Beauty

Inside the Gym That's Making NBA Players Even More Athletic

Nearly half the players in the NBA spend part of their offseason in an unassuming building in Santa Barbara, California, looking to gain an edge. This is the home of P3, Peak Performance Project, and Marcus Elliott, M.D., a Harvard-educated physician who’s worked with Olympians, is helping NBA players realize their goals.

The NBA is midway through its free agent frenzy right now, but once it settles, expect the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and many other players to visit P3. They’ll do so in the hopes of honing the finer points of their athleticism, focusing on weakness and strengths alike, aiming to take cosmic leaps in their games come the season. P3 will analyze the little things players don’t think about, like knee positioning and core positioning when they jump, looking to squeeze a few more inches out of every vertical.

Dr. Elliott is at the vanguard of a trend toward truly personalized training. Hard data and high tech, like 3D-motion analysis, can hone athleticism in the pros and will eventually help regular people too. A host of NBA players have used this, including Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon. Perhaps the biggest name to come through P3 has been Houston Rockets superstar James Harden. Harden’s rarely been known for his athleticism, but P3 analysis found that Harden actually had special strength when it came to stopping on a dime.

In a few years, Dr. Elliott plans to bring a scaled-down version to the public. An infrared sensor will record your movements, and you’ll leave with a personalized program. I tested this version in P3’s facility. In 20 minutes, a motion-sensing computer told me I had old-man ankles and also needed cardio. This isn’t Moneyball, but it helped P3 trainers design moves to address those specific issues.

When this system gets closer to the one Dr. Elliott uses with athletes, it could do more for you. Dr. Elliott pulls up a video of a college baller doing what looks like the perfect vertical leap . . . except it’s not. “See that?” he says, pointing to a spike in a graph on the screen. The spike represents the force of the athlete’s right foot striking the floor. “In a few years, that’s a knee injury.” The P3 team hopes to correct issues like these.

The system may also reveal the anatomy of true athletic greatness. Flash back to 2016, when Harden first showed up at P3. Harden didn’t test brilliantly in any area. But then analysis revealed his ability to cut and stop, which just happens to be what Harden does often against NBA defenders. “He built his entire game around that one trait,” says Dr. Elliott. When P3 comes to the masses, you’ll get chances to do that too.

Three Moves for More Athleticism

Try these three drills that you can do anywhere to build athleticism and hoops ability like James Harden. Do them every other day for best results.

Pogos

What it does: Improves ankle stiffness and knee health and stability

How to do it: Jump repeatedly upward on both feet as if on a pogo stick, aiming to get off the ground quickly on each rep. keep your toes pulled up as much as possible. Land on the balls of your feet. Do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

Single-Leg Iso Calf

What it does: Improves sprint speed, ankle stability, and flexibility

How to do it: Set up as you would for a barbell squat, but lift your left foot off the ground and raise your right heel. Hold for 3 seconds, then switch to your left foot without letting your left heel touch the floor. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps per leg.

Complexes

What it does: Improves explosiveness and overall athleticism

How to do it: Do 3 to 5 half squats, with a heavy weight, then immediately do 3 to 5 broad jumps. Do 3 to 5 sets like this, resting fully between each set. The half-squat, a strength move, is a great way to improve jumping performance.

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