College Basketball Programs Using Strongman and Boot Camp for Mental Preparation

Max RogersCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09:  Colorado Buffaloes fans cheer on their team as the Buffaloes take on the California Golden Bears in the semifinals of the 2012 Pacific Life Pac-12 men's basketball tournament at Staples Center on March 9, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Several college basketball programs are now training their players through some not-so-conventional means in hopes of reaching a new state of mental toughness.

If your own personal routine of TV-remote-control deadlifts, recliner leg lifts and bottom-shelf-of-the-fridge-reaching squats did not get you in the best physical and mental shape of your life this past year, read on to learn about some college basketball strength conditioning workouts that may do just that.

To do these workouts you don’t need access to multimillion dollar gym facilities, but you will need: A tractor tire, a swimming pool and a sweatshirt, a log, a pickup truck, a military grade obstacle course or similar items.

For several top college basketball programs, including AP No. 8 Duke and No. 10 Florida, the offseason has included strongman-style and boot camp workouts.

The benefits coaching staffs hope their players gain from workouts such as lifting logs, treading water while wearing team sweatshirts and other acts leading to extreme physical exhaustion are more mental than physical.  

How so?

Beyond the physical gains, teamwork and bonding along with leadership are the types of skills players mention gaining by being challenged outside of their element.

By going beyond what players think they can accomplish, these intense training routines being tested out by college hoops programs go beyond being pure physical tests into strengthening mental toughness.

Or as Florida basketball strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene recently told Yahoo! Sports, while referring to the benefits of flipping tractor tires or pushing pickup trucks uphill:

When you get guys doing this crazy stuff they don't think they can do, it gives them some sort of mental toughness. At the end of the day, they're face-down on the ground and some may be vomiting and wondering what just happened to them, but they do have a sense of accomplishment.

Between mental images of lying face down vomiting and being exhausted beyond belief, you were probably wondering where you could sign up.

The answer is nationwide.

Both Maryland and Colorado spent two days training with former Navy SEALs this preseason in a program similar to that used by VCU in the past. According to Colorado head coach Tad Boyle, the mental benefits of this boot camp-style training appear to be the same as those from the strongman training being used at Florida:

Everybody is good when you're feeling good and everything is going well. It's more important to execute when you're tired and you're not feeling good. You have to be mentally tough enough to get the job done. (via

Colorado knows as well as any team out there the need to prepare for tough situations.

Last March, the Buffs finished the regular season in the middle of the Pac-12. The Buffaloes defied all odds for a postseason NCAA appearance by winning the Pac-12 tournament, earning the conference’s automatic NCAA bid and going on to defeat then-No. 23 AP ranked UNLV in the Big Dance. 

While not exactly new to college hoops, with the inception of several military themes in college basketball from special event camouflage jerseys for the Armed Forces, Carrier and Navy/Marines Classics, it’s no wonder boot camp-style workouts seem to be increasing in popularity.  

This year, AP No. 14 Michigan State will take on Connecticut on November 9 in the inaugural Armed Forces Classic at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Last year, Michigan State played UNC in the first ever Carrier Classic, an event that was even attended by President Obama. 

This year, AP No. 4 Ohio State will take on Marquette in the Carrier Classic on November 9.

Also on November 9, AP No. 9 Syracuse and No. 20 San Diego State will face off at the inaugural Battle on the Midway on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum. Florida will take on Georgetown in the Navy/Marine Corps Classic

While the Duke Blue Devils are not involved in any of the aforementioned military basketball events, this elite college hoops program has also been connecting to the US military and even got a taste of some boot camp training methods during the preseason.

Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski took his players to the Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina this month for change in their practice schedule.

Coach K told the AP that the reason behind immersing his players in that type of training environment was, “I just want our guys to be around the best team in the world, and the best team in the world is our military. So, for a day, we're going to have that honor.”

Even though most of these unconventional training programs only lasted a day or two, hopefully the student-athlete participants will carry the lessons they learned from them through the entire 2012-13 season and beyond.