Monday, February 11, 2008


These are powerful tools that I wish I knew about several years ago. They may sound simple or too good to be true, but I guarantee if you use these tips you WILL see improvment! Just try them if you don't believe me.

1. BREATHING - There's a lot of science behind this one, but the average human takes in 735 million breaths over 70 years. Anything that goes into your body that much deserves attention. By using this exercise you call upon your lymphatic system, which is vastly under used by the average person. Simply breathe in through your nose (when you inhale start by expanding your stomach until it is full of air and then keep inhaling until your chest is full too) until you can't inhale anymore, then hold your breath in this position for four seconds. Finally, exhale through your mouth slowly for 8 seconds or until you let all the air out. Repeat this 10 times and do this exercise three times (at least) a day. Preferably once in the morning upon waking or close to it, once before practice or training, and once before you go to bed. There are A LOT of great reasons to do this, but the the main ones that are of concern to you are: 1) improves your recovery, 2) improves your breath quality by helping you breathe slower and lowering your resting heart rate, 3)improves the CNS functioning (key for a high vert), 4) helps you relax, and 5)improves energy levels. This is why people meditate. It's not just for religious beliefs, there are many benefits. Doing this exercise is also useful to heelp focus and relax before a test or big game.

2. STRETCHING - I've touched on this in my other posts, but improving you flexibilty is just as important as anything else in vertical jump improvement. While stretching after you lift or train is one of the worst times to do this, stretching (static or PNF) after you get done with team or individual practice is perfect in my opinion. I like holding every stretch for at least 30 seconds. Focus on the lower body (specifically, the hip flexors and groin or other areas that seem tight to you), but don't ignore the upperbody completely. If you start stretching consistently you WILL notice a difference when you compete. If you didn't already know, don't stretch before you play or train. Do a dynamic warm-up. If you've been stretching before you play/train your whole life, don't give it up cold turkey. Gradually phase it out of you're warm-up as you start incorporating more of a dynamic warm-up.

3. MENTAL VISUALIZATION - Studies have actually shown that mentally practicing something can yeild the same (sometimes better) results as physically practicing. The body can be stupid in the sense that it doesn't know the difference between if you're actaully doing something or just imagining it. Scientists have proved that using mental imagery activates the same neurons in your brain as if you were ACTUALLY PRACTICING. I haven't known this information for that long but using it for as little as I have has given me unbelievable results! The key to this is COMPLETELY clear your mind and make your visualization as REAL as possible. If your visualizing yourself practicing dunking/jumping or playing basketball, make your imagery as vivid as possible. Hear your shoes squeeking as you approach the rim, feel the iron on your arm or hands as you jump, hear the ball punding the floor and the net swooshing as you make shot after shot. Practicing this for as little as 10 or 15 minutes a day (start small and build up your time as you get better) can yield huge results. Instead of just staring out the window on your bus ride (the beauty of this is you can do it anywhere), mentally visualize yourself as jumping machine (or whatever your goal is). This isn't as easy as it sounds! Mental visualization takes focus, discipline, and practice. Try doing the breathing exercise (from #1) before you start if you need help clearing your head and relaxing. Don't be discouraged if your mind wanders or you have trouble your first time. Keep practicing and you'll master this.

4. WATER - I know I talked about this in my other post, but it is SO important I had to mention it again. Our bodies are around 70% water! Keeping your body hydrated is extremely important for athletic success. Your muscles will never perform as well as when you are constantly keeping water in your system. On top of that, drinking more water will lower your body fat (can't jump high if you're being weighed down) and improve you're overall health. I suggest ditching soda and sugary juices too as these DEHYDRATE you. This will be tough at first, but the more you drink water, the more you will start to crave it and you'll be disgusted by that other crap because you'll feel so good (i promise). Start carrying a water bottle with you and aim for 3 - 4 liters a day (you need this much because you're an athlete). Make sure your water is purified too.

5. SLEEP - Another simple tool that we take for granted. You NEED 8 to 9 hours (actually the body sleeps in 90 minute periods, so if you sleep for either 4.5, 6, 7.5, or 9 hours you will find it easier to wake up as you will just be at the start of a new sleep cycle) of sleep a night, especially if your an athlete and FOR SURE if you're still a teenager. The body grows, repairs itself, and basically reboots during sleep. Your iPod won't work very long if you don't recharge it right? Same goes for you. Another key (this one sucks, I know) to this is to try and get at least 1 hour, preferrably 2, of sleep BEFORE MIDNIGHT. The old wives tale that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after is true. How many of you have gone to bed at 3 in the morning and slept for a good 10 hours only to wake up and still feel tired and unrested?

6. NUTRITION - For this one I'll use an analogy. If you just bought a Ferrari, how would you treat it? Would you take a piss in the gas tank and expect it to run smoothly? No, you would fill it up with best freakin' gas out there and take care of it. Don't fill your body up with crap and then wonder why you have you just sucked it up on the court and have a 6" vert. Eat well, perform well. It's as simple as that. Your fridge should be sticked with vegetables, fruit, fish, lean meat (chicken, turkey), nuts, and seeds (don't forget your water). If it wasn't on the Earth when God made it, avoid it (fast/processed food, anything that comes in a package, junk food, etc.) Now, this is what you should AIM for your diet to look like. It's pretty hard to eat like this all the time. Do the best you can and you'll reap the benefits. Not only will you perform well, you'll look like a stud (or goddess if there's any chicks reading this). Here's some quick tips:
- if you're still in high school, STOP eating the school's lunch!
1. the lunches suck
2. it's processed crap
3. they don't give a growing, competing athlete enought to eat
Start packing your own lunch either the night before or in the morning. Make sure you have some fruit or veggies (aim to have one or the other or both at every meal) and a good protein source. Drink lots of water.
- college food is a little better (depends on the college)...try to buy your own groceries if you can.
- Try to eat 5 -7 smaller meals a day. This speeds up your metabolism (burns fat) and can help you put on muscle if your training at all. This can be hard if you're at work/school, so either pack an extra meal or bring with a protein shake (or powder and mix it there) and drink it between your regular meals.

7. RECOVERY - Training, practice, or a game takes a lot out of you if you work hard. It might seem pretty obvious but you MUST recover to perform at your best. While taking a day or two off and getting more sleep (the ultimate recovery tool) work great, there are ways to help your body recover faster, which is helpful if you have two games on two nights in a row or just want to get more out of your training. The more you've recovered from the previous game, practice, or work-out, the better you'll feel physically, the better you feel physically the better you'll perform, and the better you perfrom the harder you'll be able to play, etc. See where I'm going with this? So, here are some great ways to speed up your recovery process:
> Get 8 - 9 hours of solid sleep.
> Contrast Showers. I love these and use them often. The idea here is to alternate from as hot a temperature as you can handle to as cold as you can handle. Unless you have access to two baths or bath and a hot tub (which would actually be ideal because your body would be fully submerged), you'll have to do this in a shower. Alternating between hot and cold causes the muscles to expand (hot) and then contract again (cold), causing blood flow which gets all lactic acid out of your system and boosts your energy levels. Some people advise alternating between 180 seconds hot and then 40 seconds cold, while some say 30 seconds hot and 30 seconds cold. I've found the best results by changing it up every time so your body doesn't adapt to it. Try to make the hot part at least double the length of the cold. So you could 60 seconds hot, 25 seconds cold (1 round) and go for 3 -4 rounds. Depends on how much time you have. The 30/30 technique is the quickest, but always go for at least 3 rounds and probablly no more than 6. Contrast showers can be painful at first, but you get you used to them and after a while will find them quite invigorating.
> Ice used in any way. Whether it's icing sore knees, icing your sore muscles, or taking an ice bath, all these work GREAT. A technique called Cryotherapy can be quite effective. All you need is a plastic dixie cup or styrofoam cup, water, and a freezer. Fill up the cup and let it freeze. Then take it out and peel off about a 1/2 to 1 inch off the open end of the cup so that there's some ice sticking out. Just rub the ice over the your sore muscles thoroughly. You might want to freeze several cups depending on their size (they melt pretty fast).
> Stretching (see tip 2)
> Eating well. Getting plenty of protein, carbs, and water refuels your body (see tip 6)
> Breathing exercise (see tip 1)
> Massage. If you can afford it, it is extremely helpful.

8. WORD-ACTION CONNECTION - This one kind of goes along with mental visualization. When you're picturing yourself dunking or jumping in your mind, say an "action" or "key" word as you jump. For example, picture yourself jumping higher than you ever have before and as you do say to yourself, "Already done." The more you do this, the more this action phrase/word will help you when you are actaully on thee court. As your mind associates this word with jumping out of the gym, you can start to say this to yourself out on the court before you attempt dunking or to just grab rim for the first time. See yourself throwing it down and say to yourself, "Already done." Like anything else, this takes practice.

9. SONG/COLOR STIMULANTS - Many types of athletes use "stimulants" to pysch themselves before a competition or game. For example, powerlifters sniff ammonia before a big lift to arouse the body and nervous system to allow them to move some big weight. I'll give you a couple ways to do this that won't require to go out and buy ammonia. One way is to find a hardcore, intense song (and I mean Akon or Fall Out Boy). Make sure it's a song that upon first hearing (try to find a new song you haven't heard before), really pumps you up and gets your adrenanline flowing. If you find yourself angry and wanting to hit something, that's good. You've found your song. Start listening to this song ONLY before games or heavy training sessions if you're in the off-season. You want this song to be a stimulant, something that arouses your nervous system and gets your adrenaline flowing. Don't listen to it regularly as this will make ithe song lose it's effect on you. As soon as you start to feel like you've heard that song too many times or it doesn't pump you up anymore, find a new song. Another thing you can use is colors. Studies have shown that staring at certain colors promote pyschological and physiological effects on the body. For example, looking at the color pink actually does make you weaker, while cooler colors like blues and greens cause calmness and relaxation (I recommend you decorate your room in these colors). Meanwhile, staring at warmer colors, specifically red, cause aggression and anger. Stare at something bright red immediatley before a big lift (for example, a max effort deadlift) as studies have shown that this temporarily increases strength. I wouldn't use this before games because the effect will wear off pretty quick (but lasts long enough for something like a one rep lift or dunk attempt). Again, use this sparingly or else this will lose its purpose. I haven't used this one much, so I can't attest to its usefulness, but it's just something else you can add to your toolbox.

10. GOAL SETTING - I won't write much on this for now (see my next post), but there are some specific tips I have learned. Next time your in the gym, test yourself and see where you can touch the rim on your hand or arm (or backboard/net) and then take a permanent marker and draw a short line on your arm three inches further (down your arm) than you can currently touch. Focus on this line constanlty throughout the day. Daydream about hitting this line next time your in the gym. When you mentally practice, see yourself hitting this mark over and over. Feel the rim touch that spot in your mind. Keep seeing it, even as you fall asleep at night. Aim for reaching this mark in the next week. Before an attempt to do this in the gym, you HAVE to see yourself hitting the mark several times before you try and do so. Once you've reached this goal (however long it takes), move the mark on your arm three more inches. This is your next goal and is now your primary focus. Continue this for however long you'd like. Make sure to keep remarking your arm as it starts to wear off.

As I've said before, feel free to do your own research on these subjects and find what work best for you. I'm just telling you what's worked for me.

- Max

28 Tools to Become a Better Athlete

If you want to become a better all-around athlete that is explosive, fast, strong, and injury free.....Why aren't you doing these 28 things???

1. Bodyweight training (calisthenics)

2. Training outside

3. Training explosively

4. Sled dragging

5. Sprints (from different positions and directions)

6. Jump onto stuff (boxes, picinic tables, stairs, etc.) and off of stuff

7. Trying to improve on what you did last week

8. Doing single leg work (lunges, step-ups, split squats, pistol squats, etc.)

9. Back squats (with and without a box)

10. Using active recovery techniques (contrast showers, hot/cold baths, icing, stretching)

11. Strengthening the posterior chain EVERY time you do lower body training

12. Strongman training (tire flips, using stones, logs, sandbags, etc.)

13. Eating like a caveman as often as you can (natural earth grown foods)

14. Learning from others

15. Using a foam roller/soft tissue work

16. Training at least 3x a week (if your in the off-season)

17. Lifting in-season (what good is it to get strong in the off-season if you become as weak as a little school girl when it counts)

18. Grip training

19. Strengthening your abs/core (stop doing your dail 100 crunches, please)

20. Stretching

21. Working on your mobility

22. Overhead lifting

23. Jumping rope or doing any type of jump training

24. Listening to your body

25. Using a kettlebell (you'll thank me later)

26. Deadlifting

27. Training barefoot or with Nike Frees

28. Training hard (yes, you should break a sweat)

- The reason I gave links to almost all of these are because I just like to show proof that nationally respected trainers advise all these things too...I'm not just pulling them out of my butt.

- Max