Q: I'm not sure if there is much info on this, as I haven't found much myself, but do you know of any things to do to aid in recovery from CNS stress? If I'm not mistaken, CNS stress is also heavily influenced by things outside of sport and fitness work. Is extra sleep the only way to signifigantly aid in CNS recovery?

A: Yes that's pretty much right on, other then diet, there's little else you can do to improve CNS recovery besides sleep and rest. Probably the biggest thing you can do to improve CNS recovery is avoid draining the CNS through activities outside of your training and there are many ways to do that including not sleeping enough, excessive emotional stress, and lack of food intake.

When it comes to diet, don't be fooled by people and companies promoting all these supplements for CNS recovery. Some diet and supplement strategies can be effective for metabolic recovery, but when it comes to the central nervous system, as long as you eat enough to meet your daily needs you're pretty much doing all you can. Lack of calories in the diet, particularly carbohydrates, place more strain on the body thus the old bodybuilding maxim "eat big, sleep big, train big". The one supplement that might help in this regard is magnesium at around 300 mg per day.

Also, keep in mind there's a fine line between understimulation and overstimulation of the CNS, or "tone" vs "drain". Obviously, intense training carried out every single day for hours on end will drain anyone. Thus, there needs to be a recovery period in between bouts of highly intense training. The general recommendation is 48 hrs or so.

Does that mean you get the best recovery by sitting on your butt for 48 hours between training sessions? No, not really. Staying active by engaging in light activity in between intense bouts of intense training allows recovery while keeping a certain tone to your energetical functions so that you don't get lethargic. For example, sit on your butt for 3 or 4 days straight and you'll be well recovered but will probably feel like crap because your energetical functions become understimulated.

Therefore, I usually recommend people engage in some type of light activity practically every day. This could be as simple as a stretching or mobility circuit, an easy brisk walk up a hill or on the treadmill, a swim in the pool, or even a non-exercise mediated means of stimulation such as a sauna or contrast shower. I often recommend people go in the gym and train smaller muscle groups such as forearms and abs on their lower intensity days.

Q: What conditioning exercises do you think are most effective in conditioning the legs for basketball. I would recently play in tournment games and my legs would die out very fast, causing me to become extremely slow. What do you think i can do so that i can have the ability to run as fast and jump as high in the beginning of the game as to the end of the game?

A:The best thing you can do is play a lot of basketball at an up-tempo pace. Nothing really beats that. Alternatively, any sort've sprint interval drills can be effective. Sprint 100 slow jog 50, repeat that 4 times then walk 50. Repeat that entire sequence 3 or 4 times a couple of days per week and you oughta notice a substantial difference.

Q: The past 12 weeks I did a strength phase with many moderate plyos, such as 'sitting on box jumps and then jumping onto another box' and leap frog jumps onto a box. I was also playing flag football on Sundays as my DE day. During this cycle I gained a couple inches on my standstill vertical. With my last strength phase I feel like I made some really good gains in displaying my power. However, when I took a max squat attempt yesterday I gained only 5 pounds on my squat! I then realized that most of my exercises on ME days were geared towards top end strength in the squat such as good mornings and reverse band squats. My strength in the hole hasn't improved much at all and I'm having trouble reversing the load from eccentric to concentric. The same holds true in my vertical.

Here are my questions.

1. I'll be taking a couple weeks off (due to a surgery next week) and when I am able to lift again I plan on doing a cycle of primarily drop jumps. I was thinking of doing a routine that you laid out in one of your Q&A: Do you think this would be a good idea?

Session I
Drop Jump x 3
Box Squat x 85% x 3
Reactive Squat x 50% x 3
Glute-Hams x 5

Session II
Backwards wide stance Drop Jump into squat x 3
Drop jump w/straight legs on balls of feet x 3
Jump Squat with pause x 30-40% x 3
Jump Shrug with pause from knee x 5

Also, how many sets would you recommend for each exercise?

2. Following this cycle I am thinking of doing another strength phase for 8-12 weeks with a primary focus on increasing strength in the bottom end of my squat. What exercises would you recommend I do to really target this?

3. How much 'reactive' strength is involved in a vertical jump from a standstill? I can see how explosive strength is important but how much does reactive strenght contribute to this?

4. What portion of the squat do drop jumps primarily strengthen? Top end of squat or in the hole strength?

A: 1. That routine you suggested looks like it'll work. I would transition into more juming variations after a few weeks or throw a depth jump in there somewhere too. Maybe on day 2 in place of the straight legged drops. Remember, the reason you do drops is so that you can learn to stabilize and store force. Once you do that you have to focus on the other end, putting force out. You can also eliminate the reactive squat on day 1 and either the jump squat or jump shrug on day 2.

Also keep in mind during a power phase you don't want to totally get away from your basic strength training. Do enough to maintain. You might work up to a couple of heavy triples in the squat at the end of your workout.

2. When it comes to power work let performance determine volume. Hit a daily best effort on each movement and when you're no longer maintaining that effort move on. Don't make it any more complicated then that. That works really well for plyo and speed training and really any sort've power training.

3. It depends on the individual. Levers,limb lengths and tendon lengths are as important as any other factor. That is not quite so true for movements that require only strenght.

4. It depends on your squatting style. If you squat close stance then 1 and 1/3 squats and front squats will really help. If you squat wide stance anything that really hits your hips and posterior chain like box squats and good mornings. In addition to assistance exercise selection, lots of squatting in general helps squatting.

5. They really don't help the squat much at all - two entirely different qualities of movement.

Q: I'm in the middle of my basketball season right now and I'm getting ready for the next off-season. I've got a few questions for you:

1) Since I'm in-season right now, I'm not lifting very much at all. But some of my team-mates are in our strength-training weight program in school (I think they do the bigger-faster-stronger program). They are getting stronger, and it doesn't seem to effect their basketball skills at all. If I were to start lifting 3-4 times a week, it would have to be at either 6:00 a.m. before school, or at about 8:00 p.m., right after practice (and with homework, the later time isn't likely to happen). Should I just lift whenever I can or early in the morning?

2) This summer when the off-season rolls around, I'll probably detassel and rouge (lots of walking in a corn-field) as well as work at a sporting goods store (lots of standing). I'm one who can't just stand or walk with-out my legs getting tired. Will this effect my training or results at all?

A: 1. Lifting in the afternoon or evening tends to be superior for strength but with your schedule there I would definitely lift in the morning but no more then 3 days per week. I haven't found many athletes who tolerate more then 3 days in the gym when also engaging in a full load of sports practice.

2. Working in a cornfield will wear anyone out but you can use it to your advantage provided you get at least 2 days off each week. It will increase your work capacity and providing you can kick back and relax for a day or 2 at the end of the week you oughta be fine.