In Part One of this series, we explored general workout program design as well as ten specific strength training guidelines specifically for basketball players. In Part Two, we'll cover training for power, agility, reaction, quickness, and conditioning.
Plyometrics (plyos) are exercises that involve some form of explosive movement such as a jumping, hopping, or bounding for the lower body, and some type of swinging, pushing, and throwing for the upper body. Plyos are designed to increase power. They use the force of gravity or of a weighted object to store potential energy in the muscles, and then immediately release this energy in the opposite direction. Incorporating a variety of applicable plyo drills into a training program will improve power and help with body-awareness and confidence. Plyos are also an excellent tool for teaching proper landing mechanics, a commonly overlooked yet integral part of an overall training program.
Because the game of basketball is plyometric in nature, only a limited volume of plyo work is necessary. Focus on quality of movement over quantity of sets and reps.
The acronym A.R.Q. stands for Agility, Reaction, and Quickness - three separate but related attributes of basketball athleticism.
A.R.Q. training is necessary for basketball players at every level. Agility is the ability to change direction rapidly, efficiently, and explosively while maintaining body control at all times. Most of the agility seen in basketball is based on reacting to an opponent, both defensively and offensively. These movements can be short, fast, and unpredictable. Quickness is the ability to react and respond in the shortest time possible. Thus, it is important to incorporate reaction-type drills in one's agility and quickness training. Incorporating drills that require players to read and react will help improve their agility and quickness.
It is important not to confuse A.R.Q. training with conditioning. By increasing the time each drill is performed and / or reducing the rest time between sets, the drills will transform from A.R.Q. drills to conditioning drills. In order to specifically train for agility, reaction and quickness, drills must remain shorter in duration, higher in intensity, use perfect technique, and allow sufficient recovery between sets.
The primary goal of the conditioning portion of a training program is to get players in peak basketball shape. As mentioned before, basketball is a game involving varying bouts of very high-intensity activity. Conditioning workouts should reflect this. Workouts should incorporate drills that include sprinting, cutting, back pedaling, defensive sliding, and jumping; the more game-like the drill, the better. Players should strive for maximum effort every rep of every drill of every workout in order to truly reach their conditioning potential.
A good portion of each game is played in a defensive stance, and thus a well-designed conditioning workout should include this. A player must be trained to stay in, and move from, a solid defensive position for several minutes at a time. Sprints are important for conditioning, but only part of the overall program.
5 Conditioning Guidelines for Basketball
1. Energy System Specific: drills need to be short to medium in duration (15 seconds to 2 minutes) and very intense with limited rest.
2. Movement Specific: drills need to utilize basketball movement patterns: sprinting, back pedaling, and defensive sliding with special attention given to acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction. Players must also be able to plant and pivot off of either foot and remain in a low and athletic stance at all times with hands up.
3. Progressive: intensity and volume should increase, while rest should decrease. Workouts should get progressively harder over time.
4. Competitive: players will work harder when they are challenged with competition. They can compete against each other or against the clock (i.e. themselves and their own ability).
5. Fun: players will also work harder if they are having fun. Thus, it is good to use a variety of different drills to keep them from getting bored. The days of just running suicides are over!
While on-court, basketball-specific conditioning is the most efficient and effective way to get in basketball shape; the use of non-traditional, off-court modalities is recommended for improving a player's aerobic capacity. Swimming, biking, or riding an elliptical machine are excellent ways to improve overall fitness without the impact of running on the court. This is especially beneficial for players with knee tendinitis or similar 'overuse' issues.
Regardless of your actual training philosophy, the aforementioned guidelines should allow you to create a workout program that meets the specific needs of basketball players of all ages and levels.
Please visit the Stronger Team YouTube Channel for examples of basketball specific exercises and drills.
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.