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In this week’s edition of Coaches Corner, renowned strength and conditioning coach Alan Stein sits down with editor Adam Warner and dishes out advice for coaches and players, reveals some of his most effective workouts and sets the story straight on certain strength and conditioning myths.
Talk about your background a bit and how you’ve gotten to where you are today.
“I’m a former high school hoops player and also played basketball at Elon College in North Carolina (now Elon University). Ever since I was in high school, I’ve always gravitated towards performance enhancement and realized in college that I could make it a career and also stay with the game of basketball and my passion. It all kind of fell into place and I was in the right place at the right time. There weren’t too many strength and conditioning-specific coaches when I started. Now, every NBA and college program has one, and the field has really grown in recent years.”
What drove to you to become a strength and conditioning expert?
“I consider myself a coach now, but more of the X’s and O’s of strength and conditioning, versus the X’s and O’s of offense and defense. We are all limited by our genetic potential, but strength and conditioning you have complete control of. Whether you are in great shape or not, you still have it within your control to get as strong and as fit as you can. And as I learned more about it, I discovered what a positive impact it can have on people, from an injury standpoint and a performance enhancement standpoint. It’s also a way for me to create a new niche and contribute to the game that has been so good to me.”
You’ve been a well-known strength and conditioning coach at the high school level for some time now. Have you ever thought about taking your work to the next level?
“I’ve been offered positions at higher levels, but I’ve chosen to stay here. I can have the biggest impact on youth players, junior high and high school players, and acclimate them and prepare them for what they will need at the next level. There’s a lack of quality coaching at some youth levels and I believe I can have a positive impact there. Most coaches are good at what they do and climb the ladder, but I’d like to see more focus on the youth level and getting professional-level coaching to help prepare them. The earlier we can coach kids, the better the finished product will be.”
How has the field changed over the last 10-20 years? What are the biggest differences?
“Even 10 years ago, not every NBA team had a full time strength and conditioning coach. Maybe only a handful of teams had these coaches in the 1990s. Not even college programs had bought into it. But in the last 10-15 years, coaches realized just how important it is to stay injury free. Now, we’re seeing a lot more influence at the high school level and a lot of private schools have hired coaches. It’s trickling down. It’s a great trend and I hope to see it continue.
Also, everything has gone from generic to much more specific. We can do stuff that is specific to the needs and demands of basketball. 10 years ago, people would go to a local expert at the YMCA who was a former player who looked the part of being strong and fit, and that’s where they derived their program from. Now, kids and players of all ages and levels can do something that’s specific to their needs, will help them stay injury free and improve their performance on the court, instead of doing a generic program.”
There are many coaches and parents who believe the best way athletes can train is just to play basketball. Can you explain why it’s so important for athletes to be involved with strength and conditioning workouts on a routine basis?
“There is partial validity to this. The absolute best way to get in the best shape is to play basketball at a very high level. Even though I work with youth players, I’m not a big advocate of early specialization. I think kids should play multiple sports even if basketball is their vehicle. But in the early years for motor coordination and overall ability, it’s good to play multiple sports. Kids today that play a sport 24/7, they develop overuse injuries because of similar movement patterns and you see the wear and tear, like with tennis and tennis elbow due to the constant repetition.
Strength and conditioning helps prevent acute injuries and overuse injuries, strengthens the hips and feet, and athletes are less likely to develop injuries. The number one thing about specific training is it keeps athletes safe, healthy and on the court so they can play — and players want to do this because it improves their performance on the court. If you can make your body stronger, quicker and more explosive, you can play at a higher level.”
Okay, here’s a hypothetical. I’m an athlete who’s playing basketball now and just getting into strength training for the first time. What do you recommend for me to get started at a beginners level?
“It’s a common misconception that strength training will stunt growth. Also, recent trends show there’s more female participation in strength and conditioning training, and overall participation is younger, and it’s great. But things are different for 18 and 10 year olds. Things have changed in the field.
For instance, coaches and parents often picture squats and barbell squats and 10 year olds doing these in the gym. But it’s morphed into something broader and now it’s about teaching coordination and flexibility and body weight strength.
We’ve developed safe programs for beginners. First, they need to be able to go through all major types of movements, like squats, lunges, step-ups, pushups and pull-ups, plus learn to twist and crawl — trying to get back to kids knowing how to move and control their bodies in space. When they can handle all of these with their own body weight, that’s when we add resistance and more traditional exercises. We work on things like conditioning, acceleration, deceleration, proper footwork and getting into proper basketball shape.
Everything is so much broader now. It’s much easier to teach a 9 year old from a movement standpoint because they haven’t learned any bad habits yet. So working with young kids is the perfect time to teach these things. It’s also important to make creative and engaging exercises so kids feel they can make some progress. That sense of satisfaction gets them hooked and continuing to do it. By getting kids in earlier and teaching them proper movement, it will be so much easier to teach them basketball skills as they get older. Strength and conditioning is the foundation and the base of the pyramid for a a basketball player. And if we can teach them basic skills, it will enhance everything else.”
The basketball season is well underway at every level now. Can you recommend some in-season training routines or workouts for coaches and players?
“The key is balancing intensity and the frequency of games and practices with the intensity of the workouts. If you have tons of games in a tournament over a short period of time, you certainly won’t train as hard as it’s not in your best interest. But if you’re playing fewer games, then that’s the time to ramp up workouts.
Sometimes I recommend doing 1-2 strength workouts in season per week, usually 25-30 minutes long and primarily focusing on the upper body. Your legs are worked hard enough during the season. The goal is to supplement and make you better on the court, so you must balance things out. Sometimes, you don’t have to do too much. For example, 3 sets of pull-ups and pushups may work for an upper body workout. It’s a balancing act and the key is to maintain the strength you built in the spring, summer and fall.”
Can you recall any huge success stories you’ve had — perhaps with a player who came into a program skinny with average speed, but left much stronger and faster? What was the difference?
“Overall, we have a high success rate. You have to be careful though. What we do is a small and important piece of the overall puzzle and there are so many other factors. Average kids come in and eight weeks later, they have more muscle and more flexibility. A big part of all of this that shows up on the court is the mental aspect, like improved confidence. Athletes can do things they didn’t think they could ever do. They play harder defense and have a little bit more of a swagger now.
I’ve been fortunate to work with the likes of Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and Nolan Smith and they have gone on to become successful players. But I do think the stuff I did with them was a small stepping stone, and I believe it’s a balancing act. I don’t take full credit for them, but this stuff contributes to that. We do the same stuff with Durant as we do with all players. You often measure a program by reduced injury and most players in our program have a much lower injury rate as some other programs and similar ages.”
Are there any misconceptions or superstitions when it comes to strength and conditioning?
“That more is better. If you want to be a good free throw shooter, shoot more free throws. On the skill side, to some degree, this is true. But it’s the opposite for strength and conditioning. Some kids think they should be in the weight room 6 days a week. Our goal is to maximize results in the minimal amount of time. Everything we do is intense though. It’s all about what you do and how you do it. Society preaches more is better. But you can be done effective workouts after 2-3 hours a week, but it all depends on how it’s done.”
Do you have an all-time favorite drill or workout?
“I use tennis balls with a series of reaction drills. You get with a partner and do a series of things and bounce it and you have to react to it. The tennis ball is fun and engaging and works on hand-eye coordination, acceleration, deceleration, and vertical jump. The workouts use basic equipment, and you’d be hard pressed to find any kid who can’t find access to a tennis ball and there are a million drills you can do with them. My NBA guys and 10 year olds love working with the tennis ball.”
What’s some of the best advice you can give to coaches?
“If anything looks dangerous, it probably is — like an exercise. Just avoid it and stay away. I can’t tell you how many programs I’ve observed where there are borderline criminal things going on. Coaches may be doing it for the right reasons, but they just aren’t using common sense.
Also, the basic stuff still works. Even if you are a novice or new coach, ignorance should not be an excuse. The same goes for basketball. If you are coaching 10 year olds on a youth team, but you don’t know much, Championship Productions and others have tons of resources. So aside from common sense, reach out and find some basic resources to help you do what you have to do.”
What’s some of the best advice you can give to players?
“Focus on doing things you can do to be the best player you can be. Players often look up to the best players and want to be like them, and that’s perfectly healthy and normal. I get emails that ask, “What drills can I do to be like Derrick Rose?” But you can’t do specific drills to be like him. Kids need to do things they can control and be comprehensive. Stay focused on improving your body and being in shape and the fundamentals, like jumpers and accepting coaching and learning how to play the game.”
Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the head strength and conditioning coach for the DeMatha Catholic High School basketball program. Stein has teamed up with Championship Productions to produce 19 strength and conditioning videos. To check out his entire catalog of DVDs, click here.
The preseason is currently in full swing for most college lacrosse teams across the country. Meanwhile, even some high school squads are getting back out on the field for the first time and putting together their game plans for a new campaign.
So as lacrosse players get back in shape and prepare for the rigors of a long season, it’s important to implement conditioning workouts that specifically focus on core strength, which consists of your abs, obliques, hips and lower back.
If you want to stay injury free and improve your overall performance this season, it’s vital that you work out these areas of the body on a consistent basis.
*Keys to Core Strength Workouts*
-Maintain good posture and alignment throughout exercises
-Focus on the muscles being used
-Don’t hold your breath
1. Extended Plank – Shoulder Touch
Get in a standard plank pose. Hold one arm down on the ground and then lift the opposite arm off the ground and touch your opposite shoulder. Keep your hands directly below your shoulders and keep your feet out wide. Place your left hand on your right shoulder for three seconds before switching. Remember, don’t let any body parts move but that one arm and keep those hips down. Finish after completing three or four on each side.
2. Extended Plank Out-Out In-In
Get in a standard plank pose. Then, one at a time, move your hands “out-out” (wider) and then come “in-in.” Your thumbs should touch when “in-in” and on “out-out”, your hands should be well wider than your shoulders. Every time you go in-in, that’s one rep. Be sure to count out five and keep those hips stationary.
3. Plank Position – Elbows to Shoulders
Start out in a standard plank position. Then go down to an elbow plank pose. Alternate back and forth between the two. Finish after going up and down five times.
4. Plank Position – Reach Forward
Get in a standard plank pose. Then, reach out one hand as if you’re about to shake someone’s hand. Then switch to the other hand. Do three on each side.
5. Elbow Plank Open Up to Side Plank
Start out in a standard elbow plank position. Then, open up and get your hips and shoulders perpendicular to the ground. Look up when you turn up each time. Remember to do three on each side.
6. Side Elbow Plank with Hip Touch
Start out in a standard elbow plank position. Then, touch one knee to the opposite elbow and switch. To do this, simply bring one knee in and have it meet your opposite elbow underneath your body. Remember, maintain proper posture and always be in control of each move. Don’t rush.
7. Side Bridge with Hip Raise
Get in a side plank position and then raise your body up from “hip to ground” to “hip to sky.” Count out five and then flip over to the other side.
8. Rocking Chair
Sit on your back. Take your hands and clasp them behind your head and keep your knees bent with feet flat on the floor to start. Next, raise your legs and connect your elbows to your knees and keep them connected, even as your coach applies resistance.
Start out on your back. Your coach will then sandwich your knees together. Next, do a sit-up and as you are coming up, take one hand and slap the opposite target provided by the coach (which will probably be one of his outstretched hands). Your progression should go like this. Go 1 slap and back down. Go 1-2 and then down (stay up for opposite slaps). Then go 1-2-3 and down. Follow this progression all the way to six.
The previous core exercises can be seen in the Championship Productions video “130 Pro Power Strength, Power & Explosiveness Drills” featuring Alan Stein. To check out our extensive strength and conditioning library, click here.
20 Drills to Increase Speed, Agility and Quickness
Speed, agility and quickness are three necessary ingredients for success in any sport, but most particularly in the fast-paced game of lacrosse. Whether it’s a making an effective split dodge or coming away with possession at the face-off X, having superior speed, agility and quickness will ultimately play a huge role in determining your success on the field.
By following these drills designed by Alan Stein, professional strength coach and owner of Stronger Team Strength and Conditioning Services, athletes will be able to make major strides with their overall speed and agility development while maximizing their athletic potential. Athletes will see improvements with their communication skills, mental focus and hand-eye coordination as well. Plus, the drills use minimal equipment, so they can be done anywhere by anyone and on any kind of budget.
This week’s workout is a standard warm-up intended to raise the body’s core temperature and make the muscles more relaxed. The workout — which should last between 5-15 minutes — features movement preparation, where the goal is to get athletes to go through all of the fundamental athletic movements they will need on the field.
In these speed and agility drills, eight key movements and motions are used: Forward Sprints, Back Pedals (focus on leaning forward with your chest out over knees), Side Shuffles (do not cross feet while ankles, knees, hips and shoulders stay square), Side Runs (waist and above stays square, but ankles, knees and hips facing the side), Jumps (stay stationary and vertical and land easy), Pivots (one leg moves in quarter pivots in one direction while other leg remains flat on the floor), Twists (running in one direction but looking another way) and Athletic Stance (keeping a wide base and a low center of gravity).
The following is a standard warm-up session aimed at improving overall speed and agility. Drills should be conducted for about 45 feet (half of a basketball court) before repeating over.
Speed, Agility and Quickness Workout #1
Drill 1: 3 Steps Forward and 1 Step Backward on Left (Go right, left, right and then step back with the left foot)
Drill 2: 3 Steps Forward and 1 Step Backward on Right (Go left, right, left and back on the right foot)
Drill 3: 3 Steps Backward and 1 Step Forward on Left (Go right, left, right and then forward with the left foot)
Drill 4: 2 Steps Forward and 2 Side Shuffles (Jog two steps and then laterally shuffle two steps. Stay nice and low with your hips square)
Drill 5: 2 Steps Back Pedal and 2 Side Shuffles (Same as before, just with back pedals)
Drill 6: 2 Steps Forward and 2 Cariocas (Focus on quick hip turns with your feet)
Drill 7: 2 Steps Back Pedal and 2 Cariocas
Drill 8: 2 Side Shuffles and Reverse Pivot (After pivot, you will be facing the opposition direction)
Drill 9: 2 Side Shuffles and Front Pivot (Same as before, just with a front pivot instead of back)
Drill 10: High Knee and Butt Kick Combo (Give two high knee kicks followed by two butt kicks and repeat. Always be moving forward)
Drill 11: Cross-Country Skier (Switching places with your feet and always moving forward. Legs will stay fairly straight but not stick-straight. Feet are always flat on the floor)
Drill 12: Basic Forward Skip with Arm Swing (Repeat with a backward skip and arm swing)
Drill 13: Lateral Skip with Arm Swing (Always be facing forward)
Drill 14: Basic Skip with Lateral Hip Movement (Skip and then rotate your hip out on the second hop. Repeat with high knee Out to In. Just opposite direction with knee from before)
Drill 15: Frankenstein Skip (Leg is extended straight out as shoe meets fingertips)
Drill 16: Carioca with High Knee Punch
Drill 17: Carioca with Quick Feet (Fast touches with feet out front and behind; rapid fire)
Drill 18: Skip with Dead Leg Left (Right leg is just trailing behind. Repeat with opposite side)
Drill 19: Forward Jog with Lookbacks (Every couple of steps forward, rotate, look back and put out your outside hand)
Drill 20: 45 Degree Angle Cuts – (Zig Zags forward. Stay low. Repeat with backward cuts. Give two drop steps and then switch directions. Similar to a basketball defender)
This workout can be seen on the Championship Productions DVD “130 “Pro Power” Speed, Quickness and Reaction Drills.” To view additional warm-up drills and more speed, agility and reaction workouts, visit our Performance Training homepage.
We have recently released two new basketball DVD featuring Alan Stein. Stein continues to find new ways to improve players’ strength and conditioning using innovative techniques that can be incorporated into any program. The new strength and conditioning titles are:
Alan Stein’s Pro Power Training 2-Pack is now available! Stein shares 260 training drills to improve speed, quickness, reaction, strength, power, and explosiveness. The two training DVDs are titled:
Alan Stein is one of the country’s top performance training coaches. His passion, enthusiasm and innovative training techniques have made him one of the most sought after clinicians and strength coaches in the nation. Stein serves as a performance consultant for Nike Basketball and has tremendous experience working with elite level athletes in every major sport, including Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley. Players and coaches in any sport can utilize the concepts, principles and drills that Stein’s innovative system employs. Stein’s “Pro Power” Training 2-pack combines to offer you more than 260 drills to enhance athleticism for any athlete in any sport!