DePaul University Basketball Conditioning

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This is a nice story about the DePaul University Basketball Conditioning program directed by Tim Lag. Tim is the consummate professional so it is good to see him get the support of the coach and some recognition.

Getting stronger every day
By Adam Rittenberg
Daily Herald Sports Writer

DePaul senior forward Marcus Heard dragged his carcass toward the V-Row
machine, wishing he could be anywhere else in the world.

As Heard approached, Lamar Butler provided an ironclad greeting.

"230," said Butler, the hulking former DePaul center who serves as
assistant director of basketball operations.

"Man," Heard groaned, "I don't feel like doing this."

The two men secured the weight plates for Heard's first set, but before
Heard could take his position, Tim Lang cut in. Lang, DePaul's
55-year-old director of strength and conditioning, grabbed the V-Row
with only his right hand and did several repetitions.

"Show 'em why you're the boss, Tim!" Butler chirped.

Lang's display drew a crowd as Blue Demons players Karron Clarke and
Lorenzo Thompson huddled around the V-Row. Sensing the pressure, Heard
stepped to the machine, matched Lang with several right-hand reps and
then did a few more with only his left.

This weight-room version of H-O-R-S-E elicited howls from Clarke and
Thompson, and a smile from Lang.

"My shoulder's on fire!" Heard yelled.

DePaul players feel the burn more than ever as they prepare for the
2006-07 season.

Strength training has been at the heart of the Demons' first full
off-season under coach Jerry Wainwright, who saw his team toil through
its first Big East tour. Last season, DePaul finished 15th in the Big
East in rebounding margin (minus-1.6) and 13th in offensive rebounds
(10.9 rpg). They were out-rebounded in nine of 16 league games.

"If we were well-conditioned, we would have been a lot better," guard
Jabari Currie said.

As a result, players spent their spring and summer moving iron. They
strengthened core muscles, increased flexibility, improved their leaping
ability and strove for Wainwright's bench-press goal of 300 pounds. All
but three players currently bench 300; only one could last year.

"One of our goals is to be the strongest team in the Big East,"
Wainwright said. "Rebounding, defense and quality minutes win basketball
games. The stronger you are, the longer you can play."

Raising the bar

Whether he coached high school, Division I midmajor or major-conference
teams, Wainwright has utilized the same philosophy.

"The one thing I always thought you could affect – forget about talent –
is you can get kids stronger," he said.

At Highland Park High School, Wainwright converted a storage room into a
weight room. When he entered college coaching in 1984, he ran Xavier's
strength program as an assistant to Bob Staak. At his first
head-coaching job at UNC-Wilmington, he built a weight room inside the
team's locker room. He later did the same at Richmond.

"Jerry should have been the guy in the corner in a prize fight," said
UNC-Wilmington strength coach Jim "Madness" Mayhew, whom Wainwright
hired when he coached there. "Jerry's way is physical. You don't walk
into our locker room and see how many points you have, but you know how
much the guy next to you bench presses.

"For a strength coach, it's gratifying because he backs it and he
believes it."

Lang was equally grateful when Wainwright arrived at DePaul. A former
conditioning coach for the White Sox and the Texas Rangers, Lang came to
DePaul in 1999 and worked with coaches Pat Kennedy and Dave Leitao
before Wainwright.

"First thing he said was, 'I want every one of our guys to bench 300,''
Lang recalled. "I looked at him like he was crazy. I really didn't think
we could do it, knowing what we had in the past.

"Other coaches allotted maybe an hour, but they would cut back and say,
'You have 20 minutes.' Jerry doesn't cut time from us. If we have an
hour, we have an hour. If we go over, we go over."

At first, Wainwright wasn't pleased with what he saw.

"We were pitiful," he said. "We were skinny, scrawny. We had no pop.
Guys burned out quick."

Wainwright and Lang set out to change the culture, even if it cost time
on the practice court.

"They knew we had a lot of work to do," Heard said.

After witnessing the transformation at the midmajor level, Mayhew knew
Wainwright's approach would work well with top players.

"That's always been the big snafu at the highest level: Can you get guys
to work?" Mayhew said. "This is the missing link for these guys. They're
all long, they're all tall. But can you make them tough and strong?

"Jerry can get to that type of kid."

Body by Lang

Lang's program is rooted in variety, from exercises to equipment to
targeted muscles to individualized regimens. In workouts, players do an
assortment of lifts (hang cleans, high pulls, snatches), an assortment
of push-ups (staggered, physioball, medicine ball) and an assortment of
rotation exercises (bodyweight squats, bodyweight lunges, lunches of
reach).

The medley strengthens a player's core, which Lang notes is the entire
body and not just the abdominal muscles.

"It's called the kinetic chain approach," Lang said. "We concentrate on
everything. A lot of guys think the vertical jump is the most important
thing because when you're a basketball player, they go, 'How much can
you bench and what's your vertical?' It's not so much the vertical. It's
how quickly you can get back up.

"It's the whole game, not just the ESPN highlight."

Players work out two to three times a week in season. This summer, many
worked out every day.

"They don't leave," Lang said. "They'll stay in here an hour-and-a-half,
two hours."

Lang designs individualized programs for each player, stressing selected
elements. Clarke, a chiseled 6-6 swingman, focuses on strengthening his
legs. Currie, who played through a back injury last season, works with
Lang and director of sports medicine Amy Ingraffia on flexibility and
rehabilitation. Centers Wesley Green and Lorenzo Thompson, both of whom
weigh nearly 300 pounds, work on balance and endurance.

Lang remembers the day two years ago when Green, who had ballooned to
350 pounds, tried out an exercise ball.

"He laid on it and the thing just exploded," Lang said. "Everybody
thought it was hilarious."

Lang didn't.

"He never embarrassed me," Green said. "He just told me, 'Keep working.'
Now I lay on them like it's water."

Green's lifting program stresses repetitions rather than weight in order
to build stamina. But every so often during Green's workouts, Lang will
say, "Turn the shocks on."

"In between every set, I would lift 300 (pounds) four or five times, 320
four or five times," Green said. "We kept adding, adding, adding, and
then 410 came out of nowhere."

He smiled.

"I'm going to have 460 by next summer, so y'all come check that out."

Benchmark: 300

Their training routines vary, but each DePaul player has the same goal –
to bench 300 pounds. The bench press is the most recognized measure of
strength, and Wainwright uses the 300 figure as an incentive.

Not surprisingly, most Demons players listed the bench press as their
favorite exercise.

"As a strength coach, you say, 'Does the bench press matter?' Not that
much," Mayhew said. "But to kids, it's the biggest deal in the world.
It's like a breakout game."

Wainwright, who saw 5-foot-3 guard Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues bench 300 at
Wake Forest, said peer pressure is the driving force behind the target.

"That's our goal," sophomore forward Wilson Chandler said. "We want to
go higher than that, but at least 300."

"If you see the rest of your team doing it," Clarke said, "you're going
to push yourself to want to do it, too."

Guard Draelon Burns has elevated his maximum bench from 220 pounds as a
freshman to 310 this fall. Guard Cliff Clinkscales, who weighs only 175
pounds, increased his max from 165 two years ago to 300 this spring.
Heard went from 225 in fall 2004 to 300 this spring.

Freshman Will Walker never benched more than 245 in high school, and 300
seemed far away for the 180-pound guard.

"I was looking at it like, 'Nah, I'll get that in a couple years,' "
Walker said.

But Walker adjusted his prediction this summer after working out for
several weeks.

"It's all confidence," he said. "I told everybody, 'I'm going to hit the
300 tomorrow.' And once I figured in my head I knew I could do it, the
next day it was just a matter of pushing it off my chest."

Thijin Moses was present when his classmate benched 300. For Moses, a
rail-thin forward generously listed at 190 pounds, the 300 milestone
looks impossible.

He doesn't see it that way.

"I'm waiting for that moment to come," he said.

Waiting for evidence

The Demons have met Wainwright's standards in the weight room, but will
it equate to on-court success?

"Are we going to win a weightlifting meet? We might," Wainwright said.
"Those are wonderful measures, but they don't win basketball games."

For DePaul to improve, players must apply their increased strength to
rebounding, defense and other areas. Wainwright cites many examples of
college and pro players who improved their play and extended their
careers through strength training.

The coach also sees parallels on DePaul's team.

"The difference between Wilson Chandler at 215 (pounds) and 225 is
probably about $1 million a year," he said of the preseason All-Big East
pick who added 20 pounds of muscle this off-season.

Chandler and his teammates can envision the moment when their lifting
translates into on-court success.

"I got pushed around last year," Chandler said. "I want to be able to
push somebody around."
Discuss entry

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta

@coachgambetta

Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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