Women's Hoops: The defense never rests (Part 1)

Though basketball is a winter sport, competing at the highest level is a year-round commitment. In Part One of a five-part inside look into Vanderbilt's off-season conditioning program for women's basketball, VandyMania asked Strength and Conditioning coach Lori Alexander to talk about the team's year-round conditioning program. Here's what she said.

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Lori Alexander: At different times of year, it's different. In season, when they're playing competitively, we can only require 20 hours a week for everything -- games, practice, lifting. So they only lift one or two days a week. During the season, their schedule is so crazy I meet with them individually; they'll work their lifting around their class schedule.

For example, if they have to be at practice at 3, they have to be at the gym at 2 to get taped and whatever, so they're there from 2 to 6 by the time they get showered and done. So they may have a break in their classes from 11 to 1, so they'll come in then and lift, and it's one on one.

Then while they're still in school, but out of season, which is all fall and all spring, we can require them to do stuff eight hours a week. Only two of those hours can be spent with a sport coach doing basketball skills in individual workouts. But I can work with them year round because I'm not a sport coach.

So within the eight hours of the week in the off-season, I have them six hours, and they do lifting and running as a team. We go four days a week for an hour and a half, with the cardio part about half an hour, and they'll lift for about an hour. Besides that, they meet and play pickup three to four times a week and go and shoot and do whatever on their own as well.

We do four days a week lifting. We split it up between upper and lower body. Lower body days include explosive Olympic lifts like cleans and jerks and legs. On those days we start with plyometrics. That's their more explosive power day. We work on their explosiveness and train their legs. That way they have two days of recovery until they even do anything with their legs again.

So the next day it's upper body, general strength, and we do more agility movement kind of stuff. Then Wednesday's off, and they have a whole day of recovery. Then we do the same thing on Thursday and Friday.

The basic workout starts the same for all of them, and then depending on the individual situation, like injuries or knees, we can modify it. If someone needs to get stronger as a focus, we may add an extra day of lifting, and for somebody else who is quick and athletic but maybe not in excellent condition, we'll add more cardiovascular stuff.

All summer is all optional. We can't require anything, but I can give them a program with what's suggested. Once the summer starts, they have a summer training manual, so whether they're here or not here, they all do the same thing -- this day you do this, this day you do that, four days a week. If they're here, they can come in; it's a safety issue. I can spot them and help them and see that they're doing things properly.

When they're out of town, a lot of them go back to their high schools or join a health club for the lifting. Most areas have places where they play pickup. But that's a big advantage for them staying here in the summer. If you go home, you're either playing with guys who are trying to prove how much better they are than you and kill you, or you're playing with high school kids.

But here, we have most of our team here plus you have Belmont, Fisk, TSU, so they're playing against at least college athletes. And we have people come back who played here before, or people in the community who played professionally or at the collegiate level division 1, so that's a big advantage of being here in the summer.

The hardest year is the freshman year. That's when many the injuries occur. The freshmen come in, and they're not prepared. They get to a successful program where you're practicing, you're running, you're lifting and that's when shin splints, tendonitis, all the overuse kind of stuff really kicks in.

It's a big help for them to come in in the summer. Freshmen come in and have to deal with, first of all, being away from home, then finding their way around classes and where everything is plus dealing with budgeting your time studying. I'll still have people come in who have never lifted before and can barely walk the first week. So you're dead tired, you can't walk, you don't know where you're going, and you miss home.

It's great that they can come in in the summer because they kind of get to know the team. When classes start in the fall, all the social part of it is in place, and they have the support of their teammates. They know where they're going, they're not so overwhelmed, and I think that's been a big, big help.

Summer is the time when our athletes really have time to work on what they need to improve themselves, because during the year it's more about having the energy to practice, and it's all technical stuff, whereas the off season they can work on their shot if that's the problem, or they can get stronger, they can put on some weight, they can lose weight, they can get more fit. So definitely people don't understand that as soon as the season ends, that's when the real work starts. Everyday they're doing something to make themselves better.

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Next: In Part Two, senior guard Hillary Hager talks about a Thursday afternoon workout featuring training for explosiveness and legs.

Photos by Whitney D. for VandyMania. Click on thumbnails for larger images.

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