The last time we talked the new MSU basketball weight room was still in the planning stages. Now it has been installed. Tell me about the new weight room.
"The goal with this project was not necessarily to build a better weight room but to build a performance center. Everything that we did here was to maximize their performance on the court. So, it is not a traditional weight room. It does have your standard racks, dumbbells and weights. But there is a lot more to it than that. When we set out to do it we set out to make the best in the country. And I think we accomplished that. As far as basketball-only weight rooms or performance centers this is the best in the country."
Why do you feel it is the best?
"Because of the square footage for one. When they built the room they did a really good job with the size of it. Now, with the tweaks that we made with the technology, with the equipment and opening the room up it is so functional for basketball. What is unique about it is there is actually more equipment in there than there was before even though it looks more open.
"We still have six nine-foot custom racks in it. If you put 3 people in each group that is the entire team working at one time on those racks. The nice thing about them is they are nine-foot now instead of seven-foot. Now, our tall guys can do pull-ups without their knees touching the ground. The company, at my request, made them that size for us. On top of the racks we have Elite Form 3-D camera systems, which allows us to track either power or velocity of the bar. I can tell the guys what their form is but if they can't see it on video playback they don't get it. For them to get that audio-visual feedback that will help them correct their form."
Talk a little more about why you designed the performance center the way that you did.
"What we did was open it up so that it had a more functional area. What we wanted to do was mimic the game of basketball through some of our training. The equipment that we now have allows us to mimic moves that we do during the game. The machines also allow us to move as fast as we want so that the inertia on the machine always stays the same with the resistance. That prevents you from getting any jerking motion. That causes it to be easier on their joints, tendons and muscles.
"This equipment allows us to train vertical in the upright position on our feet just like we play. You can't do that with the other equipment. This equipment is not really replacing any equipment. We have added."
I've talked to several of the basketball players, including Malik Newman. They told me they are in better condition and have added upwards of 5 inches to their vertical jump. So, this is not really adding big bulk to their body but adding what they actually need to play the game of basketball.
"What I tell my guys is that I want to make the bubble that they play in as big as possible. So, if we have limitations through flexibility or mobility, then we aren't going to be able to be the best that we can be. As an example, if we have a wingspan of 6-6 we want to make it 6-8. If we have a tightness through our t-spine or shoulder blade area, or our biceps are too strong compared to our triceps, then our elbows are going to be in a little flex position, which means our wingspan isn't going to be as long as it should be.
"Once we are able to correct that, then we have to maintain it. So, we have to be strong enough to control that area. That is whether someone is pushing on them or not pushing on them. We want them to control that space in both situations.
"In the case of Malik he added 11 pounds of muscle and also added 5.5 inches to his vertical."
Did everybody on the team increase their verticals?
"Everybody on the team increased their vertical."
You have been doing this for seventeen years. What you did with this team is not normal is it?
"This is the most that I have had. I have had gains before but we had extraordinary gains this summer. I think it goes back to the new technologies that we are using, the new resources that we have. It goes back to the way that we ate this summer as a team. We watched all three of their meals, making sure they are getting the right things, even the right snacks, hydrating the correct way. I think all of that played a factor. Also, we did yoga this summer. When you factor all of that into it, that set us up to have a lot of gains and a lot of success."
You haven't had all of this equipment the entire time. So, it is more than just the equipment causing the large number of vertical increases.
"It all goes back to work, what you are willing to put in and what you are willing to sacrifice. The guys did a great job by coming in every day and working and giving me that effort. It goes back to you can have all of this stuff but if you aren't working, then it doesn't matter."
It sounds like the work ethic of this group is really good.
"It has gotten so much better. We are still trying to get better and be more consistent. We still have things that we can improve on. We can still get stronger, still get faster and jump higher."
I understand why your vertical jump is important in the game of basketball. Why is being stronger important? As an example, does being stronger help your shot?
"The stronger you are, the farther back you can maintain your shot form. What you will see is the stronger a guy gets the more they are able to shoot their three from farther out. They are able to scoop back and shoot the same shot at 18 feet that they did at 15 feet. They are now able to maintain the same form due to that added strength. Basically, the added strength helps keep your shooting form from breaking down."
By doing this, you are actually adding range to a player's shot, right?
"You are. When you start getting stronger and are able to maintain that form due to that added strength, now you can shoot from the college three-point line with the same shooting percentage, maybe even better, that you shot at the high school three-point line. And as a player continues to get stronger, the NBA three-point line becomes what the college three is."
How will the added strength help the big guys, the guys who don't shoot from as long of a distance?
"He will be able to finish through contact, whereas he may not have been able to do that before. He will be able to win his position on the block, be able to extend his shooting range, too. Extending a guy's range is the ultimate goal."
How does the added strength help a player with his rebounding?
"Anytime you are stronger and can box somebody out and you can jump higher then you are going to give yourself an advantage. Also, it goes back to the flexibility issue. If you can fully extend your body and reach farther back, then it makes it easier for you to grab the ball and pull it back to you as compared to tipping it around."
Does the added strength help with dribbling?
"Yeah, the stronger your hands get. When we do our pulls and pullups, we will sometimes use towels or different things to hold on to. The stronger your grip gets, the stronger your hands get."
Malik Newman mentioned that he gained 5.5 inches with his vertical. Did anybody else gain that much?
"Gavin (Ware), Johnny (Zuppardo) and Fred (Thomas) did. Chicken (Craig Sword) gained 4 inches."
We have talked about strength. What about how they recover after they have worked out? What do you do with them to help their bodies recover from their workouts?
"Something that we are going to do every day before they leave practice is myofascial release. What we will do is a foam roll with them after practice. It will hit all of the muscle groups in their body. That cuts down on some of the overused stuff. It will help them recover before the next day.
"Something else that we have implemented is recovery pumps. They are boots that we put on all of our guys. They come in when they have free time and get twenty-minute sessions on zero-gravity chairs. They are able to lean all the way back and get all the weight off of their legs and get a recovery pump session in.
"Then, we also add in massage therapy once a week, twice a week when we are playing."
I hear what you are saying but I don't really understand the specifics of how those help with the recovery process.
"When you use the foam rolls you are putting your body weight pressure on them. If there are any nodules in your body, which are knots, it is going to flatten them back out to allow the muscles to move and grab the way they are designed to. Anytime you have a nodule, over time you are going to get inflammation, you are going to get ultra neuromuscular control, which means you are going to start using one side more than the other. That is going to be how you get injured.
"What happens with the recover pumps is you zip the boots all the way up from your feet and toes to your hips. There are chambers inside them and they air up starting at the foot, then it moves up to the achilles, soleus calf area, then to the hamstring, quads, lutes. Then, it releases all of the air and starts again."
How much did the new performance center cost?
"It was about half a million dollars. What we are trying to do is maximize their potential in the safest manner possible."
We talked about how this performance center helps the current players. How does it help in the recruiting process?
"It is a big piece to our recruiting because it is really selling recruits on coming here. They will get the best and most innovative training in the country in the best facility in the country. When kids come in for visits this is a big stop for them. It is a wow factor to them. They see the investment that we are putting into our two basketball teams. It is a really key component to getting basketball players to come to Mississippi State. It is a piece of the puzzle but I think it is a big piece. And I think it is really grabbing the attention of the recruits."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network.