Steve Nash's MVP Workout
November 15, 2007 -- Players are often branded with unfair stereotypes by critics that mask their prejudices with conventional wisdom.
One of the prevalent knocks on Steve Nash by critics is that as an athlete, he is considered ordinary. Unfortunately for them, that assessment is "extra-ordinarily" misguided.
While Nash may not be the type of point guard who throws down alley-oops or sets bench-press records, the two-time MVP possesses certain physical attributes that could be considered even more exceptional. Balance, core strength, eye-hand coordination and the ability to change speed and direction quickly – while often unappreciated – are vital components of the elite athlete.
Like all sports greats, the complete game that Nash exhibits to Suns fans on a nightly basis is the result of a limitless amount of work. What distinguishes Nash from other athletes with an insatiable work ethic is his ability to not only work hard, but to work smart.
On PBS’ Charlie Rose Show over the summer, Nash talked about how he designed his game around the natural talents that he possesses. His one-legged running floaters, body-contorting passes and lane-carving penetrations are the result of an analysis of how he could be most effective. However, in order to complete those plays and moves, he needs to possess the balance, quickness and flexibility to perform them. He also had to have the endurance to sustain an intense pace for over 35 minutes a game.
In order to create these specific athletic movements, Nash began to work with physiotherapist Rick Celebrini. A former Canadian national and professional soccer player, Celebrini was first recruited by Nash early in his career to help him with his ailing back.
Nash’s congenital back condition, spondylolisthesis, has been well-publicized, but it has been kept at bay due to the technical work that Nash has performed during his summers. After experiencing success with Celebrini early in his career, Nash re-enlisted his help when he left Dallas to sign with Phoenix. During that summer, Nash and Celebrini underwent two-a-day workouts for six weeks in order to help him correct and economize his physical movements.
“We changed the way he ran and especially the way he changed direction,” Celebrini said. “We both recognized that there were ways in which he moved that were a direct result of his weaknesses and past injuries.
“We had to break down those movements and slowly recreate them through repetition. By correcting movement dysfunctions, we are able to prevent injury, optimize the bio-mechanical efficiency of the body and bring about performance enhancement.”
Nash believes that the correctional exercises he performs allows him to persevere through the grinding NBA schedule.
“All of Rick's philosophies and exercises are about pure movement and moving properly with the right sequence and firing the muscles," Nash said. "They allow me to prevent injury, sustain fitness and maintain my level of play through all of these games despite having a bad back."
That’s why at the end of practice, one can find Nash doing footwork and other exercises that help with his body’s mechanics. In addition, the Suns playmaker follows his own workout regimen in the weight room, engineered to enhance his performance on the floor.
“I’m not very explosive,” Nash claimed. “I’m not going to beat too many people in a race, jump over or out-muscle anyone. Instead, I try to use my coordination, balance and momentum to my advantage.”
Nash expects that the training that he undergoes in the weight room translates to results on the court. The All-NBA guard adapted a customized workout routine for his specific goals – one that focuses on the core strength and balance necessary to optimize his game on the court.
Whereas most players take off anywhere between two weeks and a month at the end of the season to allow their bodies to recover, Nash only takes between three and five days off.
“I can’t sit still and since I’m getting older, I don’t want a big hill to climb when I come back,” he said. “And since I like to eat, I don’t want to get fat.”
The two-time MVP claims that he has basically trained the same he did when he was younger, except when he was younger, he played basketball all summer. Now, he doesn’t play until September.
“I really need to take a break mentally from the game,” Nash said. “I just shoot, stay in great cardio-vascular shape and lift so that I can prevent injury.”
Once he feels rested, Nash commences with his summer workout program, which includes a total-body workout three days a week, shooting four or five days a week and playing competitive soccer two times a week. When he lifts, Nash performs a lot of repetitions (15-25 reps), and finishes at fatigue.
His workout is very core-focused, allowing him to preserve his health and his back while increasing his chances of longevity.
At 33 years old, Nash looks to make minimal gains during the offseason and mainly focuses on strengthening his body so he doesn’t break down during the season. With the amount of energy he exerts during the season, he is not as concerned as much with building as he is with maintaining his level of fitness. The key for Nash is to keep training fun and avoid burning out, especially with the prospects of a possible 100-game season looming.
“I could care less if Steve goes from benching 70-pound dumbbells to 45-pound dumbbells," strength and conditioning coach Erik Phillips said. “That wouldn’t help him that much on the court because he’s already great.”
The weight-training philosophy of the Suns training staff is to build the body like a pyramid. The bottom part of the pyramid represents stability, the second block is strength and the third block is power. Nash will remain within the stabilization stage throughout the season and venture into the second and third blocks in the offseason.
“Since I am not as naturally explosive as the other players, weight training helps me become more athletic,” Nash said.
It is hard to argue with the results. The five-time All-Star hasn't missed more than seven games in a season since coming to Phoenix and while most players tire in the fourth quarter, Nash often finds another gear. His ability to accomplish that, all while playing at a frenetic pace, is the reason that he can sustain such a high level of play throughout the season.
So if you want to train like the game's best, take a look at what the two-time MVP does over the summer:
******BE ADVISED!!! These exercises should not be performed unless under the supervision of a certified strength and conditioning trainer. Many of these exercises could result in injury if performed incorrectly!! *******
Any questions or comments for Suns.com's Stefan Swiat? Click here to send him your comments by e-mail.