While the fundamentals of the game haven't changed, the way basketball players at all levels train to enhance performance has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Today's game requires true basketball athleticism - a unique mix of aerobic & anaerobic exercise, as well as an unparalleled combination of strength, power, balance, reaction and agility. Increasing the capacities of these characteristics will give a player the potential to shoot, pass, rebound, defend and handle the ball to their maximum ability. That is why great players are in great shape!
As part of an extensive report from a 2013 Gatorade Sports Science Institute Task Force, Jack Ransone, PhD, ATC, provided some invaluable insight behind the physiological profile of basketball players:
The days of just playing pick-up at the gym are over. It is important for players to participate in a truly comprehensive training program so they can perform their basketball skills at a higher level, with more efficiency, and perform them for longer before the onset of fatigue.
As a fitness professional, the following guidelines will help you design a comprehensive training program to meet these specific needs (without overtraining), help make a player more resilient to injury and improve their on-court performance.
General Program Design Recommendations for Basketball
Prior to beginning any workout, it is important to go through a sound movement based warm-up that consists of the six primary movements utilized in basketball: sprinting, back pedaling, side shuffling, pivoting, jumping and lunging. The warm-up won't take very long, but lays the foundation for the workout to follow.
Dynamic flexibility exercises and movements are an ideal way to increase the active range of motion in the body's major muscle groups and joints. Given the sport of basketball consists of dynamic movements, it is important to safely prepare the body in a similar manner. These exercises will also help with coordination and improving gross motor skills.
Safety needs to be the backbone of any strength program. As a fitness professional, your goal is to minimize risk within the training atmosphere. Regardless of your actual training philosophy or methodology, only choose the safest exercises available and make sure players use perfect technique to get the most out of each exercise. Your strength program should address all of the body's major muscle groups and joints with emphasis on the ankles/feet, hips/groin, core and upper back. It is highly recommended that a player can master their own bodyweight, in the form of perfect push-ups, dips, pull-ups, lunges and plank holds prior to adding any external resistance.
10 Strength Training Guidelines for Basketball
1. Perform perfect repetitions every time
Perform controlled reps with no bouncing or jerking!
2. Strength train at a high level of intensity
Take every applicable set to the point at which no further reps can be completed in good form.
3. Strength train progressively
Consistently increase the resistance over time.
4. Strength train within a predetermined range of repetitions
Aim for 6-15 reps for most major muscle groups (depending on training age and season).
5. Strength train the entire body equally
Muscular balance is important for injury prevention.
6. Strength train using a limited volume of sets and exercises
It's not how much you do; it's how hard you do it!
7. Strength train larger muscle groups first
Hit largest muscle groups early while mentally and physically fresh.
8. Allow for adequate recovery between strength training sessions
Do not over train!
9. Keep accurate records of all strength training sessions
Accountability is crucial for success and necessary to monitor improved strength.
10. Use advanced strength training techniques appropriately
Limit overuse of assisted reps and breakdown sets.
In Part Two, we'll cover power, A.R.Q. (agility, reaction, and quickness), and conditioning tips specific to basketball players.
Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the strength & conditioning coach for the nationally renowned, Nike elite DeMatha Catholic High School basketball program. Alan brings a wealth of valuable experience to his training arsenal from over a decade of extensive work with elite high school, college, and NBA players.