Jan 19, 2018
In-Season Program, Part 3
John Shackleton

To read Part 1 of this article, click here.

To read Part 2 of this article, click here.

After Phase 1, we shift into Phase 2 and then Phase 3. Phase 2 begins in early November with the start of the regular season and continues until our postseason conference tournament gets underway in early March. Phase 3 picks up from there and lasts through the end of the season. Our training program for Phases 2 and 3 will be discussed together, since we use a similar strength workout in both — although it’s performed twice a week during Phase 2 and once a week in Phase 3.

A major challenge faced during both phases is maintaining the right balance of work and recovery so our athletes are ready to play our brand of basketball when they step on the court. During Phase 2, we typically play two games per week, and we bring the team in for what we call a “flush day” the day after each game. The objective of our flush days is to optimize our team’s active and passive recovery by getting the blood circulating throughout the body.

Flush days start on the basketball court with a 10-minute dynamic warm-up, followed by 20 minutes of rhythmic jump shooting. We monitor our players with Polar Team Pro technology to make sure their heart rates stay in the aerobic zone (60 to 70 percent of max heart rate) to facilitate the recovery process. Next, the team heads to the weightroom for a 30-minute total-body strength training session. The athletes finish the day with 20 minutes of contrast bath therapy for passive recovery.

Once we get to Phase 3, we no longer utilize flush days, but we continue with the same strength training routine used in Phase 2. This usually takes place for 30 minutes once a week before practice.

The strength sessions utilized during Phase 2 and Phase 3 are carefully designed to mitigate the wear and tear on players. To accomplish this without jeopardizing the integrity of our core values (effort and technique), I put athletes through time under tension total-body workouts, in which I time all of the players’ sets with a stopwatch. Each exercise is given a rep tempo, and each set has a predetermined duration. For example, if a push-up rep tempo is 4:0:X:1, a rep should take five seconds. If a set lasts 30 seconds, athletes should be able to complete six reps per set. It might not sound like much, but the athletes are usually fatigued by the end of every set.

This approach mitigates wear and tear because the players don’t move heavy loads, and all movements are controlled and executed with full range of motion. This strategy also holds the players accountable for the effort they give because they must work until the time for each set is up.

The time under tension workouts for Phases 2 and 3 are grouped into four-week blocks. Each regimen contains four pairs of exercises executed as supersets with no rest in between sets. I intentionally use basic movements for these lifts that our players can execute with great technique. This keeps the training sessions safe and effective and allows our players to remain structurally strong and lean. We’ll pair a horizontal push and pull, vertical push and pull, bilateral lower body and posterior chain, and unilateral lower body and core anti-extension in every workout, and we mix up the exercises every four weeks to make sure the athletes don’t get used to the program.

To progressively overload our players over each four-week block, we increase the time allotted per set weekly by five seconds. For instance, we start with 30-second sets in week one of the first block and end at 45-second sets in week four. Loads generally increase from week to week, as well.

As with exercise selection, we also increase the time per set every four weeks to make sure athletes don’t acclimate to the program. So we start with 35-second sets in week one of the second four-week block and build up over the next three weeks to 50-second sets.

Whether it’s the first day of practice or the week before the national championship game, our athletes demonstrate the highest work ethic during in-season training, and they are all-in when it comes to our core values. I am blessed to be coaching athletes of the highest caliber, and the support I get from our head coach, assistant coaches, and performance staff is critical to my effectiveness. These factors push me to improve and keep the Villanova men’s basketball team performing at its best.

John Shackleton, MS, SCCC, has been the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the men's and women's basketball teams at Villanova University since 2012.

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