Imagine for a moment living in the foodie heaven of New Orleans and getting the green light from a trainer to eat larger portions at meals, including a recommendation to devour more seafood. It sounds like a dream scenario for any weight-conscious New Orleanian, but it’s been a reality this summer for All-NBA Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis. Entering his fourth pro season, the 22-year-old has worked to add more muscle and bulk to his frame. As a result, with training camp one month away, the 6-foot-10 Davis is 12 pounds heavier than he was last season, up to 253, while maintaining 10 percent body fat.
Without a lengthy commitment to USA Basketball this offseason, Davis has been able to consistently focus on a weight-training routine and modifying his diet. He spent a combined total of eight weeks in Los Angeles and Anguilla working daily with new Pelicans head strength and conditioning coach Jason Sumerlin, who continues to adjust the approach of Davis, a noted pizza lover.
“Our first phase was portion control,” said Sumerlin, taking over for Carlos Daniel, who left to further his education in the training field. “I wanted Anthony to eat more than he does, actually, because that’s the only way to gain weight. You have to get more protein, more calories. He’s never going to cut out pizza, but I finally got him to eat seafood, for the first time ever. He had salmon. He also has a chef now, so he’s become more adventurous when it comes to food and his diet. Changing his diet is a huge thing and probably half the battle.”
The second aspect of Davis’ muscle increase came from spending extensive time in the weight room with Sumerlin, getting on an uninterrupted lifting routine.
“He has been lifting consistently, doing all the small things perfectly and efficiently,” Sumerlin said of Davis’ regimen. “We are more consistent in his lifts and his corrective exercises. He’s lifted a lot more weight – he’s stronger than he’s ever been.”
The additional strength should allow Davis to hold his ground better against bigger frontcourt players he faces, some of whom have outweighed or outmuscled him in the past.
“He’s going to be stronger, faster, quicker and more explosive this year,” said Sumerlin, who has also emphasized core strength. “He talks about it all the time. He feels it. His trunk stability is a huge thing. Whenever he has been down low with the big guys, he kind of collapses (at his midsection). He’s starting to understand how to use his body more efficiently now.”
Since Davis arrived in New Orleans at age 19, the Pelicans have gradually added muscle to his frame, without negatively impacting the athleticism that makes him so difficult to defend, both in transition and halfcourt situations. Some of his dietary changes and body-mass improvements are a natural part of his maturation, as a No. 1 overall draft pick who entered the league after one banner college season at Kentucky.
“The main thing is we’re educating him,” Sumerlin said. “He’s still so young. It’s things like recovery, how to rest your body, how to sleep, how to hydrate your body – to drink water throughout the day and not just when you’re thirsty, because then it’s too late. We’re trying to introduce him to new, cleaner foods, things that are high protein and can be grilled or baked (instead of fried).”
To Davis’ credit, he’s quickly embraced each element of the Pelicans’ plans for his body, something Sumerlin believes is the No. 1 reason he’s been able to make noticeable progress each offseason.
“He’s got all the characteristics to be great,” Sumerlin said. “He wants to be great and says it every day. It makes my job a lot easier. It’s all him. He’s been grinding this summer. We’re going to see it on the court. He’s focused, not just physically, but mentally. He’s ready.”