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Fit For A Ring

A new Big Three is evoking images of past glory in Boston.

Four years ago, Allen stopped losing weight after each season, as he had done in his youth, and began gaining those four pounds and 1.5% of body fat. "What that showed me was my playing weight versus my living weight," he says. So he dropped playing basketball in the off-season and focused on maintaining cardio while limiting wear and tear on his aging frame. Biking became his new "game," with running as a complement. Allen lived outside Seattle, in Snoqualmie Ridge at the foot of the Cascades. He limited his running to a pair of two-and-a-half-mile treks a week. The other three days he embarked on brutal 30-mile rides through hills and valleys near his home. "It was gruesome," he said. "Those hills were tough. But when you were done, the feeling was great."

In addition to limiting the pounding on his tendinitis-scarred knees, the jaunts also provided Allen with valuable time to unwind. "It was beautiful," Allen says. "The trees, riding down thesecluded streets, the countryside. You see farm animals, the mountains in the background, rivers running through. And it just gave you peace of mind. When it's just you and that bike, and you're 15 miles from home, you've got to put your head down and work. You start thinking about things you need to do in your life, goals you have. It's great mental therapy." Cardio was only half of the new regimen. Allen built his strength work around what he considers basketball's two most important muscle groups: the abs and glutes.

He labels one- and two-legged squats his "best exercises," with six-pack-producing crunches not far behind. "Squats are a way of letting me know where my power is," he says. "When I have my butt low and parallel to the ground, that's the single most important position in basketball. Everything you do starts there. If a dog's chasing you, that's the first position you get into. So you've got to be able to explode."

In the weight room, Allen starts with 135-pound squats, progressing to 225 during the season and 315 in the off-season. He follows with a circuit of leg curls and extensions, keeping the weight below 70 pounds. For upper body work, he benches 135, occasionally pushing to 185. He adds dumbbell curl to presses of 35 pounds on each arm. Between each exercise, Allen does 20 pushups and 20 crunches. He scoffs at guys who grunt through 200 of each. "If you're doing 200 crunches, you're doing them wrong," he says. "You want to do the least amount in the most efficient way. Be very specific in the areas you're trying to hit and train those muscles to keep them strong."

The less-is-more approach derives from college, when he lifted like a football player before realizing he needed to tailor his workouts to flexibility, stamina, explosiveness- and the core. "When someone pushes you-and people don't realize this—your abs are the first thing to kick in," he says. "So if you're weak right there, you'll fall over for anything, especially while you're running up and down the floor."

"I keep my body strong so it doesn't break down," Allen says, "as opposed to putting on muscle every single day." He has imparted these lessons to young teammates like point guard Rajon Rondo and center Kendrick Perkins. "I just always tell them to be in better shape than the guy you're playing against," Allen says. "I tell Perkins, all you have to do is beat your man down the floor, outrun him, and he's going to get tiredand you're going to get six to eight points a game just from being in better shape."

Thanks to Allen, basketball is back on the map in Boston. Beantown's new trio of stars evoke memories of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish, Hall of Famers who keyed three titles in the 1980s. With none of them having won an NBA title, they'd like nothing more than to hang a 17th championship banner alongside those won by previous Celtics greats from Bob Cousy to Bill Russell to John Havlicek to Bird.

As they prepare to seek that goal (the NBA playoffs tip off in April), they seem to each be having the time of their basketball lives. "When you're on a successful team winning championships, it's not a stressful lifestyle," Allen says. "It's easier to play basketball, enjoy your teammates, and have a good time. You don't get that everywhere, so you shouldn't take it for granted when you do."

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