In the midst of the New Year, we're all trying to maintain our resolutions to ourselves, hoping to better our mind, spirit and body in 2017. And because one of the most popular ways to do so is by pledging more workout time, we're here to try and help you stick with it.
It can be tough, though, as many people aren't used to the toll going to the gym more frequently takes on his or her body.
Fear not, though, because we chatted with the New York Knicks Director Of Performance Mubarak Malik, whose job is to maintain the health of some of the top athletes in the world. Nicknamed "Bar," Malik's here with advice to help prep you for all those future workouts—while focusing on proper recovery and avoiding injury—as if you were built like an NBA superstar.
Before a workout, what's the single-most important piece of advice for men to know?
"Make sure to warm your bodies to move. Essentially, engage in some form of movement prep exercises that will help prime the body for movement and performance. Preparation's important, so don’t just pick up the weights and barbells without doing that."
What makes it so important—and often forgotten about?
"It's often forgotten about or neglected because no one wants to spend 5-10 minutes working on their shoulders, hips and trunk to minimize the risks of injury. It’s boring, men just immediately want the meat and potatoes. Traditionally, a warm up is seen as jumping rope, riding a stationary bike, maybe some leg swings, hurdler hamstring stretch, etc.—which has its benefits."
"But a movement prep routine consists of foam rolling, stretching, some core exercises, and some jumping and running. It does four things: Increases overall body temperature, activates muscles, elongates muscles and activates the brain to get ready for a tough workout!"
So it's definitely better to stretch than not stretch before endurance exercises like running or biking?
"Yes to stretching! Everyone gets caught up in this fallacy of not stretching. I don’t believe in holding a stretch for long periods of time, but dynamic stretching with purpose helps strengthen muscles through our normal ranges of motion, helps with movement patterning and will also increase the internal temperature of muscles."
"As we age, our muscles lose their pliability and tendons become stiffer. Riding a bike and running still require coordination and muscle recruitment—so make sure to do dynamic stretching!"
You work with some of the best athletes on the planet, are you specializing routines or exercises for each player?
"Basketball players are anomalies, man, so I have to create individualized programs for each player. They play the same game, but they aren’t clones, and their individual responses to training and competition vary day to day, week to week, month to month, even season to season."
"There are vast differences in athletic capacities, training and injury history, weaknesses and asymmetries, to mention a few. For example: An older player may not need the same load as a younger player. Likewise, developing a younger player in his first season to the same load as a seasoned vet who’s body has adapted over the years of rigors would be reckless programming."
Along those same lines, how do you know one thing that works for a player will or won't for another guy?
"I know what will work and what won’t for each individual player because we assess and test them. We have a system. We examine the relative needs of each player and we program appropriately in the areas of strengths and weaknesses. Our No. 1 goal is to improve their physical, technical and psychological abilities to help them reach their full potential."
How does a back-to-back affect players? What's the process there with such a quick turnaround?
"Back to backs are tough, man, and they affect each guy differently. The more that we can plan ahead of time, the quicker we can assess what each guy needs. The process happens immediately after the game or on the plane, so by the time we land, players know what they have to do from a work and recovery standpoint."
What about post-workout, what should guys do to help their body recover properly?
"Eat something containing carbohydrate and protein within a 45-minute window after your workout, and remember to do static stretching!"
"The nutrition component helps speed the elimination of metabolic wastes by increasing blood flow, replenishes muscle glycogen stores and helps reduce muscle damage, while boosting the immune system."
Anything that we should avoid doing before or after a workout that's an absolute no-no?
"Not to eat or drink something within that 30-45 minute window post-workout. It's easy to say to yourself that you’ll just eat when you're home, but the body builds itself in a 24-hour growth cycle and that window is one of the most critical. Don’t waste your workout. Eat something!"
How about diet. What're the best supplements or foods to eat both for energy before and refueling for after a workout?
"I’m not a big fan of diets. I believe in well-balanced eating, that also supports overall health and wellness. Basic principles are eating breakfast (probably most important meal), eating often (5-6 small meals per day to include snacks), making sure you're eating a good protein and carbohydrate with all meals, and eating a variety of colors. Simple and easy to follow."
"To refuel after I workout, I would recommend chocolate milk. 8-12 ounces of chocolate milk is cheap, and contains everything you need to replenish muscle stores."
What advice do you have on fighting fatigue?
"Get sleep, eat a balanced diet, get moving for at least 30 minutes 3-4 times per week and keep your mind clear with gratitude."
Who's the one guy on the Knicks that seems to require more attention when it comes to recovery after taking a beating during a game?
"Recovery in this game is paramount. All work with no rest leads to an overtrained, injury prone and weakened athlete."
"Take Carmelo Anthony, for instance, who's in his 14th season, is an 11-time All-Star and has won four Olympic Gold Medals. He still competes at an elite level in this league, but that’s an extensive resume with a lot of mileage, so we have to make sure we provide systems and strategies at all times that will allow him to tread that fine line of maximizing his performance in such little time. Whoever recovers the fastest does it the best over and over again."
Any success stories from players that you're most proud of, in terms of recovery or preventing injuries?
"Brandon Jennings. He’s perceived as rambunctious by people who don’t know him, but he’s very professional and consistent about his work. He came here with an open mind, and now he’s one of the earliest in the weight room both at home and on the road, even nicknaming the weight room, “The Yard.”
"When I first met him in Santa Monica this past summer, we were running on the beach at 5 in the morning and he was dusting me in a two-mile run to prove to me that he’s in shape. He reminds me that everyday, too."
Mubarak Malik, who's in his fourth season with the Knicks after stints with a few MLB teams, graduated from West Chester (PA) University and obtained a Masters in movement sciences from A. T. Still (AZ) University, so he's quite the specialist when it comes to maintaining and improving one's physique.
After all, All-Stars like Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, among others, trust Bar with their bodies, so they can't be wrong.