Q: I'm a 17 y old basketballplayer (bout to start football) living in Germany, Wiesbaden. I am 6'3 and weigh about 190-200lbs I was able to do all the major dunks but I have developed a severe Osgood-Schlauter Syndrome in my left leg and it is also coming up in my right one. I can fly like Jordan that day, but my knees will be so sore the next , that I have problems even while walking or when I try to get up.

I don't know if it's due to the use of the strong anti-acne medication Accutane, but since I started using it last year in October, I finished the last games of the season in March with severe pain, fortunately my acne was gone.

The Main Problem is that I'm torn between looking good, training and supplements.

I also feel that Whey Protein and too many carbs aggravate my acne. I was able to squat 250-300lbs but i'm scared to get under 200 these days, because of my knees.

I really don't know what to do, a lot of people tell me that I have a lot of talent and , but I just don't feel good with acne nor do I feel good being unathletic.

Sorry to hear about your knee problems. I have known several teenagers with Osgood-Schlauters and what happens is the calcium deposits develop because the tendons are trying to pull away from the bone -- due to fast growth (puberty). Getting rid of it really isn't an option but in nearly all cases that I know of you will eventually outgrow it and be able to squat fine.

I am no expert on the subject of Osgood-Schlauter's but from what I gather most active athletes have a hard time getting much help from their physicians so here's what I'd do if it were me. First I recommend you stretch your quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors and pay particular attention to hamstring strengthening exercises. You should be able to perform box squats using a wide stance and sitting back but other then that minimize the amount of quadriceps work that you do. If you have access to an EMS device you should use it on your quads a couple of times per week. Also do self manual therapy on your lower leg (up your shins) and quadricep.....just a rough massage. Every time you have any activity put an Ice pack on your knees for 10-15 minutes. I've been using Ice after every session for over 5 years now and it's just something you get used to. You'll probably find that you'll outgrow this condition fairly quickly and be "normal" again.

Next, start taking 12-15 grams of fish oil per day. You can probably find them at a wholesale foods place relatively cheap. This will act as an anti-inflammatory and also act to temper your acne flair ups. Lastly, yes, the acne and carbohydrate intake tends to go hand in hand in many people.....pay particular attention to grains and wheat.......eliminate wheat based carbohydrates and see the effect it has...if you're still getting acne then eliminate dairy products like whey, milk, and cottage cheese.

Q: I was wondering if Gymnastic holds could be used as strength moves?

Yes they certainly can. One thing about gymnasts is they develop perfect "functional" strength. In fact I would say the ideal weight training regimen for many athletes really just tries to emulate what naturally occurs during gymnastics training. And this is from someone who has spent significant time around gymnasts.

You can take a gymnast with zero weight training history and train him on the lifts for a couple of months and he'll be putting up weight room numbers that are totally mind blowing. The reason being is that gymnastics movements are very 3 dimensional. We all know you get much better strength gains from a chin-up then from a lat pulldown. Well gymnastic moves are all like that. Not only this but the varying speeds of contraction needed during gymnastics is also very beneficial. Gymnasts train their muscles to fire optimally at all speeds. Most people go in the gym and only lift at one speed..slow and heavy. Gymnastics teaches not only the "slow and heavy" aspect but also the "fast and powerful" aspect. This increases muscular recruitment and lends itself to very high levels of relative power which in most sports is just as if not more important then relative strength.

For a sample routine you can start using today check out this article:

Building Strength with Gymnastics Movements

Q: I was wondering what you thought about doing drop landings with jumpstretch bands around my shoulders pulling me down with a greater velocity. I would not do the subsequent jump but just stick the landing. I thought of this while reading the article that suggests that it may be possible that the eccentric phase of plio work is what really helps.

Hey that's damn good thinking. You put 2 and 2 together and identified a good training technique. Yes, doing landings and even depth jumps with jump stretch bands can be an excellent training method. Remember during a plyometric movement the faster the negative the greater the positive. Using jump stretch bands increases the speed and force of the negative which in turn increases the potential positive movement.

Dietrich Buchenholz uses jump stretch bands for both landings and depth jumps and calls the training technique "auxometronics" or AMT for short. He claims that not only does the band setup directly improve plyometric power by increasing velocity of the negative, but the landings or jumps done with bands alter the brains perception of gravity so that when the bands are removed one tends to "trick" the body into increasing it's plyometric output which will carry over into jumping, sprinting, and agility.

It makes sense if you think about it and potentiation methods also work by alternating heavy and light loads in training. For example, if you go in the gym and lift a heavier load before a lighter load the lighter load "feels" lighter then it really is. Much the same way if you increase the effect of gravity artificially with bands then your body will be able to easily handle a natural "unassisted" fast plyometric, and recall that during a jump the speed at which you bend down and change direction correlates well with how high you go.

Anyway, what you want to do with jump stretch landings is don't use so much resistance that it causes you to land with your heels hitting the ground or a "thud" at impact. This will usually be approximately a resistance that is equal to 30-70% of your bodyweight at the top. If you choose to do depth jumps use enough band resistance that your depth jump done with the bands decreases by 7-8%.

It's important if you do the depth jump variation that you have partners hold the bands down with their foot and as soon as you contact the ground they should release the bands, so that your takeoff, or the positive movment, is not altered. Trying to rig up your own system to release the bands or holding them in your hands won't work so don't even try to get cute with this training method!! You can see videos at Inno-Sport

For every 3 jumps you do with the bands perform 2 without the bands. You should see a nice increase your very first session.

I just bought a new 20 pound weight vest and I wanted to know how you would use it. I know that I need to use them with plyos and walking around all day, but is there anything else? How would I go about adding weight each week, like what should the loading percentage be each week? I would like to use the vest as much as possible, so any feedback on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

If you're using it for training don't use so much resistance that your performance falls off by more then 10%! In other words, if you're doing 30 meter short sprints with the vest and your best unweighted sprint is 4.0 seconds then don't use so much load in the vest that you run any slower then 4.4 seconds. Or if your best vertical jump is 30 inches don't use so much resistance that your performance drops below 27 inches. Use too much load and you throw off the proper movement patterns.

If you want to wear it around all the time in the studies they've used 10-12% of bodyweight and the vest was worn for up to 6 weeks at a time.

If you're only using it as a training aid and don't plan on wearing it around all the time then I would recommend you use it during every session but only for 1/2 of the movements. For example, if your plan calls for you to run 4 sprints then run 2 sprints with the vest and 2 sprints without the vest. Do this in blocks of 3-4 weeks.

If you're wearing it around all the time then I would suggest that you take it off for at least half of your training sets.

Q: Wanted to ask you a question: What's the best way to for me to maintain my speed during the season? The coaches ran us to death yesterday and I wanted to ask you that question.

Well besides making sure you're in shape going into the season you have to make sure you do everything you can to get enough rest during the season. If that means skipping out on all your planned extra training sessions and half assing it during conditioning drills then I'd rather have you do that then walk around with worn out legs all the time or even worse a strained muscle. At this point there's nothing you can do to maintain your speed other then getting more recovery. Or in other words, don't think that doing even more running will help you maintain what you built during the offseason.

Also don't neglect the importance of proper nutrition and self-restoration methods. Increase your carbohydrate intake, sleep at least 8 hours per night, and use ice and/or contrast showers for soreness. Massage is also very helpful if you have access to it.

Q: I have 3 questions. First, is everyone able to achieve a 40 inch vertical if the train for enough years? Second, is it possible that my vertical will see its best improvements at 18 years of age? I was also planning on doing the routine you reccomended in your article on exercises for vert and speed. If I did this with perfect form, nutrition and recovery how many inches could I gain in a year on average. I understand that this depends on body composition, and a lot of other factors but just an estimate? thanks a lot and keep writing the great stuff!

Hey good to hear from you let me see if I can answer your questions.

On average speed-strength or power dominant activities like sprinting or jumping won't peak until on average between 26-30 years of age. The excitability and speed of the nervous system peaks in the early 20's and strength will peak between 26 and 30 so it makes sense that most people will notice their at their best between 26 and 30...that's IF they train consistently and correctly. That's a big "if" because most people get fat and out of shape before they're even 20!

I highly doubt your VJ is at your best when you're 18....you simply won't have the training background to make that so. Also I have seen very few 18 year olds with a legitimate 40 inch VJ so it's highly doubtful. The training is just a process of optimizing your strength and your speed and combined these make up your relative power. The big factor is knowing how to train and training correctly. You want to drive up your strength but you also want to be very fast and powerful as well. First optimize your power levels which you will be doing through that sample workout.....follow this for 3-4 weeks. Then focus more on your maximum strength for another 3-4 weeks.....then focus more on your power and speed...keep alternating back and forth like that and you should have very nice improvements but as of right now it's impossible to tell how much one will improve or how high one is capable of jumping. At least on paper it is impossible for one to ever reach a plateau but the higher you progress the smaller the gap is for potential improvement and the more you have to do to maintain what you already have. What stops people at the upper levels in all sports is usually injury.

But like I say few people train correctly and people have other things that they have to participate in. There are no vertical jump specialists because the VJ is not an olympic event or anything it's just a side effect of training. Basketball players get interested in their VJ but then they also play basketball and have to be in great condition for that....the volume of conditioning inherent in basketball will detract from potential power.

Under the best of circumstances you'd sit around a lot and avoid extraneous activity and other then some light warmups and stretching train either very fast or very heavy and the only other activity you'd have would be something low intensity like walking - much like the males in the cat family. Bodyweight and bodyfat would be controlled through dietary measures.

This is one reason why shot-putters, hammer throwers, and olympic lifters are on average relatively the most explosive athletes....they won't walk from one end of a parking lot to the other and won't take a victory lap around a track at the olympics either! - they don't have to worry about conditioning or endurance they just focus 100% on getting powerful and have very high VJ's and standing broad jumps as well as short distance sprint times as a side effect of their training even though it's not their main focus and they don't have superior builds for the jumps. Maybe if there were an olympic event for vertical or standing broad jump we'd have a better answer. Of course there are high jumpers and long jumpers but the performance characteristics and strength qualities necessary for those jumps are quite dissimilar to a standing jump.

Hope this helps