Jan 29, 2015
Gassing the Gators

By R.J. Anderson

Anyone who has watched the top-ranked University of Florida men’s basketball team steamroll its way through the 2013-14 season knows that the team’s NCAA Tournament Final Four appearance is no accident. The Gators are fast, strong, and known for wearing out opponents with a suffocating brand of end-to-end basketball. Preparation for this type of physical exertion begins in August, when the team’s Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Preston Greene, MS, CSCS, implements a 12-week strongman-training phase.

Set up as a progression, the workouts begin with one event on the first day, then build up with more exercises added each subsequent week. Sample exercises include flipping 500-pound tires, pulling cars, pushing trucks, and running while carrying heavy boxing bags or 50-pound weights with each arm.

Florida guard, and this season’s Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Scottie Wilbekin, said the workouts usually left him out of breath with wobbly legs and exhausted upper-body muscles.

“It’s not easy,” Wilbekin told Sports Illustrated. “It’s not fun. I don’t really like that stuff. But it’s a necessary part of the process.”

The theory behind Greene’s high-intensity, total-body outdoor sessions is that workouts needed to be varied, athletes needed to be pushed, and comfort zones needed to be expanded. To incentivize this training phase, Greene turns the workouts into a competition. Each event is timed, and players earn points based on the order they finish. Standings are then computed and posted at various locations in the athletic facilities. Greene says this helps keep the players focused.

“Because let’s be honest,” Greene told SI. “What basketball player wants to push a truck?”

By pushing the players and team to their collective limits, Greene says strongman training creates some “intimate moments” and helps build team camaraderie and chemistry. With the team having won since Dec. 2, he often looks back to August and the roots of the team’s extraordinary strength and late-game stamina.

“You have the carryover to grinding and finishing, especially when it’s close,” Greene told SI. “We always preach to them the same thing: ‘Guys, you’ve pushed trucks 100 yards up a hill, outside, in the heat. There’s nothing you can’t handle now.'”

R.J. Anderson is the Online Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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