Frank Mason on staying fresh in NCAA Tournament
Svi Mykhailiuk focuses on the iPhone video, and he understands how strange this looks to an outsider. Just three years ago, this all was weird to him, too.
Coming from Ukraine, the Kansas guard had previously only executed standard lifts in weight rooms, like bench presses and leg curls.
Nothing like this, though. The video he’s watching — posted by KU strength coach Andrea Hudy to Twitter — shows KU’s players going through a series of slow stretches, which includes Devonté Graham extending his legs with help from a roller board and Carlton Bragg in a Spiderman-like pose working his groin and hamstrings.
“It was new for me,” Mykhailiuk said, “but it definitely helped me.”
For Hudy, there is science behind every movement.
The goal, at this point in the season, isn’t about buffing up KU’s basketball players; instead, it’s about keeping them both high-performing and healthy.
“Everybody thinks strength training is, ‘Lift as much as you can and lift it as fast and as hard as you can.’ And that’s not it,” Hudy said. “It has to be deliberate, and it has to have some intention.”
Hudy, in her 13th year with KU, has spent her professional life studying the best way to help athletes reach their potential. That includes recovery, which has been particularly important for this year’s team.
Because of a lack of depth, Frank Mason is averaging 36 minutes per game, while Graham is at 35.2 — the two highest averages of any player in the Bill Self era.
Yet, after the grind of a 35-game schedule, both appeared to be near peak performance while scoring 26 points each on Thursday against Purdue.
“I feel great,” Graham said.
“Hudy,” Mason added, “does a great job of helping us recover.”
So what is the strength coach trying to accomplish with these slow stretches in the weight room?
The simple answer is this: She’s catering basketball players’ workouts to the specific athletes they are.
In her 2015 book, Hudy outlines three specific “power positions,” with basketball players falling in the “lateral-reactive” category. These athletes have to brake often, using high-intensity movements that put excess stress on the feet, calves and quads during deceleration.
Hudy has her players offset those short, ballistic movements with long, healthy contractions on opposite muscles in the posterior chain — including the glutes and hamstrings. These are the types of stretches she posted on her Twitter video, which was taped before a KU practice this week.
A main objective is to avoid muscle tightness, which could potentially lead to injuries like labral tears and stress fractures.
“The ability to have stability and control your movements and to have coordination is key,” Hudy said.
At this point, KU’s basketball players are doing two flexibility or mobility movements for every strength movement in the weight room. The goal is to counteract the jarring kinetics that take place in both practices and games.
Hudy believes the methods have helped. She says KU has been relatively healthy, pausing an interview to go knock on a nearby wood frame in the team’s locker room.
She’s also been encouraged by the athleticism she’s seen from the Jayhawks recently.
“I think we’re finishing better,” Hudy said. “If you get hit, they finish well. They’re holding people off better.”
Mykhailiuk says the Jayhawks are committed to Hudy’s techniques. Most players make their way to the weight room the day after regular-season games to stretch and do recovery lifts so they can feel better the rest of the week.
“We all trust Hudy, and she does a great job,” Mason said. “Whatever she wants us to do, we try our best to get it done.”