses, and step-ups exercise numerous muscle groups at once. Therefore, they are the most time and energy efficient lifts for in-season training.
  • Use Your Off-Days Constructively: As all competitive athletes are well aware, off-days are precious commodities during the regular season. They are also excellent opportunities to hit the weights hard. So if you don't have a game the next day and your body is up to it, I encourage you to strength train intensely on your free days.
  • Strength Train Immediately Following Games: If you have access to the appropriate facilities, strength training immediately following games is a fantastic way to stay current with your routine. Post-game workouts should be brief (no more than 30 minutes), and large amounts of hydrating fluids must be consumed before, during, and after the session.
  • Incorporate a Strength Workout in Lieu of Practice: Scheduling a "strength training day" instead of a conventional practice session is a great way for players to keep up with their strength programs while at the same time providing everyone involved (coaches, trainers, even team mangers) a mental break from the monotony of regular basketball workouts.
Maintain Conditioning When Injured
Minor injuries are frustrating but inevitable visitors during the long, grueling basketball season for all but the luckiest of players. How you maintain your physical conditioning and strength through and around these injuries will have a lot to do with the ultimate success you experience on the basketball court.
After you've been diagnosed and cleared to workout by the appropriate personnel (doctors, trainers, physical therapists, etc.), you must then determine what forms of exercise are compatible with your injury. From there the goal is to diligently work to keep yourself as close to game shape as possible. For instance, if a lower leg ailment forces you to take your cardiovascular workouts on the stationary bike or in the swimming pool instead of on the basketball court, you must push to keep your heart rate up to game type levels for the duration of the training session. The same holds true in the weight room. An injury may preclude you from executing certain movements, but other lifts may cause no pain at all. In this case, you would do a few extra sets of the pain free exercises in lieu of the lifts that aggravate the injury until you're ready to resume your pre-injury routine.
Remember, the harder and smarter you work on your conditioning during injury downtime the easier it will be to get in the game flow once you've been cleared to play.
Don't Neglect Treatment
NBA superstar and former Duke University All-American Elton Brand ices his knees after every game, practice, and conditioning workout regardless of whether they are bothering him or not. This type of dedication to treatment is one of the reasons why he has developed into one of the top power forwards in basketball today.
Unfortunately, many athletes are not as conscientious as Brand, and make a habit of skipping treatment on a regular basis. This of course is a mistake, one that will virtually guarantee that peak performance levels will not be maintained throughout the demanding basketball season. Treatment, whether it be a simple whirlpool soak or a full-blown session with a rehabilitation specialist, must never be neglected. Case closed.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Basketball seasons will bring with them ups and downs, wins and losses, and made and missed shots. Through it all, you must aspire to maintain a positive attitude. Any amount of consistent negative thinking will wear you down both mentally and physically and ultimately contribute to poor on-court performance. Remember, a positive attitude equals positive play.
Take Personal Responsibility
All good basketball players take personal responsibility for their performance and preparation. You can't rely on your coaches, trainers, teammates, and parents to get you ready to play, especially when it comes to such things as sleep and diet. You and only you must take the initiative to keep mind and body functioning optimally throughout the competitive basketball campaign.

PowerBasketball is grateful to Tom for providing our audience wuth his wealth of knowledge on the subject of fitness and conditioning. I would like to personally thank Tom for the articles that he has offered over the past several years. Each one is GREAT!

A little bit about Tom.
Thomas Emma is the President of Power Performance, Inc., a company that specializes in training athletes in strength, conditioning, and athletic enhancement techniques. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Peak Performance Sports Training Series, which includes books on basketball, volleyball, softball, and other sports. For more information on sports training and to order any of the above mentioned books go to his website: www.powerperformance.net.

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