"Your mind quits long before your body does. If someone pulled out a .357 magnum and said, 'Do it!' you'd find a way. Your mind might say no, but I guarantee you can go on."
Member of The first American team to summit the North Face of 28,169-foot Kanchenjunga, in Nepal
[#8] Eccentric Strength
Take Total Control
"The ability to reduce force is one of the biggest deficiencies I see at all levels," says Vern Gambetta, head of Gambetta Sports Training Systems, in Sarasota, Florida, which conducts seminars for NBA and NFL coaches on state-of-the-art training techniques. He's talking about eccentric strength—which works something like the brakes on a car, providing the counterforce you need to control speed, direction, and impact. It's what softens your landing after a dunk, lets you turn on a dime, and sucks up 3,400 vertical feet of bump skiing at Vail.
"Eccentric contractions are the key to efficient mobility," says Gambetta, "because if you can't absorb the shock of your own body weight, you can't perform."
Developing eccentric strength requires a two-pronged approach: slowly lowering weights in the gym, and drills designed to strengthen your rebound. Complete these exercises before any target activities, such as a city-league playoff or your first day on the slopes, and then twice a week during intermittent two-week periods throughout the year. And take note: "You'll need a good base of general strength before you even attempt them," counsels Gambetta. During your weekly Classic Strength workouts, slow down the lowering phase of each exercise rep so it lasts at least four seconds. Do weights one week and the fast-eccentric drills the next.
Quick squats: Do three quick sets of 20 body-weight squats.
Platform lunges: For each leg, do two sets of ten consecutive forward lunges off a four-inch-high platform, lunging out as far as you are tall.
Medicine-ball squats: Stand a few feet from a partner and have him stand on a bench and toss a medicine ball from over his head to your chest. Catch the ball, drop into a squat, then spring up, tossing your partner the ball. Do four sets of ten reps as fast as you can.
Medicine-ball lunges: Face away from your partner and have him toss the ball over your shoulder as you lunge forward. As you spring back up, toss the ball back over the same shoulder to your partner. Alternate shoulders and legs with each toss, completing four sets of ten reps as fast as possible.
Toolbox: If you want to build your legs eccentrically, hop on a LEG-PRESS MACHINE. You'll want to press 70 percent of your one-rep maximum, then lower it with only one leg over the course of four seconds (a trick employed by the U.S. Ski Team, whose members need eccentric shock-absorbing quads like nobody's business). Complete two sets of four reps on each leg.