Q: Are flat footed guys hindered when it comes to running and jumping? I seem to be kinda flat footed but I have (some people say) "above normal" vert. can i do something to compensate my flatfootedness?

I had a friend that was a great high school football player with blistering speed who happened to have flat feet and who decided to join the Army. He went down to speak to the recruiter and they went ahead and signed him up and he was all excited to go off to boot camp. His excitement lasted all of about a week because when he went to take his physical they took one look at him with his shoes off and told him, "nope son we can't take you because you have flat feet!" Here was a guy who I guarantee could run circles around 90% of enlistees yet the army wouldn't take him because of his feet. I thought maybe his ability to run like he could was a 1 in a million sort've thing, given the situation his feet. However, since then I've actually run across studies that demonstrate flat footed people actually do tend to run faster and jump higher then those with normal arches. Why is this? I don't know but it's not something I'd worry about if I were you.

Q: How should I lift during pre-season and in-season for basketball? I really wasn't able to establish any strength during off-season due to injury. Can I still build some strength during the pre-season and in-season even though I condition everyday at practice? What rep scheme should I use? How often should I lift? Before or after practice?

A: I usually recommend inseason basketball players train on a two times per week whole body split with one hypertrophy oriented day to maintain muscle mass along with one strength/explosive strength day. It might look something like this:

It'll look something like this:

Workout 1

Perform the exercises in any order

Bench press- 2 sets of 10-12

Pullup- 2 sets of max reps per set

Dumbell Split Squat- 2 sets of 10 (per leg)

glute ham raise - 2 sets of 15

Hang clean 2 sets of 5

beach work optional: biceps and triceps for a few sets

Workout 2

On box jumps - 3 sets of 5 (jump onto a box in front of you then step off)

Box squats - 5-6 sets of 3 reps at 60-70% 1rm (Do these powerlifting style where you spread your stance, sit all the way back, pause briefly, and explode up -

Glute Hams or reverse hypers 2 x 10-15

Seated row - 3 x 10-15

Weighted Dip - 3 x 10-15

Beach work: optional....biceps and triceps for a few sets each

The days that you train are up to you which gives you a lot of flexibility. For example, you might train on Sunday and Thursday or Monday or Friday or whenever you have the time. The main thing you need to pay attention to inseason is recovery and nutrition. If you lose muscle weight it will negatively affect your strength. You can make gains on a program such as above as long as you eat enough.

Q: I've read a lot about the benefits of eating a lot in conjuction with sound weight training for athletes. (You yourself suggested that most basketball players would be better off training and eating like football players). My question is if at 14 years old). Would it be worthwhile for me to do the big eating thing (along with lifting), or would I be better off just eating regularly and lifting?

A: The eating by itself serves no important purpose other then to provide fuel. Muscle mass promotes strength development and muscle requires additional fuel to build which is why big eating is important for some people. A problem a lot of young athletes have is they have engines (metabolisms) that burn up a lot of fuel, they dont get enough of it to exceed their needs, and what they do get is junk. Many basketball players in particular are not only overly skinny but are also afraid to put on any muscle and thus are basically afraid of increasing their bodyweight.

Now, if you're one of these guys who already has enough muscle and strength then how much you eat is of less importance since all you need to do is maintain. However, if you're trying to add muscle then you're just wasting your time "eating and training regularly" unless you have the nutrition to meet your gains. When it comes to muscle gain, nothing happens until you provide additional fuel for growth to occur and that's all there is to it.

The number 1 reason people fail to make muscle gains is because they don't eat enough. If you had a bull that weighed 1500 lbs and you were trying to get him to 2000 lbs I would hope the first thing you do is make sure he has enough food to eat! I always tell people interested in gaining muscle weight that they need to get the scale moving up at about 1 lb per week before they worry about anything else because, until they do, they're not providing enough fuel for muscle gains to occur, regardless of how cutting edge their program is or how cutting edge their food choices are.

Food choices also take a back seat to food "total" for those looking to gain muscle bodyweight because until you're eating enough to gain weight then you sure as heck aren't eating enough to gain fat. In other words, make sure you know how much food you need to get get the scale moving in the right direction first and then worry about the type of food you're eating and your training.

Some light women might be able to gain muscle mass eating 1500 calories per day. Some men with slow metabolisms might only require 2000. Neither of those caloric intake levels would be considered "big eating" unless you have the appetite of a bird. However, most young teenage athletes need to get those calories up around the 3000 calorie mark before they start to see much in the way of bodyweight increases and many are going to perceive that as "big" eating.

So to sum it all up, eat as much as you need to reach the goals you desire.

Q: I am a sprinter and I seem to have a hard time tolerating volume. I find when I train by the commonly accepted method of 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps 3 times per week that I never seem to make much progress and always seem to end up burned out and overtrained. It doesn't seem to matter how much volume I do per workout, regardless of whether I do 5 total sets per workout or 20 I get sore very easily and make much better gains in strength and size when I rest as long as a week between training sessions.

You probably have what I've termed the hardgainers gene that makes your ability to tolerate volume less then optimal. There are 2 genes called IL-6 and TNF-alpha that influence the stress response to exercise induced microtrauma, particularly the immune inflammatory response to microtrauma. Recall that training is basically an attack on muscle fiber. When you damage a muscle the body releases inflammatory mediators and chemical messengers that go in and clean up the damage. They are responsible for the soreness that you feel. That inflammatory response in many ways helps the growth response, however, it also hinders the acquisition and expression of strength. The problem is, these inflammatory chemical messengers also have effects elsewhere throughout the body including the brain. They dock in the brain and in many ways help to cause what is known as neural fatigue. We all know the overall fatigue felt after a really tough training session. The effects are felt in more then just the "injured" bodypart they are felt all over. It's about impossible to make performance gains if your body is in a high state of inflammation and if this state persists long enough overtraining is a result.

OK. Now some people have a very "expressive" IL-6 and/or TNF-alpha gene so they tend to overproduce these inflammatory messengers. They tend to share a few characteristics in common:

1. Soreness and fatigue - They always seem to get sore and extremely mentally tired the day after damaging activity - If they are in a sedentary group of people performing a given activity (first day of football practice for example), they will tend to be negatively effected moreso then most.

2. Prolonged recovery time- They need time to recover and regain their strength. If a group of people perform a hard workout today consisting of 5-6 sets of 8RM on a basic movement and they come back everyday and try to repeat the same exact workout most people will be able to repeat the same workload in 2 days where the hardgainer might need 4 or 5 days.

3. Stress sensitive- They seem to be sensitive to stress of all types and will often have a family history of stress related disorders

4. Ectomorphic- They tend to have a frail build with long bones.

5. Inconsistent gains- They simply don't make gains commensurate and consistent to their level of effort.

6. Allergic tendencies- Bee stings, ant bites, seasonal allergies, poison ivy etc. Those with hardgainer tendencies will usually have a background of enhanced allergic reactions.

The key to making gains if you're this type of trainee is to do some of the following 6 things:

1. Reduce the frequency and train with normal to high volume. A hardgaining type athlete can make good progress training a muscle group heavy with the intention of increasing weights one time per week as the prolonged rest allows the heightened inflammation to subside. This is a good option if muscle size is your desired objective. In conjunction with the one heavy workout you might hit a muscle again with a lighter flushing workout using light weights.

2. Train with your normal frequency, lower the volume, and always utilize a buffer. A buffer is the difference between the maximum weight you're capable of lifting and the actual amount of your working weights. Say you're capable of 5 sets of 3 reps of squats with 200 lbs. Well in this case you might use a 10% buffer and train with 180 lbs, or a 10% buffer.

3. De-emphasize the eccentric. The lowering phase (eccentric movement) is responsible for most of the muscle damage and the soreness and a controlled eccentric will produce more microtrauma then a normal eccentric. If you're very sensitive to the effects of those eccentrics simply try not to prolong the lowering phase.

4. Get plenty of sleep and recovery.

5. Stick to the same basic movements. Changing movements all the time alters recruitment patterns and may promote more exercise induced microtrauma and soreness, something this type of athlete already gets too much of.

6. Consume natural omega 3 anti-inflammatories such as fish oil and flax oil.

Follow those tips and you can make plenty of gains.