Do you truly know what happens inside of an NBA team’s training facility? There are some players that work harder than you think, and their eating habits are closely monitored. We recently caught up with Denver Nuggets Strength & Conditioning Coach Steve Hess to discuss what’s going on in the Denver Nuggets’ training facility. Who’s the strongest player on the team? What’s a typical day in practice for Javale McGee? Who has the biggest appetite. Find out below.
Hoopist: Who is the hardest working player on the roster?
Steve Hess: The entire team works really, really hard in every aspect of conditioning. They spend hours and hours in the gym, and they take great care of their bodies. A guy like Evan Fournier, whose one of our rookies and doesn’t get a ton of minutes, works unbelievably hard. You also have The Manimal, Kenneth Faried, who, on his off days, does a ton of work. Andre Iguodala takes unbelievable care of his body and consistently lifts 3-4 times a week. He also does extra conditioning when needed. Javale McGee hasn’t missed a workout the entire season; he’s 260 pounds with 5% body fat. Will Chandler has worked extra hard since coming back from hip surgery. He was at 242 pounds when he returned, and now weighs 227 pounds with 5% body fat. I’m just incredibly proud of every single person on the roster, and I’m blessed to have a bunch of hard workers.
Hoopist: What does a typical day in the Denver Nuggets weight room look like?
Steve Hess: Well, practice begins at 11AM, but we have guys on the team that start at about 9AM. The first group of guys come in from 9AM-9:45AM, the second group of guys come in from 9:45AM-10:30AM, and the third group comes in from 10:30AM-11:00AM. We do a load of individual work before our actual practice. After practice, we have a group of people that come in for post-practice work and another tier of guys that come in 30 minutes after that. We do rehab for those that need it following post-practice workouts. After rehab, some guys come in and get shots up or do extra strength and conditioning.
Hoopist: How do you prepare them for a game in regards to nutrition?
Steve Hess: It depends on if the game is at home or on the road. We usually have a chef come in and prepare breakfast for the players, and we also have a take-home meal to give them right afterwards. If a guy needs special eating, I bring in a personal chef for the player that’s with them 24-7. Then, we have a group pre-game meal, which is catered for and a group post-game meal, which is also catered. We also give the guys a glycogen replenisher, which has amino acids to help break them down right after the game. Then, we supplement them accordingly.
Hoopist: Who has the largest appetite on the team?
Steve Hess: Jordan Hamilton – It’s not even close. He’s worked really, really hard to improve his eating habits, but on a good day, I think Jordan Hamilton could eat everything prepared for the team by himself.
Hoopist: What’s the craziest meal you’ve seen a player consume before a game?
Steve Hess: Man, I’ve been doing this for so long. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Big Macs; I’ve seen whole pizzas; I’ve seen a player roll in with nachos and a burrito. We told the guy, ‘Listen buddy, if you eat that before the game, I promise you you’re going to have issues tonight.’ I’ve seen three Snickers bars; I’ve seen a guy take a specific drink we knew nothing about, and it had him throwing up all over the court. Can you believe it? He threw up on the court during the game. I’ve seen a lot of stuff, man.
Hoopist: Who is the strongest person on the team?
Steve Hess: Generally speaking, if I were to max the players out, which I absolutely, unequivocally don’t, I would have to say Corey Brewer. He’s pretty strong. I don’t know if he’s the strongest, but pound for pound, he is really, really strong. Andre Miller is pretty strong as well. But if I had to choose one or two players, it would have to be Andre Iguodala and Kenneth Faried.
Hoopist: Who is the most vocal person on the team?
Steve Hess: The most vocal is me. I’m so loud that I give myself headaches. The music is popping in there, and it’s just a fun place where people get better. Everyone is pretty loud in there, but it’s very advantageous to have a guy like Iguodala around who really believes in the system. He’s always in there banging it out, and kind of sets the tone for the others. He has good energy in the weight room.
Hoopist: Take us through a fun Javale McGee workout or story.
Steve Hess: I can give you a perfect story. I was actually on vacation, and my assistant went out to Houston to work with him. Something was wrong with his shoulder, so we were being really conservative with him at the time in regards to his rehab. We were doing a lot of pushing and pulling drills with him in addition to agility. We told him that we needed him to bench press 20-pound dumbbells for cautionary reasons. My assistant gave him the 20-pound dumbbells, and Javale looked at him and said, ‘Dude, are you serious? What do you want me to do with these?’ He told my assistant that he could get 225 up with a messed up shoulder. It’s now evolved into a consistent pre-game routine, and we always joke about that when we give him a small amount of weight according to his standards.It’s crazy that he’s 260 pounds with 5% body; he’s an absolute freak of nature.