Training Session: Exercise Tips From the Experts

With a big weekend of action in the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments set to tip off Saturday, kids around the country are faced with a tough decision: sit on the couch and watch the games or get outside and play? 

The answer is simple: Both! 

Well, unless you’ve got a big-screen TV in the backyard, the going outside part isn’t in play. But there are plenty of ways to not only get some exercise but also improve your own game while watching the games on TV. We caught up with Ed Ryan, a veteran athletic trainer who has spent more than 20 years as a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Sports Medicine staff, to get some ideas.

“The most effective exercises are the simplest ones,” said Ryan, who also was the athletic trainer for the USA Basketball Women's National Team from 2007-2012. 

“One thing that comes to mind immediately is a body weight squat. It’s very effective for leg strengthening and endurance development. Obviously leg strength and endurance is important in basketball not only from a running perspective, up and down the court, but from a jumping perspective.”

Ryan is quick to point out that body squats are effective for all sports, basketball or otherwise, and are helpful for athletes of any age. And they can be done easily without the use of any special equipment.

“One of the beautiful things about the exercise is that we’re only talking about using body weight,” Ryan said. “When it comes down to it, the main thing athletes have to overcome all the time is gravity. Can you control your bodyweight against gravity? This can help you develop not only the strength but the endurance, whatever sport you might be doing.”

Here’s how you can improve leg strength and endurance by doing body squats while watching the games:

Body Squats

Benefits: Improve leg strength and endurance

Reps: 20

Sets: 5

Rest: 1 minute between reps


First of all, Ryan notes, squats should be done wearing sneakers – do not do it barefoot. … Stand with toes pointed straight ahead, feet about shoulder-width apart. … Keep your head up, chest up, butt out. You don’t want to be bending over at the waist. This is a squat, so that you’re bending your knees, and you want to get your thighs as close to parallel to the floor as possible. The squat can either be done with arms out, extended at shoulder height, or hands on hips.

“It’s a relatively quick exercise to do,” said Ryan. “With a team, this is something that I would want to do probably at the end of a practice, where it can be done on the court. It can be done quickly, and as a team function. The contributions that this type of exercise can make to each individual athlete’s overall leg strength is really enormous.”

Snack Time

Of course, you can take some time to just relax and enjoy the college hoops action… and you might even want some refreshments. Before raiding the refrigerator or pantry, here’s a tip from Ryan about how to snack responsibly:

“The thing that I like that is readily available to almost everybody, and it’s simple, is chocolate milk,” said Ryan. “Chocolate milk is an easy and very effective recovery drink. So following intense exercise, whether it be playing basketball or doing a conditioning workout, it’s really important to replenish the body’s energy source, as well as give it a little protein to help it build muscle.”

Chocolate milk is an easy source of both of those components – carbohydrates and protein. Ryan recommends that within 30 to 60 minutes following an activity – practice, game or just exercise -- a glass of chocolate milk is very effective at replenishing that energy and giving the body those building blocks to build muscle.

All set? Enjoy the games!

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