“In the 1980s, when I first started taking some of the world’s best athletes into the pool, my long-time companion Wilt Chamberlain had elbow surgery by Frank Jobe, M.D. to repair a triceps tendon he had torn playing racquetball. Wilt wanted to speed healing and we had learned that pool workouts certainly seemed to do that. Thus I took Wilt into his home Jacuzzi to let him bend and straighten his elbow in the buoyancy of water.
Dr. Jobe did a high tibial osteotomy on Wilt’s knee some years later. Right away I began giving Wilt my full pool program three to four times a week. We did deep-water running, walking and jacks to keep his high level of cardiovascular fitness without any impact to his knee. Stretches and range of motion exercises for the knee soon had it moving smoothly. As the knee healed we could do shallow water running and jumping exercises with a flotation belt. That way he could jump up and the belt and water could catch him on his landing so the repaired knee didn’t have to work nearly as hard as it would have to do if he were jumping on land. Over the next months, we got him back to playing tennis and paddle tennis.
After Robert Klapper, M.D. performed arthroscopic surgery on Wilt’s left hip in 1994, we returned to the pool for forward, backward, and sideways walking – a lot of it so that he could relearn a walking pattern without a limp. We did the deep-water interval training, the shallow water running and the plyometric jumping exercises. What Wiltie loved best, though, was the kicking series. He loved it! We started doing each of the six kicks for thirty seconds, then 45 seconds, then a minute. Over the next month we built up to doing two minutes for each of the six kicks, increasing the speed and force for the last minute of each one. That was a tough workout all in itself.
So when Emeka Okafor, center for the New Orleans Hornets, came to Los Angeles in the summer of 2009 to cross train in the off-season, I made sure we spent quality time on the kicking series. Turned out he loved it, too. We built up to one minute of each kick, doing the last thirty seconds at high intensity, high speed. He really worked it! Here’s what he said: “That kicking series of yours is……MONEY!!”