6 Ways Steph Curry is Forever Changing How Athletes Train
There's more to it than taking a lot of shots.
There are nearly infinite ways to begin an article about Steph Curry and, at this point, they’ve pretty much all been exhausted. More often than not, an effort is made — using stats or metaphors — to encapsulate his greatness, the lack of any real precedent for the attack: the inhuman crossover followed by that step back, the jump shot, and the sound of microfiber composite meeting nylon. Let’s skip that, and cut to the facts. Steph Curry is a six-foot-three point guard on the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Steph Curry was unanimously voted this season’s MVP, which had never happened before. Steph Curry hit 402 threes in the regular season. And Steph Curry doesn’t prepare like other basketball players.
There’s never been another player like Steph Curry – which is, in large part, because no other player has ever trained like him. He’s leveraging biometrics, wearables, sensory deprivation tanks, and more — all in the pursuit of greatness. And, he’s not content to change basketball, he’s revolutionizing the way athletes train.
Biometrics & Wearables
Curry joined marketing forces with Degree — as in, the deodorant company — for something called the MotionSense Lab. If it sounds gimmicky, you’re not being unreasonable. But Curry makes a pretty decent argument that these biometrics are actually effective. Equipped with wearables and sensors, the MotionSense Lab told Curry some striking facts about his play and his fitness. One such fact is that it takes him less than three-tenths of a second to release his otherworldly jump shot from a dribble. Another is that the force of his dribble, at 3.1 g, is equivalent to that of a spaceship during blastoff.
Curry has said that even though he’s always working to refine his playing regardless, the ability to quantify each facet of his game makes him more aware of how he could improve – and also more motivated to improve. In a way, it gamifies performance. “Maybe next season I’ll get my release down to 290 ms,” you can imagine Curry thinking. That’s where us mere mortals could see some benefit because, unlike elite athletes, many of us need an excuse to improve. Gamification provides just that.
Experimental Tech & Neurocognitive Efficiency
The Warriors are all about using data to improve the effectiveness of both the players and the collective team. Curry reportedly trains with something called FitLights, a light-up beacon agility booster. He also practices shooting with special goggles designed to distract him and intermittently blot out his vision.
“The general idea is to overload his perception, to test and expand the limits of what his mind can make his body control,” Curry’s trainer Brandon Payne told ESPN. You hear him and Payne throwing around the term “neurocognitive efficiency” to describe the desired results of these stress tests. In other words, he’s not just interested in becoming a basketball superstar — he’s motivated to become a basketball genius.
This type of tech is on the rise. For now, it may be somewhat limited to the pros, who, lacking other effective training methods, must resort to extreme measures. But as the price drops and the tech becomes more available, Curry’s regimen could become part of your own workouts.
Glutes & Pelvic Muscles
Basketball strength is a unique strength, especially for a point guard. Unlike centers and power forwards, guards need to be fast. Unlike track stars, they can’t only be fast; they also must be nimble enough to dance around, and strong enough to push back against defenders.
Curry puts his relatively small body through many a trial. Early in his NBA career, he was routinely – albeit figuratively – breaking opponents’ ankles, but his deftness cost him. His ankles proved weak; sprains led to torn ligaments, which led to surgeries. His future did not look very bright, and many lost faith. But Warriors’ Director of Athletic Performance Keke Lyles reportedly gave him the cure, one that was perhaps counterintuitive — but effective. Instead of exercising his ankles, Curry bolstered his hips, glutes, and pelvic muscles. “It’s pretty much the whole lower-body chain that keeps everything intact,” Curry told Men’s Fitness. As a result of this obscure and inventive muscle training, he no longer had to rely as much on his ankle strength: his balance and agility came largely from his waist.
It wouldn’t be particularly hard for aspiring athletes to emulate Curry in this respect, but it might require some yoga moves.
Diet & Defecation
Mr. Curry needs to eat a lot. A lot. That’s the gist. It’s not extremely important what he eats, he says, but he needs a huge calorie intake to keep up with his incessant output. Still — given that he’s paid millions each season, and is an NBA player whose health is paramount — you can rest assured that whatever he eats is top-quality. Also, since he’s 28 years old, he says he’s had to become far more conscious about what he eats. Different foods have different effects, he says: certain foods help him “recover faster” and others give him “more energy during games.”
And then there’s this:
Curry has chalked up at least one extraordinary game’s successes to this automatic toilet. “Oh, man, that toilet just makes me happy in life,” he told ESPN. Maybe that’s all it takes.
Practice & Practice More
Your run-of-the-mill basketball player will practice layups, jump shots, and three pointers. He or she will do so repeatedly, but from reasonable distances. Curry has no limits in practice, which means he has no limits in games. He’ll shoot from the locker room entrance, he’ll shoot from the opposite baseline. The mentality seems to be that if he can get enough reps in at practice and over the summer — the off-season, which is when he does the majority of his serious training — the shot is fair game in-game.
And it works. It’s destroying defenses across the league. Now, opposing teams have to defend Curry the moment he crosses half court. If they don’t, he’ll sink one from 35 feet – before either team even sets up shop.
His unbridled training behavior is spreading across the country, if not the world. Already, elsewhere in California, three brothers are each becoming the next Steph Curry — even though they’d much prefer having their own identities. Their method, which their father encouraged, is much like Curry: to practice shots from all over the court, and to do so consistently. Again, it works: the Ball brothers are simply unstoppable, and are, as a result, among the nation’s top recruits.
Maybe all you need is to decompress. Curry and his team “float” every couple weeks. What that means is that they go into a Sensory Deprivation Tanks pod full of saline solution and float. Bodies, within these pods, feel weightless, and since there’s no distractions within the pod’s darkness, it’s essentially the most blissful and natural form of meditation available.
If none of the above methods work out, and if you seem bound to athletic mediocrity for the rest of your life, you’d better just go find the nearest floating center. As Curry himself told Drake Baer: “It’s one of the only places where you can really get unplugged from all the noise and distractions that goes on with daily life.” Then you’ll exit the pod and remember that you’re not Steph. But maybe — just maybe, by adopting some of his training strategies — you could be.