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Greater focus on off-season conditioning has Lowry & Co. in top form

Raptors guard Norman Powell dunks during training camp at the CARSA (Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities) at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on September 26, 2017. Norm Powell is a big fan of three-a-day workouts. But three workouts within six hours? The Toronto Raptors combo guard arrived at training camp in the "best shape of my life" after a gruelling off-season training regimen of back-to-back-to-back workouts. His rest between sessions was the drive between gyms. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
September 28, 2017 - 2:49 PM

VICTORIA - Norm Powell has always been a big fan of three-a-days. But three workouts in six hours?

The Toronto Raptors combo guard arrived at training camp in the "best shape of my life" after a gruelling off-season training regimen of back-to-back-to-back workouts, at 5 a.m., 7 a.m., and 9 a.m. His rest between sessions was the time it took to drive to the next gym.

"I'd work out three times a day every summer, but I used to do one in the morning, one in the afternoon and then night, spaced out," Powell said. "But I wanted to really train my body in a different way, push myself through fatigue. It definitely trained my body in a different way."

The team's sports science guru Alex McKechnie said the Raptors took a "very disciplined approach" heading into this past off-season, with closer monitoring of players' summer conditioning programs than ever before. The results are evident in a lean Kyle Lowry, among others.

"(Lowry's) in great shape, Jonas (Valanciunas), all of our guys," said coach Dwane Casey. "I don't know of anyone who's not in great basketball condition. This is probably the best summer our guys have had as far as body fat, weight, conditioning, running, since I've been here."

The 24-year-old Powell spent the summer in Los Angeles, and began his day with a workout in El Segundo. He'd drive 20 minutes to UCLA for the second workout, and then another 15 minutes to Santa Monica for the third.

"I feel a lot stronger. . . especially in my weights and conditioning, it was a different type of workout than I'm used to, high reps, and non-stop. It was tiring, fatiguing your muscles really quickly, but being able to lock in and push through that mentally. So I feel I'm in the best shape of my life and ready to go."

McKechnie, a Scot who was hired by Toronto in 2013 after several seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, said the goal heading into last summer was stricter monitoring of players, and regular communication with their personal trainers and training groups. Players met with a dietician, then their weight and body fat was measured weekly.

They went one step further with newcomers C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby. The team sent a staff member to San Antonio weekly to check in with Miles. When the Raptors took Anunoby, who was recovering from a torn ACL, 23rd overall in the draft, they quickly set his recovery plan into motion.

"The night we drafted him, we laid out his plan for the summer," McKechnie said. "It was laid out that night, in terms of location, where we'd like to be, and what we'd like to do moving forward to bring him to today."

It's a far cry from earlier times, said McKechnie and Casey, when NBA players would spend much of the off-season with their feet up, and then have to work their way back into shape during training camp.

"Players got left behind very quickly," McKechnie said.

"We don't have to do a lot of conditioning in training camp, we can get right to basketball, whereas before, you'd have to come in and get on the line, and do a lot of aerobic conditioning," Casey said.

With the explosion of technology and analytics in sports, the Raptors have numerous measurement tools at their disposal. They use the Catapult system, which measures everything from heart rate to different types of movement, such as acceleration and explosiveness and twisting and turning, through a chip tucked into their jerseys.

Catapult, which is an Australian company, is used by numerous NBA, NFL and NHL teams. As an example of its functionality, McKechnie explained Catapult can measure things like the movement tendencies — if a player tends to move right more often than left.

"If a player tends to move in one direction, we try to work in opposite patterns to create balance of movement," he said.

Back at Biosteel Centre, the team's state of the art training centre in Toronto, the floor is fitted with high-tech pressure plates.

"(Players) will run, and hit the (floor) and drive off one side or the other, so you can measure exactly how much pressure is coming from one side," McKechnie said. "So in a case where you have an injury on the right side, we want to show they're driving with equal force from right to left.

"The biggest problem we face is the jumping and the landing, that's obviously coming down from a height."

The benefits of a strict off-season conditioning stretches well beyond the pre-season. It also allows players to better withstand the rigours of an arduous 82-game season.

"They know the harder they work, the more they stay in condition in the summertime, the easier it is to come into training camp and be in great shape for the season. . . which prolongs their career," Casey said. "What tears your career down is breaking your body down in October trying to get in great shape and then playing."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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