3 lessons taught by the KU basketball team

The Kansas Jayhawks just committed the number one high school recruit – Andrew Wiggins from Canada. And while he was deciding which school he would grace his presence with, I was spending the weekend at KU watching the men’s basketball team workout. Last year, KU was ranked 8th in the preseason rankings; this year they have the potential to drop into the top 5. And it might suprise you what's giving the Jayhawks the edge to be a top 10 contender... drum roll... their Strength & Conditioning staff. 

I got to hear Coach Bill Self speak about his KU team (this is before he realized he was getting the #1 recruit). He didn’t ramble on about losing some great seniors and what it would take to rebuild this year, instead he spoke about how he had 100% trust in his head Strength & Conditioning coach – Coach Andrea Hudy. That’s right, KU men’s basketball team works with a FEMALE strength coach. And to put it simply, coach Hudy does some pretty awesome stuff at KU. It doesn’t hurt that they have 20 squat racks with platforms, each with an individual force plate and ipad. Here’s 3 things I learned while hanging out at the Midwest Strength & Conditioning conference.

#1 – Coach Hudy: KU Strength coach

Coach Hudy is really good at making programs not only sport specific, but also individualized. It was refreshing to see a coach who understood the game and knew how to implement that into workouts without getting too crazy over-the-top on sport specificity. For example, she talked about how some players need more anterior chain work, some need more posterior chain work. Coach Hudy uses these expensive things called force plates to figure out exactly where they lie on that spectrum, and then makes a program geared towards their strengths/weaknesses. When you don’t have lots of fancy toys, you have to adapt and be a little more creative (which is what we do at 1RM). In our example above, if you need more:

Anterior chain work – Put feet closer together during a lunge / Front Squat / do more jumping down

Posterior chain work – Feet further apart when lunging / Back Squat / do more jumping up

Another thing I learned from Coach Hudy has to do with programming during the season. Coach Hudy has a great grasp of the game of basketball (even though she didn’t play it). When you look at the collegiate basketball season, you can see that pre-season involves a well rounded program, both in the weight room and on the floor. Players do a lot of shuffling drills, footwork, change of direction drills, jumping, sprinting/backpedaling and so on. When season comes, they focus more on basketball technique and spend more time just going up and down the court. There tends to be less lateral movement and so Coach Hudy programs that into the workouts in the weightroom. Simple thought, but insightful.

#2 – Meg Stone: 2 time Olympic discus thrower for Great Britain

The first amazing thing about Meg was that she was probably in her 60’s and very fit for her age (maybe weighed 150-160 lbs.). When she was a discus thrower, her competition weight was 250 lbs!!! And more amazing then that, she could squat 550 lbs. To give you an idea, I can only squat 225 lbs… that’s not even her body weight.

The number one thing I learned from Meg wasn’t really a new idea, but she just phrased it in a great way. She has worked with a lot of world class endurance athletes. When talking about the benefits of strength training runners, she said this: You need to be able to hold your body in an energy efficient position while running and strength training helps runners do this. Very insightful.

The other thing she said was that you have 2 type of athletes – the bender and the leaner. The athlete who actually bends their knees is strong, whereas the athlete who simply bends over at the waist is weak. You see a leaner, you know you have a weak athlete.

#3 - Dr. Phil Wagner:  Sillicon Valley, CA – Sparta Performance

Dr. Wagner discussed the force plate and showed how different athletes produce power. A force plate measures ground reactive forces generated by athletes when they jump or do some sort of explosive. At KU, the force plate is linked to an ipad that immediately shows the athletes ground reaction forces. From those numbers, you can tell a few things about the athlete. There are basically 3 ways to develop power, and each athlete uses all three. An athlete should be balanced in the 3 phases; problems arise when they are really high in one level, and low in others.   

1.) Load – Rate of Force development

-Anterior chain dominate athletes: Ankle/knee joints, quads

-When an athlete is low in this category (low load): athletes tend to dislocate or sublex

-These athletes create a lot of force by momentum

-Feet tend to externally rotate, which means they don’t load ankles & knee

-This is not good because injuries tend to happen when you only load hip

2.) Explode – Max force

-These athletes need to work on bracing (deadlift/farmers walks/bridges)

-Need to work on resisting rotation

-When an athlete is low in this category (low explode): the athlete rotates aggressively, increased risk for upper body injuries

- These athletes create force initially, lose it, and then gain it again

3.) Drive – how long you can maintain for

-Posterior chain dominate athletes: calves, glutes, back – spit squats

-When an athlete is low in this category (low drive): Lots of musculature injuries occur

-Tend to have anterior pelvic tilt, weak posterior chain

-Example is track/football players – lots of pulled hammies/hip flexors

-Explosive athletes that create force very quickly

There's just a few things to think about. Many more to come (especially in July when the NSCA's National conference is in Vegas).