Articles & Resources

ACL Review: Teaching The Jump Stop by Brian McCormick

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 27, 2010 6:13:00 PM

by Brian McCormick

Over the last few weeks, a study from U.C. Davis on ACL injury prevention has made its way through the Internet with headlines like “Land on your toes, save your knees.”

However, the actual study’s conclusions differed from the headlines’ implications (“Alterations to movement mechanics can greatly reduce anterior cruciate ligament loading without reducing performance” by Casey A. Myers and David Hawkins in the Journal of Biomechanics). The reports circulating the Internet vary from incomplete to inaccurate, while the study suggests instructions that should be common teaching practice.

The study used 14 female college and high school girls basketball players with at least two years of basketball experience and no prior knee issues. Subjects were instructed to run at “game speed” and make a jump stop at a certain point.

The players executed multiple jump stops without any instructions. After a series of repetitions, the researchers instructed the players to use a specific technique to measure their intervention: “The intervention targeted: increasing the amplitude of the jump prior to landing, increasing the amount of knee flexion at landing, and striking the ground with the toes first, (Myers and Hawkins).”

The study found:
“Subjects increased their knee flexion angle an average of 5.3° and moved the center of pressure at contact an average of 6.6 cm closer to their toes. There was no change in shank angle relative to the vertical during landing...The subjects basically performed the intervention jump stops with greater bend at the knees and landed more on their toes” (Myers and Hawkins).

Here is the big issue with the headlines:
“Jump stops were performed with the toes striking the ground first during the intervention condition versus the majority of jump stops performed with the heels striking the ground first in the baseline condition” (Myers and Hawkins).

Based on my reading of the published study, I have one issue with the study and one issue with its reporting.

The study measured a controlled jump stop in a closed environment. Even if the players were instructed to go game speed, how many players go game speed in drills? Further, in similar drills where players run to a certain spot and jump stops, they slow down before executing the jump stop. Their stride length decreases and speed slows in order to make a more controlled jump stop.

Executing a jump stop in an open environment as a reaction to a stimulus (defender) is a more involved skill. An open-skill jump stop occurs at game speed and without anticipation or preparation. In some occasions, players prepare before executing the jump stop, thinking ahead about their move, but in most cases, the move is a reaction to a defender or situation.

Second, adding the ball and defenders change the skill execution. Executing the jump stop while catching a pass, dribbling or rebounding a ball differs from a planned jump stop.

Therefore, while the specific adaptations suggested by the study may reduce the sheer force on the knee, and may be valuable to incorporate, the findings provide only a starting point, as a coach or trainer would need to incorporate the same findings in open skills to enhance the efficacy of the instruction in a real world setting.

As for the reporting, the study does not advocate a “toe landing.” Instead, the study  found that landing with a deeper knee flexion and initiating the landing with the toes lead to reduced force at the knee.

“While toe strikes that were accompanied by an increase in knee flexion angle at contact produced the largest decreases in peak tibial shear force (PTSF), some subjects were able to reduce PTSF without increasing their knee angle, (Myers and Hawkins).

Therefore, some subjects were able to reduce the force without deepening their knee bend; however, these subjects may have had a deeper knee bend than others at the outset or they may have run at less than full speed.

As for initiating the landing with the toes, what coach teaches players to initiate a landing with their heels? How does a player develop throughout high school and college with a heel-strike landing from a vertical jump?

When teaching jumping mechanics, I have seen two methods:

1. Land like a Ninja: Land softly; initiate the landing on your toes and the balls of your feet and sit back to a flat foot as your knee-bend increases, and you sit down by dropping your hips. 
2. Dorsiflexion: Dorisflex your foot (toes up) and land on the balls of your feet. In this landing, there is less knee flexion. This landing takes advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle for repeat jumps. Even when landing with a dorsiflexed foot, the heel should not hit the ground and certainly should not initiate the contact.

In the article, a reporter interviewed U.C. Davis Women’s Basketball Coach Sandy Simpson:

“It almost always happens coming down from a rebound, catching a pass or on a jump-stop lay-up,” Simpson said. “It doesn’t have to be a big jump.”
His comment suggests one misunderstanding of the mechanics of the injury and points out the flaw with the study that I mentioned above: the ball makes the game jump stop different from the jump stops in the study.

As for the misconception, many coaches who have eliminated the jump stop for fear of ACL injuries have encouraged stops with a smaller vertical component. However, the study’s intervention encouraged the players to jump higher. As Simpson says, and the study suggests, the vertical component does not necessarily influence the incidence rate of injuries, and, in fact, a greater amplitude may decrease injuries (possibly by creating a more straight-down landing, which may help to control the sheer force on the ACL caused by controlling the anterior movement of the tibia).

I have never witnessed an ACL tear on a jump stop. Instead, I have seen injuries on cuts and stops when moving forward. I know two players who tore their ACLs when landing from a rebound, but there was some contact in each case.

It is not the same sport, but I saw some pictures recently of a Division I outside hitter; we assume that OHs land on two feet at the same time, but that never happened. Further, the player did not land with a balanced body, as with a basic, closed-skill jump stop. If we watched slow-motion footage of players landing from rebounds, I imagine that we would find that oftentimes players land one foot at a time and in off-balanced positions. Therefore, to reduce ACL injuries in these instances, we need to practice these landings starting in closed environments and moving to open skill executions.

“Hawkins recommends warm-ups that exercise the knee and focusing on landing on the toes and balls of the feet. The study does not definitively prove that these techniques will reduce ACL injuries, Hawkins said: that would require a full clinical trial and follow-up. But the anecdotal evidence suggests that high tibial shear forces are associated with blown knees,” (from the article, not the actual study).

These exercises should be part of a dynamic warm-up. Jumping, skipping, and running with proper technique should be taught early in the season and emphasized at the beginning of practice to prepare the players for the open skills during practice sessions and games.

“Simpson said that the team had tried implementing some changes during last year's preseason, but had found it difficult to continue the focus once the full regular season began.”

This is the attitude that I do not understand. Coaches have time to run 20 out-of-bounds plays and practice every possible scenario, but not to ensure the safety of their players? I have heard this excuse for years. However, what helps your team more, an extra OB play or having your entire team healthy for a full season?

I have watched college practices; there is plenty of wasted time to incorporate exercises to reduce the potential of injuries. This is like when I worked the Cal Women’s Basketball Camp and sat with the athletic trainer as she pointed to girl after girl who was at-risk for ACL tears; I asked why she did not do a session to teach the girls or at least make them aware. She said that the coaches said that there was not time. We had this conversation while watching the girls play “Land-Sea-Air,” the ultimate camp time-waster.

Even better, the study found that when using the intervention technique, subjects jumped higher after the jump stop than they did with their old technique. Not only would teaching the improved technique potentially lead to fewer injuries, but it could also improve performance! It is a win-win situation, yet one ignored by many coaches and trainers. This is not a matter of adding resistance training sessions or incorporating plyometrics. The intervention effectively suggested that teaching a more effective jump stop - a fundamental basketball skill - would lead to decreased risk of an ACL tear. It isn’t a matter of adding anything, but improving the typical instruction to create a more effective jump stop.

From a skill development perspective, coaches can start with the closed skill used in the drill. Emphasize the higher amplitude on the jump, the toe-to-heel landing and the deeper knee flexion. Next, move to more involved skills. Execute the jump stop with a ball in one’s hands. Then, jump stop while dribbling; then jump stop on the catch; then, land with the ball from a rebound. Finally, move toward the open-skill application by having players jump stop as a reaction to a verbal or visual stimulus (for youth players, Red Light-Green Light works well).

Eliminating ACL injuries is likely impossible. However, incorporating better technique instruction into normal footwork and jump stop drills as well as incorporating proper landing technique into dynamic warm-up drills may reduce injuries and improve performance, which ultimately leads to a better team performance and more wins.


Topics: Brian McCormick, Health & Wellness

Core Stability and Basketball Training by Brian McCormick

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 21, 2010 8:23:00 PM

by Brian McCormick

During a high school all-star training camp last weekend in Los Angeles, Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony tweeted about the players’ inability to hold basic yoga positions. He further blamed these athletes’ weak core strength and commented about his disbelief.

Givony used one of the buzzwords of the training industry: core strength or core stability. There are some basketball trainers who appear to train players strictly for improved core strength (though with no real measure of improved core strength or what it means).

When I spent time at the IMG Academy, I never saw a basketball player perform a power-related lift. Instead, every instruction involved imagining the core or tightening the core or doing something to the core. Givony spends a lot of time watching professional trainers, so I imagine he has picked up on this idea, and its apparent importance to basketball success.

When Givony tweeted about his disbelief, I questioned him. Why should we assume that someone who has likely never performed a yoga pose should be able to perform a pose correctly within seconds or even minutes? If I brought a group of yoga practitioners on the basketball court and asked them to shoot three-pointers, should I be surprised if they were unable to shoot correctly within a few repetitions?

Further, the average elite high school basketball player is growing rapidly which creates a loss of coordination and strength, as the bones grow faster than the muscles. Most fast-growing teenagers illustrate some awkwardness, which is why players such as LeBron James who grew quickly and never appeared to go through the awkward stage are the outliers. Therefore, the inability to execute yoga poses does not equate with a lack of core strength, regardless of one’s definition of core strength, but instead is testament to the skill involved in learning different poses, especially for long-limbed basketball players.

While core strength is the magic elixir of the training world (and not just basketball trainers), another basketball trainer said that he “pukes in his mouth” when a client tells him that he needs core training. This trainer identifies skill deficiencies and the underlying movements of the skills and creates an exercise program that improves these movements and ultimately the skills. While some of the exercises cross over between his training and the core strength trainers’ training, his focus often differs.

When I worked as a personal trainer this summer, I saw many people do a typical abdominal exercise where you do a sit-up and throw a medicine ball. Most people do a full sit-up and throw the ball to their partner or at the wall at the top of the sit-up using mostly the chest and arms to throw the ball; they wait for the ball to rebound to them and then return to the bottom.

When I do this exercise, the entire purpose is different. This is not a sit-up and throw, but an overhead throw from a supine position (lying on one’s back). My focus is not to contract my abdominals for the entirety of the exercise, as I heard several people explain to each other at the gym, but to contract forcefully at the beginning of the movement to initiate the throw. I do not do a full sit-up because I am not doing sit-ups: I am throwing the ball against the wall as forcefully as possible. In the process of throwing the ball, my abdominals contract and my shoulders come off the ground. However, I do not actively contract my abdominals nor do I actively hold the contraction throughout the movement. I use my entire body to throw the ball, not just my chest and arms, and my arms direct the ball rather than supplying the power.

This is an example of an exercise used for core strength by many that is similar to a movement-related exercise used as a tool to teach rapid contraction and relaxation. The best athletes remain relaxed. When Usain Bolt runs, he does not consciously contract and relax his muscles. He does not actively contract his abdominal wall to maintain his posture. He has an amazing ability to contract and relax at the appropriate time and with the proper order of contractions.

When basketball trainers speak about the lack of core strength, they typically point out a  flawed movement. They do not measure core strength or stability through a core exercise, like one measures upper body strength with a bench press test or lower body power with a vertical jump test.

The traditional test of core strength is the sit-up test, but this is flawed in several ways. First, a sit-up test tests more for strength endurance than strength or stability. Second, there is no specificity, and therefore no certainty of transfer, between an exercise that occurs lying down involving flexion and stability in a standing posture. Finally, Stuart McGill, the godfather of spine research, says that sit-ups place “devastating loads on the disks.” Other studies have suggested that a front squat activates the core musculature more than a sit-up. So, how does one measure core strength? How does one measure improvement? How much strength does one need?

The Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies recently published a critical review titled “The Myth of Core Stability” by Eyal Lederman [Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies (2010) 14, 84-98]. Lederman addresses the strength question:

To what force level do the trunk muscles need to co-contract in order to stabilize the spine? It seems that the answer is not very much.

During standing and walking the trunk muscles are minimally activated (Andersson et al., 1996). In standing the deep spinal erectors, psoas and quadratus lumborum are virtually silent! In some subjects there is no detectable EMG activity in these muscles.

As for strengthening the core muscles, he writes:

A recent study has demonstrated that as much as 70% MVC [maximal voluntary contraction] is needed to promote strength gains in abdominal muscle (Stevens et al., 2008). It is unlikely that during CS [core strength] exercise abdominal muscle would reach this force level (Stevens et al., 2007).

So, what should a trainer do when there is a noticeable skill deficiency attributed to lack of trunk stability? For instance, some ACL studies have identified lack of core strength as a precursor to ACL injuries, while others simply appear to lack total body coordination which impedes their ability to stop or even execute skilled movements like shooting or jump stops or to hold their proper defensive stance (posture).

Lederman reminds coaches and trainers to remember the specificity principle of motor learning. He cites a study that “assessed the effect of training on a Swiss ball on core stability muscles and the economy of running...The subjects got very good at using their muscles for sitting on a large inflatable rubber ball but it had no effect on their running performance.”

Lederman adds:

“Trunk control will change according to the specific activity the subject is practicing. Throwing a ball would require trunk control, which is different to running. Trunk control in running will be different in climbing and so on. There is no one universal exercise for trunk control that would account for the specific needs of all activities. Is it possible to train the trunk control to specific activity? Yes, and it is simple - just train in that activity and don’t worry about the trunk. The beauty of it all is that no matter what activity is carried out the trunk muscles are always specifically exercised.”

If one sees a trunk control problem while doing yoga poses, the athlete needs more practice doing the yoga poses. However, this does not mean that the athlete lacks trunk control when shooting a basketball or making a jump stop. Similarly, if the athlete struggles to execute a jump stop, yoga will not necessarily improve his trunk control on jump stops. Instead, practicing jump stops is more likely to lead to improved performance of jump stops and improved trunk control on jump stops.

As for attacking the core stability through the activity and asking an athlete to concentrate on his core, as many trainers do, would you ask an athlete to have such an internal focus of control when running or lifting weights or shooting a basketball?

Lederman answers:

Let’s imagine two scenarios where we are teaching a patient to lift a weight from the floor using a squat position. In the first scenario, we can give simple internal-focus advice such as bend your knees, and bring the weight close to your body, etc (van Dieen et al., 1999; Kingma et al., 2004). This type of instruction contains a mixture of external focusing (e.g. keep the object close to your body and between your knees) and internal focus about the body position during lifting. In the second scenario which is akin to CS training approach, the patient is given the following instructions: focus on co-contracting the hamstrings and the quads, gently release the gluteals, let the calf muscles elongate, while simultaneously shortening the tibialis anterior etc. Such complex internal focusing is the essence of CS training, but applied to the trunk muscles. It would be next to impossible for a person to learn simple tasks using such complicated internal-focus approach.

While core strength and core stability are buzzwords and make trainers and scouts sound knowledgable, what does it mean for sports performance? How does one measure the supposed lack of core strength? How does one train a player with poor trunk control? Do exercises on one’s back lead to improved trunk control in an upright position in a dynamic environment?

Stability is important to sports performance. However, stability is not just abdominal exercises. Stability is global: it includes the entire body working together, not a few muscles located around the spine. Isolating these abdominal muscles in training helps one attain a six-pack, but these exercises do not necessarily improve sports performance or trunk control in sports performance.

Instead, if you want to improve trunk control in a jump stop, start at the basics and progress. The basics of a jump stop would eliminate the ball and any pre-jump stop movement. Focus simply on the body stability when landing from a short jump. Next, add the ball, but no prior movement. Then, execute the stationary jump stop while catching the ball. Then, eliminate the ball and add movement before the jump stop. Next, move prior to the jump stop while holding the ball. Finally, return to the full jump stop with prior movement and ball manipulation (dribbling into the jump stop or receiving  a pass). This is a simple progression of motor skill development from the simple to the complex, and provides the specificity required to develop trunk control for an activity.

Topics: Brian McCormick, Strength Training

Basketball Practice, Mindful Learning and Player Development

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 4, 2010 4:50:00 PM

by Brian McCormick

I played at a big sports complex last night, and an elite club team practiced on the next court. The club regularly features high Division I recruits, and a trainer took the current players through a workout. For the first 45 minutes, they did conditioning drills.

The high school season ended last weekend. Assuming these players did not play for the state championship, their season has been over for 2-3 weeks. Their big summer recruiting events are not until July. Is this the time to stress conditioning above everything else? Is this how to develop a player?

After the conditioning drills, the players practiced their ball handling. Several players had terrible posture during the drills, and few did the drills any better than an average high school freshman. Therefore, I imagine the players were learning something new, or relatively new, as opposed to training an already learned skill.

Is learning a new skill in a fatigued state the best way to learn?
The player with the poor posture was your typical skinny, 6′6 player who probably cannot eat enough to add weight because of all the playing, workouts and growth spurts. The postural issues are nothing new: coaches see them all the time, especially with taller players or players in the midst of a growth spurt. However, just because it is common, should it be ignored?

What would enhance this player’s performance more right now: 45 minutes of conditi oning or 45 minutes of balance and stability work to train the right posture and activate the right muscles to enable him to move more efficiently?

Sure, mobility and stability work is not as “hard” or “demanding” as running up and down the court for 45 minutes, and the players may not even break a sweat, but what is going to help the player improve the most right now?

If the player practices with poor posture, the poor posture is going to lead to less effective movement and poor habits. At some point, to get past a plateau in his performance, the player will have to correct his posture and learn new movement habits. Simple cues like “hips down” rather than “lower” or “chest and eyes up” rather than “eyes up” during the specific drills focus the player on the correct posture. Why not train this posture from the beginn ing at the start of the off-season? More to the point, why not train the player properly rather than putting the cart (intensity) before the horse (movement efficiency)?

If we want to enhance our players’ development at practice and increase mindful learning, we need to teach new skills when players are fresh and ready to learn, and we need to correct their weaknesses at the most basic level. If a building was crumbling, you would not start by fixing the walls; you would fix the foundation because any problems with walls likely starts with the foundation.

With a player, fixing or improving his basketball-specific technique without first addressing his athletic deficiencies is the same as patching the walls without addressing the foundation. Eventually, the walls will collapse again, and you will spend all your time returning to fix the walls without ever really fixing the problem.
If we have better awareness of movement and the body, we can develop better players by fixing the root of the mistake and starting from the foundation, not just the basketball-specific corrections.


By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

Topics: Basketball Related, Brian McCormick

Play Multiple Sports to Build Athleticism

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 4, 2010 3:44:00 PM

By Brian McCormick, written on October 27, 2008 


The general public rarely allows sports science to interfere with its deeply held beliefs, even when the beliefs are more myth than reality. When I coached basketball in Ireland, the young Irish players believed that basketball greatness was not in their genes. They said that Irishmen were not meant to be great athletes. Meanwhile, the Irish Rugby Team crushed its opponents in its preparation for the 2007 World Cup, where some experts pegged Ireland as a co-favorite with the All Blacks. While basketball and rugby are different sports requiring different skills, each features athletes who are fast, quick, agile, strong and coordinated. If Ireland produces world class rugby talent with these athletic qualities, why do Irish basketball players believe this development is beyond their gene pool?

Few view rugby and basketball in terms of athletic qualities, so few see the similarities. The same is true with sports in the United States. Many coaches and parents fail to see the athletic similarities between sports: People view basketball as a sport for tall people who can shoot; rugby as an aggressive, physical sport; and volleyball as a non-contact sport with different ball skills than other sports. We miss the athletic similarities, which impedes our overall athletic development.

Because we view sports in sport-specific terms, coaches encourage players to specialize at earlier and earlier ages. Some basketball coaches dislike players who play volleyball, as they see no benefit and feel they fall behind their teammates while "wasting time" playing volleyball. However, volleyball and basketball require lateral movement, hand-eye coordination, ball skills and vertical jumping. There is a transfer between blocking a ball and contesting a shot, between moving laterally for a dig and moving laterally to prevent an offensive player's penetration.

As youth sports grow more competitive, more young athletes rush to specialize. They heed their coach's advice or follow their parents' guidance, as parents try to give their child an advantage over the competition. Early specialization - when an athlete plays one sport year-round to the exclusion of other sports before puberty - leads to immediate sport-specific skill improvements. Coaches and parents see immediate results and follow this path. If the most skilled 10-year-old plays basketball year-round, maybe my son or daughter needs to devote 12 months a year to basketball. However, athletic development is a process, and sport-specific skill development is only one piece.

People encourage early specialization because of the immediate sport-specific performance gains. However before one can be great at any sport, he must be an athlete first, and early specialization impedes overall athletic development. However, as with the Irish players, we view sports based on sport-specific skills, not athletic qualities.

In recent years, athletic training facilities have proliferated. While these facilities play to parent's big league dreams, much of their success is developing general athletic skills which athletes fail to develop naturally because they specialize and narrow their athletic development. Rather than play multiple sports, which train multiple skills, athletes specialize in one sport and use performance training to compensate for their narrow athletic development.

Kids used to develop these athletic skills by playing multiple sports and neighborhood games, like tag, which develops agility, balance, coordination, evading skills, body control and more.

Now, rather than play tag in their neighborhood, kids go to facilities where they do agility drills so they can change directions, fake, evade and cut when they play basketball, soccer or football. We impose professional training environments on kids before puberty and ignore their differing developmental needs.

Athletic development is a process and early specialization attempts to speed the process. However, what is the goal? Is the goal to dominate as a 10-year-old? Early specialization leads to early peaks. Players improve their sport-specific skills more rapidly than those who participate in a wide range of activities. However, those who develop deeper and broader athletic skills have a better foundation when they ultimately specialize. While those who specialized early hit a plateau, the others improve as they dedicate more time to enhancing their sport-specific skill.

If one specializes in basketball at 10-years-old, his general athletic development is incomplete. While he likely improves his dribbling, shooting and understanding of the game more rapidly than his peers who play multiple sports, those who play multiple sports develop many other athletic skills. If the others play soccer, they improve their vision, agility, footwork and more; if they play football, they develop different skills depending on position, but likely improve acceleration and power. When these athletes specialize in basketball at 15-years-old, they have broader athletic skills and have an advantage against the player who specialized early and likely hits a plateau in his skill development.

Skills - from athletic to tactical to perceptual - transfer from sport to sport. Many coaches and parents insist there is no relation between sports, which gives more credence to early specialization. However, before one excels at a sport, he or she must be an athlete first. The more developed a player's general athletic skills, the higher the player's ceiling in his or her chosen sport. While the general public is slow to accept these ideas, sports science research contends that specialization before puberty is wholly unnecessary and in some cases is detrimental to an athlete's long term success. If the goal is to dominate other 10-year-olds, specialize early. However, if the goal is to nurture healthy children and give them an opportunity to participate in high school and/or college athletics, playing multiple sports offers a child more developmentally than does early specialization.

Topics: Basketball Related, Brian McCormick

Brian McCormick

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sep 1, 2010 9:18:00 PM

everything basketball


Coach Brian McCormick


How and why did you get into the field of strength and conditioning?

I was a basketball coach and did a number of skill clinics on the side. More and more, I saw these wannabe trainers doing things that I knew were incorrect and potentially harmful, and calling them "plyometrics" and "quickness training." The final straw was watching a "trainer" after a two-hour workout put a dozen kids next to portable bleachers and have them jump on and off the bleachers, at the same time, for 2:00; he told the parents that he was training their explosiveness. I felt he was lucky that a lawsuit did not ensue from a player missing the bleacher and crashing face first into the second row, as the portable bleachers slid along the ground every time the players landed.

At that point, I decided that it was time to broaden my knowledge base and learn more about strength and conditioning to complement my coaching and skill training so that there was a voice of reason in the marketplace. I never lifted as a high school player; there were all kinds of old wife's tales about lifting weights stunting your growth or negatively impacting your jump shot and plyometrics were viewed as dangerous. Then, my playing career essentially ended because I lacked the strength and explosiveness to utilize my skills and basketball I.Q. at higher levels of competition. If I grew up today with the prevalence of resistance training, jump training, speed training, etc., I would have been a totally different athlete and extended my career as a player because I had the technical and tactical skills - I simply never developed enough athleticism. Even when I went to a gym in high school, the trainer put me on nautilus machines and had me doing leg extensions and chest presses the whole time. I went to the same gym during the time when I was pursuing my Master's degree and credentials, and the same trainer was putting junior high school and high school athletes on the same machines, with the same "squats are dangerous" mentality. I guess I am in the S&C field because of all the negatives that I saw in the athlete development field as a player and a beginning coach, and a desire to help young athletes get past the mis-information and bad trainers to maximize their athletic development so their careers did not hit the same plateau as mine.

What are the top three (3) training tips you would give to a basketball athlete beginning a strength and conditioning program?

1) Learn to move correctly. I am amazed at the poor movement quality of basketball players and their inability to squat, lunge, bend, etc. with good technique and a full range of motion. Then, of course, they add weight to improper movement patterns or a limited range of motion and the injury cycle ensues.

2) Lift explosively.

3) Use more body weight exercises. Nobody, it seems, wants to do body weight exercises anymore. Maybe it is because athletes cannot do more than 2-3 pull-ups. I watch female D1 college basketball players who cannot do 10 push-ups. Why are you bench pressing if you cannot do a push-up correctly?

What has been the biggest mistake you made as a coach when training a player?

Not being more adamant about a player resting. I did skills training with a player who developed a hip problem. I should have been more authoritative when telling the player to rest rather than work out. The minor hip issue has plagued the player for parts of three seasons now, and was exacerbated by his college strength coach who had him squatting 250lbs before doing a functional assessment to realize that he lacked the hip mobility to squat with the right technique - so, now the hip problem is also a lower back problem. While my one hour per week of shooting likely did not worsen the hip issue, the physical toll of competing with two teams and his own practices made the small issue a big one. While it is hard for a private strength or skills coach who sees an athlete 1-2 times per week to oversee and advise a player on his entire developmental program, someone needs to guide young athletes and, in some cases, get them out of their own way. While I deferred to his father and his physical therapist, I should have been more demanding because of the trust that I had with the player, which went beyond the trust between he and his new physical therapist or his school or club coach.

Topics: Brian McCormick, Q&A