IN GAME SHAPE.
This has to be one of the most vague, yet most thrown around sentences when it comes to basketball. When Kiefer Ravena’s 18-month suspension from basketball was lifted, there were doubts about his game shape coming into the FIBA World Cup. The same holds true for naturalized player Andray Blatche. But there lies the rub. Kiefer looks jacked but has not played competitive basketball in a while. Andray looks….. well he looks more like he is the ball despite being in active duty in the Chinese Basketball league. Two players, two very different situations.
When talking about body types, multiple factors come into play. Genetics play a huge factor, specially with how much muscle one can add and how fast they can do it, their propensity to deposit fat and where it deposits, among other things. But this is only one factor, and is ultimately uncontrollable. Gym time and diet are those that have a lot of impact, and are very much within the players’ control. Lifting weights can get a person stronger, and the diet aids in the recovery and nourishment of the muscles from the wear and tear of the gym. We will be looking at both factors when assessing the players.
Let us look at the spectrum of body types in basketball and let us dissect their body types and play styles, as well as figuring out if there is an “optimal” level for a player to be considered in game shape.
THIN AND MUSCULAR
UST Growling Tiger Rhenz Abando and Ateneo Blue Eagle Gian Mamuyac come to mind when talking about players who are on the thinner, leaner side of the spectrum. These two players have elite athleticism, long limbs, and very strong.
Genetically, their long limbs ultimately contribute to their lanky frame. Because their bones are long, muscle insertions are far, so it is hard for them to put on big muscles. Think of Giannis Atentokounmpo as an example. His arms and legs are long, so it is nearly impossible for him to get bigger because his muscles are inserted farther than someone like a LeBron James.
Players who are thin and muscular have very well developed slow twitch fibers (the “red” muscle fibers), and fairly-developed fast-twitch fibers (the “white” muscle fibers). I would not say that they do not have undeveloped fast twitch fibers as they are quick and explosive, but they lean more toward the slow twitch fiber-heavy side.
As athletes, I am sure as all hell that their appetites must be larger than a normal person. Both players are also dilligent when it comes to their strength training (as evidenced by the muscle mass). They are both considered “hardgainers”, meaning they need a whole lot more calories in order to pack some lean pounds on their frame. They also need to do explosive movements to stimulate the fast-twitch fibers in their body, the larger muscle groups.
A LITTLE BIT MORE TO LOVE
When you think of players who are on the bulkier side, you immediately think of former UE Red Warrior Alvin Pasaol, or PBA’s Beau Belga of Rain or Shine. This season, one particular player has gained notoriety for his size, Ateneo Blue Eagles center Patrick Maagdenberg. These guys are deceptively quick, knows how to throw their weight around, and can set picks that can erase the faces of those who dare pass.
The genetics of these players can be tricky to gauge, since their bodies are most likely products of lifestyle choices. However, you can see a pattern with regard to their fat distribution, which is almost evenly distributed. One thing is for sure, they enjoy the recovery meals a little more. They have some muscle underneath the fat, but that happens when one is on a caloric surplus.
For these types of athletes, a body recomposition is necessary to make them more effective. Another thing to note about players in this category is that their stamina is suspect. Muscles are supposed to help propel yourself to the direction you want to go, and fat is an extra weight that does nothing to your goal. Shedding that extra fat would do wonders for their respective games
Athletes under this category should hit the gym more. Lifting weights increases your muscle’s sensitivity to insulin (one of the body’s anabolic hormones) and will store most of the nutrients from food to the muscles for recovery. With bigger muscles, the metabolism also speeds up, expediting the process of fat loss.
Ryan Buenafe is a cautionary tale to those who are athletes under this category. His talent is elite, no doubt about that. But years of abuse on his body led him from a college legend, to a washout trying to find his way back.
NU Bulldog Shaun Ildefonso and Ateneo Blue Eagle Thirdy Ravena. These two players are seemingly carved out from stone, but moves faster than what you would actually expect. They are the perfect blend of size, strength and skill. Simply put, these guys are the UAAP’s Vitruvian players.
Genetically, these players are the elite. After all, the Ildefonsos and the Ravenas are two of the top athletic families in the country. These two guys are jacked, with muscles in places you did not know exist. Despite being big and muscular, the word “heavy” would be the last word you will use to describe their game. They run fast, jump high, and are freakishly strong.
It would be unfair though to credit their gains to genetics alone. These players spend a lot of time working on their bodies in the gym and the kitchen. A delicate balance of diet and exercise built their physique to what it is now.
If the thin and muscular players are slow twitch muscle dominant, this type of body is fast-twitch fiber dominant. This explains their explosiveness despite being big. As the name suggests, fast-twitch muscle fibers are the more explosive muscles in the body. In short bursts, these muscles are stronger, and are capable of much more tension. This is the optimal physique, a physical marvel.
Athletes under this category have reached what could be their prime physique, and maintenance is all that is necessary. Knowing the competitive fire of these two however, they are working on themselves to be better. What they usually do is to add pounds as the season ends, then whittle down back to muscle soon as the season is about to start. This is to guarantee that they would not burn out, and the process would be gradual.