"Basketball performance is more than lacing up the shoes and dunking a ball in transition," says Patrick Dixon, the head strength and conditioning coach for men's and women's basketball at St. John's University. "There are countless hours spent in the off-season laying the foundation for what the body will encounter during a game and over the course of a season."
Even though St. Johns won't be a part of this year's March Madness tourney (they lost to Villanova in the second round of the Big East tournament on March 13), the team has impressed New Yorkers over the years with its winning ways. We had Dixon show us some of the moves he has his players do, all of which can be done on a basketball court or at the gym.
Why: In order to prepare your knees and lower body to handle the repeated jumps and increase knee stability
How: Start in an elevated position 3 to 6 inches off the ground with your feet hip width apart. “Bunny hop” off the edge and as you drop, transition your feet to just outside your shoulders and absorb the impact with your quads. Allow your knees to bend so you end up in a squat position. The trick is to keep your chest upright and allow your legs and hips to do all the work.
Tricks: Think of your body as a shock absorber so that rather than fighting the landing, you welcome it. Keep your feet flat and work on your balance as well.
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Why: It’s a great upper-body strengthening exercise that doesn’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere.
How: Laying flat on your stomach with hands placed just outside your shoulders, push against the floor to lift your body. The real trick here is to suck your belly button in so that your core stays engaged and your entire body moves like stiff board. Your elbows should bend and follow a 45-degree arc between your side and arm. If you find your arms staying close to your body, your tricep is doing more work. If you elevate your elbows more toward your shoulder, it works your deltoids more.
Tricks: If the push-up is too difficult, try placing your hands on an elevated box or bench to place more weight on your feet. For more of a challenge try an unstable surface, like a foam roller, or adding a rotation to the movement.
Single Leg Split Squat:
Why: This exercise strengthens the quad and hip as well as adds a balance and stability component for the ankle.
How: Standing upright, take one leg and place it in an elevated position behind you. Then bend your front leg until your femur is parallel to the ground. Make sure that your front knee always stays over your shoelaces. As you move you may have to squeeze your hip to keep everything in line.
Tricks: If your knee goes in front of your toes, you either need to lengthen your stance or sit back more and keep your chest upright.
Single-Leg Dead Lift:
Why: This exercise strengthens the hamstrings and glutes as well as adds a balance and stability component.
How: Standing in place, lean forward and reach an arm down to your opposite toe while hinging from the hip and simultaneously raising the opposite leg. As you move, there should be a straight line between your shoulder and the heel that is moving.
Tricks: Squeeze your butt cheeks together. All of the movement should come from your hips. Also, make sure that your hips stay straight and level. Think of them as a door hinge.
We asked celeb nutritionist and fitness trainer Diana Le Dean to help us navigate our food choices after a tough session.
What types of food and drink are ideal to consume post-workout and why?
After a workout, a small meal of protein and carbohydrates is ideal for restoring glycogen levels and building muscle: Try a piece of fruit and a whey-protein shake. It’s also a good idea to stick with water, since most of us don’t get enough during the day.
How long after a workout should you start eating?
Don’t wait longer than an hour to eat once you workout. Your body needs to star digesting food as quickly as possible for maximum effect to take place.
What should you do if you’re not hungry right after a workout?
Wait fifteen minutes. You’ll probably start to feel a little appetite. Try at least to get some whey-protein and water down. Your body needs them no matter what your brain is telling you.
Our pick: TruMoo Chocolate Milk
Research has shown that chocolate milk is a great post-workout drink because it replenishes your muscles with carbs and protein. TruMoo's reformulated drink now has 35 percent less total sugar than the leading competitor and 40 percent less added sugar than its previous recipe.