The Four Pillars of Fitness

By Omar Glenn D. Belo; Additional reporting by Ted Spiker; Photographs by Jake Versoza

Sweat doesn't always mean effort. Sure, you sweat yourself dry running around the track over and over, or pounding the ball on the court for hours on end. Soon you'll realize that you've never really done anything to test your athletic limits. Playing beyond yourself, beyond your limits is something else entirely—here you recognize your boundaries and wave as you fly past barriers on the way to elevating your game to a higher plane.

Meet four of the Philippines' best ballers, each representing a pillar of peak performance. Borne on their shoulders are our hopes of returning to basketball's biggest stage—the Olympics. Had they been content playing within their limits, they wouldn't be part of the SMC-RP team tasked to play for this month's FIBA-Asia Championship in Tokushima, Japan, the qualifying tournament for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But these men plow through every resistance and now have the enviable honor of representing the Filipino in the basketball world. Learn their limit-busting strategies that will help you tear your own walls down. You may not play with the pros (or get paid like them), but you will surely end up ruling the hardcourt.


Jayjay Helterbrand
Point guard

The Game Breaker

Watch the Phoenix Suns in the NBA and you'll see how much speed can kill. Previously lesser-known players are elevated to stardom because of the intensely fast-paced offense that the Suns run (see Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw). Speed, though is not about top-end velocity but more on acceleration and deceleration, according to Dennis Aenlle, PT, CSCS. He trains the SMC-RP team to be the greyhounds that head coach Vincent "Chot" Reyes demands. Here are the exercises from strength and conditioning coach Aenlle that aims to improve your speed.

Bust through the wall

Exercises for speed should be done in short bouts for optimal results. Aenlle recommends a low-volume, high-intensity circuit program to boost your speed and break your barriers. Start with wall drills. Position yourself in front of a wall with your arms extended like doing a pushup. Your body should be at a 45-degree angle in relation to the floor. Squat as low as you can, keeping your hands on the wall, for one second and push back up. Do eight reps. Then, lift your left knee up to hip level and your toes pointed up (ankle dorsiflexed). Hold it for 10 seconds. Then, bring your leg down. Pause for a second and do the same with your right leg. Do 5-8 reps per leg. Then do leg drives, where after holding the leg up you drive it down using your glutes on cue from a partner-—focus on driving it down hard while keeping your ankle dorsiflexed and bringing it back up again quickly. Do 5-8 reps per leg. Proceed to leg changeovers where you simulate actual running. Instead of driving down and bringing the same leg up, drive down your left leg and lift your right leg up on cue. Spend as little time as possible on the double-leg stance. Do 8-10 quick reps.

Fast forward

Proceed to acceleration cone runs. Prepare 10 plastic cones and lay them on their sides. The first four cones should be spaced three feet apart, the next four with four-foot gaps, and the last three with five-foot spaces in between. Run as fast as you can over all the cones, from cone one to cone 10. This improves acceleration through proper foot placement and prevents deceleration due to overstriding. Run through the cones 8-10 times.

Zoom from any position

Then do gear runs. Place five plastic cones 10 meters apart from each other. Run over each cone in increasing speed, like a car changing gears-—try to go fast after the second cone, faster on the third cone, and so on. This drill improves your transition acceleration, and your ability to change speed. Do the drill 8-10 times. Allow full recovery between sets.


Asi Taulava

The Unstoppable Force

What differentiates Shaq from Yao Ming is this: You won't see Shaq get blocked by a midget. Size doesn't always mean strength. Exhibit A: Charles Barkley, one of the most dominating forwards in the NBA and yet he was only 6'6”. Exhibit B: Shawn Bradley, stood 7'6” and famous for being posterized by people 10 inches shorter than him. Pure strength comes if you learn to tap the full capacity of your muscles. Aenlle provides tips on how you can become a dominant force in any sport.

Shore up your core

"Everything we (SMC-RP team) do is a core workout," says Aenlle. With a weak core, you have less energy. He likens the core to the hub of a bicycle wheel. The spokes of the wheel, he says, source energy from the hub. The upper and lower limbs, likewise, obtain energy from the core. Aenlle recommends this four-point stabilization program to strengthen your core. First, do the supine (glute) bridge. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, and your arms on the side. Lift your butt off the ground and squeeze your glutes (butt) for 15-45 seconds. Keep your shoulders, hips and thighs in line while doing it. Then proceed to the side (lateral) bridge. Lie on your side with your forearm on the ground. Lift your hip off the ground by pushing your forearm away from your body. Keep your head in line with your spine and hold for 15-45 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Then, do the prone (front) bridge. Get into prone pushup position, keeping your body straight while only your toes and forearms rest on the floor. Push your chest as far away from the ground as possible and hold for 15-45 seconds. Repeat all the exercises for a total of 2-5 sets.

Mix up the basics

For Aenlle, training for strength can basically be done through push, pull, squat, and rotation exercises with limitless variations. From the most basic program, you can do pushups, pullups, front squats, but getting creative with each exercise is a big booster. You can do elevated leg pushups or stability ball pushups, with inverted rows or bent-over rows, plus split or one-leg squats. Feel free to try different combinations.

Superset gives super strength

Aenlle recommends this circuit workout with minimal rest in between exercises to boost your strength. Do front squats with a weight load that you can do 6-8 reps. Then do 15 stability ball pushups, your toes on the stability ball while keeping your core tight throughout. After that, proceed to one-leg Romanian deadlifts, doing eight reps per leg. Do your maximum reps of basic pullups. Next would be dumbbell push jerk. Do eight reps per arm. Afterwards, do one-leg, one-arm bent-over rows. Perform eight reps per arm. Finish the set with medicine ball parallel throws—stand facing a wall and do six reps per side. Rest for 2-3 minutes and do two more sets.


Tony dela Cruz

The Secret Advantage

Manny Pacquiao, Steve Nash, and Rafael Nadal. All three of the world's top athletes share one thing. Aside from being on top of their turf (the canvas,wood, or clay), they are three of the fittest men in the world. Peak fitness doesn't only offer survival; it brings you to the top of the field, whatever sport you are in. Aenlle shares the secrets to having the stamina you need to outwork, outhustle, and outplay the opposition when you step on the hardcourt, and even when you step off it.

Mend on the fly

"The goal to developing basketball-specific endurance is being able to recover from fatigue faster," says Aenlle. This is achieved by mimicking the activities you do in the game and designing exercises to help you recover. The key to endurance is the quick recovery of the body's energy systems. Basketball, for example, is a sport that involves a mix of intermittent sprinting, running, jogging, and walking. Training in these activities can help boost stamina and endurance. Learn Aenlle's program for developing endurance, not only for basketball players, but for everyone who wants to have the lungs to outlast many.

Control the pace

Aenlle calls it interval training. Prepare a stopwatch to time your exercise or have a partner monitor it for you. Sprint all-out for five seconds and then jog for the next 20 seconds. After every three sets, walk for 90 seconds. Start by doing six sets. Increase by two sets after two weeks. The sprinting part is very taxing so the jogging and walking are the recovery phases. Through this, your body learns to adapt to the changes in pace that you do while in the game. In basketball, consider the time when somebody shoots free throws or timeouts as the recovery phase. The rewards of interval training is that your body is ready to go full throttle after just a short period of rest.

Burn the track

Another type of interval training is done by running around a 400-meter track oval. Sprint 50 meters and jog another 50 meters. Do four rounds with this routine. You can progress by adding one round every week. Variations include shortening your jog distance. You can also have a partner on hand to cue when you sprint and when you jog.


Danny Seigle

The Ultimate Weapon

In the world of sports, only a few people are gifted with explosive power. They are all legends (see Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain). The best athletes in the world may be born with it but you can enhance your power by training your muscles to move quick and strong. "Anything that will have you move forcefully and quickly will develop power," says Aenlle. No exceptions here, anybody can tap into the legend within.

Ball control

A simple way to develop power is done through the use of medicine balls. Aenlle suggests this circuit program using 3-6 kg medicine balls for power training. Stand in a semi-squat position with your feet placed slightly wider than your hips, your chest and butt out, while keeping your glute and your core tight (athletic stance). Face a wall and perform medicine ball wall chest passes. Forcefully throw the medicine ball from the chest against the wall and do 10 reps. Then stand in an athletic stance with your side to the wall, proceed to medicine ball perpendicular throws and do five reps per side. Finish off with 10 overhead wall throws, still from an athletic stance. Rest for 2-3 minutes and repeat 2-3 sets.

Boom out of the box

You can also use this simple circuit routine for more power down under. Do 10 double-leg box jumps on 12- to 18-inch high boxes. Then, proceed to one-leg lateral bounds. Alternately jump off your right and left leg from side to side. Focus on sticking your foot to the ground upon landing. Stabilize, then jump off again. Do five reps for each leg. Finally, do 10 front tuck jumps. Jump and tuck your knees into your chest. Focus on spending as less time on the ground as possible between jumps. Rest for 2-3 minutes before doing it over again for a total of 2-3 sets.

Sprint short hills

Hill sprints don't just improve leg strength. "They're a great way to build explosiveness because you have to drive upward with your whole body," says Neil Chasan, PT, director of the Sports Reaction Center in Bellevue, Washington. Sprint for not more than 10 seconds—it's difficult for your muscles to maintain their maximum power output any longer than that—on hills inclined for not more than 10 degrees (Steep hills slow step time, decreasing power production.) Build up to 10 sprints, resting 20 seconds after each, three times a week.


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