A Physiological Approach to Wheelchair Basketball Training
By Allison Hoit
Mary Allison Milford helped the women win gold in wheelchair basketball at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing and plans to do the same this September in London as a member of the 2012 United States Paralympic Women's Wheelchair Basketball Team. Milford was a member of the silver medal-winning world championship team in 2006 and was a member of the University of Alabama women’s wheelchair basketball team.
Wheelchair basketball leads the Paralympic Games as one of the most dynamic and popular sports. It originated among American World War II veterans who played the sport for rehabilitation and has since grown to be actively played in more than 80 countries. The rules parallel those of basketball, and the game uses the same court size, goal height, and scoring. Players move the ball around the court using the same methods of dribbling or passing. For more information on the sport of wheelchair basketball, please visit the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation at http://www.iwbf.org/ and the National Wheelchair Basketball Association at http://www.nwba.org/.
Knowledge of exercise physiology is essential for implementing strategies to develop optimal physical performance among wheelchair basketball athletes.1 The physiological responses to arm exercise of wheelchair basketball athletes can be quite different than in athletes without a disability. This creates a need to design training activities that reflect these differences. The two well-established exercise physiological principles of overload and specificity should be incorporated into the training plan of an athlete who utilizes a wheelchair in order to obtain the desired results in an efficient manner.
The training plan of a wheelchair basketball athlete should also include the principle of exercise specificity. This principle states that the mode of training should closely match the activity in which performance outcome is desired.1 Mary Allison’s training exercises include strength work, core circuits, chair skill drills, shooting workouts, and developing focus under pressure. Each of these exercises is specific to wheelchair basketball and her personal preparation goals. The chair skill drills include 180 sprints, power starts/stops, and shadow drills to improve hand speed, power, technique, and movement skills. During her cross-training away from the basketball court her focus is on overall strength, explosive power, and endurance through high repetition with low weight/body weight workouts. She also includes a variety of basketball shooting workouts, and ends each training session with pressure free throws where she must make two free throws before leaving the gym. By using the principle of specificity she is able to focus her training plan on exercises that are specific to targeted goals and outcomes in preparation for the Paralympic games.
The benefit of exercise physiology techniques for improving training and performance of athletes who utilize a wheelchair is seen in the numbers. Exercise testing on wheelchair locomotion at 7 watts showed that well-trained athletes use less than 7% of their maximal power output and 18% of peak oxygen uptake This is compared to sedentary colleagues who use 9% of maximal power output and 29% of peak oxygen uptake at the same 7 watts of locomotion.1 This is strong evidence that training is an important component in sport.
I will close with quotes from Mary Allison:
“I live by a few nutrition rules: I eat at home as much as possible. I eat natural foods high in protein. I always have something green on my plate.”
”One of the most important things I have learned over the years is that recovery and rest is just as important as the hardest workouts. Yes, I must be in top shape, but if I am overworked, then I can’t perform at my best.”
Wheelchair Basketball Warm-Up and Conditioning Training Video:
Please send questions or comments to Allison Hoit at firstname.lastname@example.org