Basketball Athleticism Interview with Jeremy Martin from the Ultimate Athlete
Basketball is truly one of the most difficult games to master. Players need to possess an incredible amount of mental toughness, physical toughness, athleticism and very specialized fundamentals.
That’s why you always hear stories about guys getting up shots at 6 am, then heading to the weight room in the afternoon and then back on the court for games in the evening.
Not only that, but the importance of REST and RECOVERY is crucial in such a physically demanding sport. Working hard is not enough. Players must work hard and work smart.
The details of working hard and working smart are still being figured out. We see players doing so many different drills and exercises, all in the hopes of becoming more explosive.
We sat down with the Founder of Charlotte’s Ultimate Athlete, Jeremy Martin, to ask him some questions of how basketball players should think about becoming a better athlete by enhancing their basketball athleticism.
Logan Kosmalski (LK): Jeremy, thanks for agreeing to answer some questions for us. Great to have you!
Jeremy Martin (JM): Thanks for allowing me to be here.
LK: What are some misconceptions that you think a lot of high school basketball players have concerning strength development and sports performance training?
JM: That’s a great question, Logan. First off, let’s talk about strength training. This is such a broad topic and varies based on the athlete and his or her goals.
When most people think of strength training, they typically picture a guy lifting heavy on the bench or squat.
People probably don’t look at strength training as someone doing shoulder prehab exercises for the rotator cuff, core strength, or hip unilateral activities in the open chain.
Well, guess what?
These are 3 different forms of strength training that are extremely beneficial for any athlete — especially a basketball player.
When I look at strength training, I first think about the athletes’ muscle imbalances. And yes, every athlete has them! In every sport, there are certain movement patterns done repeatedly and because of this, certain muscles are over-utilized and some are under-utilized.
There are certain length-tension relationships with every muscle and it is my goal to make sure all my athletes fall into this category…and the only way to get there is through strength training.
Basketball Athleticism Training
LK: What are some new trends in sports performance training for basketball that you like? Some that you don’t like?
JM: I like some of the sport-specific stuff that I have seen recently. Anytime we can have the athlete understand the drill/movement pattern better by putting them in their natural environment (possibly with a ball in their hand) or simply relating the drill to what they do on the court is important.
I always like to think about a concept from the athlete’s perspective and make sure they fully understand why we are doing something and how it will help them become a better player on the court.
I think Alan Stein does a great job with this concept. He takes fundamental sports performance drills with a speed ladder or micro-hurdles, adds a basketball to it, and immediately the players feel like it is more of a “basketball drill” and gets a lot of productivity out of his players. I do think that every player has certain limitations and there is always an area that needs special attention.
Doing some of the fancy stuff that looks cool on YouTube or Instagram is great, but sometimes you need to ask yourself, “is this drill making me better?” Is it increasing my vertical jump or helping me run faster? Or is it just a good complementary tool that allows me to show off my vertical or how fast I run?
For example, let’s take the vertimax machine. It’s very popular in jumping-based sports like basketball or volleyball. For those of you that are unfamiliar, the concept is to do a variety of high-level plyometric (jumping) activities under tension of bands.
Obviously, basketball players jump a lot in their sport so the concept of the vertimax is to do more jumping. The vertimax can be a great complement and supplementary machine to a sports performance program – but to truly become more powerful and explosive, you first need to know what power is.
Power is the combination of force and velocity. The vertimax provides velocity, but guess what? Basketball players are already doing plenty of that during their practices, games, and private training.
Have you ever asked yourself how much jumping you do in each week…from the lay-up line to the practice to the game? Well trust me – it’s a lot! Now ask yourself this question, “how many drills in each training week do you do to work on the force or force production part of the equation?” I’ll bet it is not enough.
Adding drills that are power-oriented that require triple joint extension (discussed further in later blogs) will be critical in completing the equation of power = force x velocity. The vertimax alone will not warrant the long-term change to vertical jump and/or overall power output.
LK: Every basketball player wants to increase their vertical. What is the very first piece of advice you have for a high school player that comes to you and says “I want to jump higher”?
JM: How much relative body strength do you have? A lot of high school basketball players haven’t even developed fundamental body weight strength for their size and therefore remain grounded until that changes.
If you struggle doing pull-ups, push-ups or core work for high reps, then the chances are you probably do not have very good relative body strength and it’s almost impossible to have a big vertical jump.
The athletes that I have worked with who have a big leap
all have one thing in common. They all have good relative body strength on the drills I discussed. Let me ask you this question: how many pull-ups and push-ups do you think LeBron James can do?
Once the relative body strength is established, we can now start talking about force production and more importantly, ground reaction force. Ground reaction force is essentially what the athlete is doing during a vertical jump.
Think it about it…the athlete is providing force into the ground and quickly extending at the hip, knee, and ankle. This is also called ‘triple joint extension’ and needs to be trained using high-load speed strength activities and low-load speed-strength activities that will definitely increase the vertical and make our players more explosive on the court.
We spend a lot of time with our basketball players doing an explosive strength drill that requires triple-extension like a hang clean, front squat or Olympic style pull and quickly add a powerful plyometric activity right after it. This concept uses high-load and low-load speed strength inside of the same workout to get maximum power output. Trust me, before you know it, your jumping can go to a completely different level.
LK: At your gym, it seems like every day is a full body workout. Do you buy the old notion of “chest days”, “leg days”, “back days”, etc.?
JM: First off, you will never see a ‘chest day’ at ULTIMATE ATHLETE. We are athletes who are strength training to help us in a sport – not a bodybuilder simply trying to look good at their local figure competition.
I say this jokingly, but it is amazing to me how many athletes and training programs follow more of a bodybuilding routine over a sports performance program that will help you increase your performance. Isn’t that the goal? To become a better athlete?
So yes, we do NOT follow or believe in the notion of training one body part per day. In sports, it is rarely ever an isolated movement.
Most of the time the athlete is using the entire kinetic chain and multiple muscles at one time to perform the desired skill or movement. Wouldn’t it make sense to train the same way?
Even though our strength workouts will always have a specific focus, we want to have our athletes on their feet as much as possible in an environment that is very similar to what they experience on the court.
Each workout needs to complement what we are doing with our speed and agility program and what will warrant the best results in the drills we test like the Vertical Jump and Broad Jump.
How to Improve Athleticism for Basketball
JM: I will talk more about power and explosive drills that we use at the training center in later blogs that require some equipment and technique, but for this blog, I want to give the readers’ three drills that do not require a lot of equipment, detailed technique, or space.LK: If you could advise basketball players to only do three exercises to develop explosiveness, what are they and how often should they do them?
1. Seated Box Jump: To do this, you need a small box to sit on and a taller box to jump on.
Start by sitting on the small box, bring the feet slightly off the ground and then explode
onto the taller box. I would recommend doing 4 sets of 6-8 repetitions.
2. Floor Bridge: To perform this exercise all you need is the box that you used for the
vertical jump. Place the box on its side (preferably 20’ height). Place the heels on the
box while you are lying flat on the floor and drive through the heels to extend the hips.
This drill is working your hamstrings and glutes which are big prime movers for jumping
and power activities. I would recommend doing 4 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
3. Pull-ups: Find a bar, start from a dead hang and pull yourself up. If you cannot perform
from a dead hang, use your feet from the ground ‘to assist’ you to jump up and then
control the downward portion creating more ‘time under tension’ during the eccentric portion of the drill. This bodyweight drill is by far the best for developing relative body strength and overall upper body strength in general. If you can perform from a dead hang, I would recommend doing 4 sets of 5 repetitions to start and increase a rep each week until failure.
These are 3 simple drills any player could easily do in 20 minutes 3x per week.
If you’re interested in learning more or setting up a free evaluation at Ultimate Athlete, contact Jeremy Martin at 704.577.1402, or visit www.ultathlete.com.