Huntington Prep (W.Va.) small forward Andrew Wiggins — the No. 1 high school basketball prospect — and the rest of his Express teammates are no strangers to taking care of their bodies. As part of the nation’s No. 9 ranked team, they understand the value of doing so to keep their status elite.
Strength coach Chris Lane says their attention to small details ultimately make a big impact on the court. His players focus on maintaining a strong core, and they foam roll daily to keep muscles loose and flexible. Below, Land explains why both are necessary.
What training areas do you find high school basketball players commonly underwork?
Lane: Core and flexibility — basketball players are always tight because they’re so explosive.
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What’s the value of a strong core for basketball players?
Your core is the foundation by which all movements are created. Most people think of just their abs, but that’s not the functional part. Anytime you rotate, jump, run and cut, your core activates before anything else.
If that center point is weak, so are your legs and arms. Likewise, the stronger your core, the stronger your extremities can be and the potential to improve your ability to jump, pass, shoot, cut and run.
What exercises do your players perform to maintain core strength?
We don’t do ab movements like crunches and sit-ups — those are important, but not necessarily the most functional exercises to develop core strength. Instead, we incorporate the big three Olympic movements — squat, deadlift and bench press.
Beyond that, we do a lot of rotational work using med balls — wood choppers and med ball slams. We'll also perform accessory work like weighted sit-ups and knee tucks. All of that combined is what develops a strong core.
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You mentioned flexibility. Why is that important for your players?
Flexibility is everything. The more flexible you are, the more range of motion you have and the less likely you are to be injured. If an athlete hasn’t worked on his flexibility, percentages go up dramatically as far as risk for injury — from a pulled hamstring, a popped calf, an Achilles rupture or a strained shoulder.
What do your players do to maintain their flexibility?
They use bands and foam rollers exclusively on a daily basis and maintain their flexibility by stretching before and after exercising, games and lifting. Players also have a small handheld roller (The Stick). It looks kind of like a rolling pin.
They’ll take the equipment with them on the road, too. They swear by the stretching — they see and feel the affects of investing a little more time into their stretching routine.