Why In-Season Strength Training Is Important

In order for your team to reach its true potential on the basketball court, they must maintain the strength they built throughout the entire offseason. As obvious as it sounds, strength training is still a greatly underestimated aspect of preparation in many programs and often a neglected component during the actual playing season.

Just remember, your players are not Olympic lifters, power lifters, or bodybuilders, so they need not train that way. A safe, time-efficient and productive in-season program can take as little as 20 minutes twice a week.

The primary purpose of a strength training program is to reduce the occurrence and severity of injury. Basketball is very demanding physically. Making the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the body stronger will lessen the occurrence and/or severity of an injury (such as a pulled groin or rolled ankle), and keep your players on the court. Further, you will improve their performance on the court. The stronger your player is, the more force they can produce. The more force they can produce, the higher they can jump and the faster they can run.

But most importantly, strength is an attribute that can quickly diminish. In as little as three weeks your players may have a noticeable decrease in strength. That means every week that goes by, your team is getting weaker. Come playoff time your team will be physically at their weakest when you need them at their strongest.

How to Approach It

There are as many different strength training methodologies as there are ways to run a full court press or a fast break. Regardless of what you choose, safety, time efficiency and intensity should be the backbone of your strength training philosophy. Your main focus during the season should be to maintain (if not improve) each player’s overall muscular size and strength. Your in-season program should address their major muscle groups (legs, hips, core, and upper torso) as well as paying special attention to the most injury-prone areas: ankles, knees, groin, lower back, and hands.

Your goal as a coach should be to minimize risk within the training atmosphere. You should only use the safest exercises available, and do your best to make sure that all workouts are properly supervised. Players should always perfect exercise technique and form prior to utilizing additional resistance or weight. Additionally, players should perform every movement in a slow, controlled, and deliberate fashion, with special emphasis focused on the lower portion of each lift. Lastly, your players should work within an appropriate repetition range (8-15 reps for most high school and college basketball players) and avoid maxing out (seeing how much weight can be lifted in one repetition), as these practices can be very dangerous.

Time is a precious commodity for both you and your players, especially during the season. Therefore, the goal of your in-season strength program should be to get the best results possible in the shortest amount of time. You should use a limited number of sets and exercises during each workout (1-2 sets per exercise), while minimizing rest intervals (very little rest in between sets) to induce an overall conditioning effect. This will make each workout brief, but intense.

Intensity is the most important controllable factor in determining the results for your players. Below a certain level of intensity, strength training will have very little benefit. I define intensity as the level of effort exerted by the individual being trained. If a player is capable of lifting 100 pounds 15 times and they stop at 10, the exercise was clearly not as intense as it could have been. Therefore, it is recommended that each set is taken to the point of momentary muscular fatigue--the point at which no additional reps can be completed.

As you can see, there is not much difference between your off season strength training philosophy and your in season philosophy, with the exception of the volume. Given your players will be practicing and playing almost every day (at high levels of intensity) and will be in a constant state of fatigue from November to March, it is recommended you decrease the volume of each workout to reduce the overall wear and tear on their bodies. Do fewer sets and less total exercises, especially for the lower body.

While you certainly want your program to have balance, and work all muscle groups, the core is extremely important to staying injury free and performing well on the court. The core consists of the abdominals, lower back, obliques and hips, and is the center of all movement--which means core training is extremely important for basketball players. A strong core may help prevent hip and lower back injuries (which are especially common among taller players).

Manual Resistance

Manual resistance exercises are a fantastic tool to use during the season, as they require no equipment, can be done anywhere (which is great when your team is traveling), encourage communication among players, and are an effective way to build and maintain strength. Manual resistance exercises are strength training exercises in which a partner or coach applies the resistance instead of using weight such as a traditional barbell, dumbbell, or machine.

It is important to make sure that you and each member of your team understands the concept of manual resistance, so that the exercises are as productive as possible. Further, it is important that your team performs these exercises correctly, learning to apply resistance evenly throughout the entire range of motion and making sure that there is resistance on both the positive and negative portion of exercises.

The responsibilities of the lifter include performing slow and controlled repetitions, pausing at full contraction, and giving constant tension through a full range of motion. More specifically, this means that they need to “push or pull” against the tension the spotter provides on the positive part of the movement and “resist” against the tension on the negative portion. A common mistake many players make is not resisting during the negative of exercises. The responsibilities of the spotter include applying variable resistance through the entire range of motion and making sure the lifter keeps good posture.

In-Season Strength Training Workout Samples

  • Basketball push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Manual resistance lateral raise
  • Dumbbell standing shoulder press
  • Manual resistance rear deltoid
  • Seated row
  • Dips
  • Barbell curl
  • Plate pinchers (grip)
  • Forward & lateral lunge
  • One-legged dumbbell squat
  • One-legged leg curl on physio ball
  • Manual resistance hip adduction (groin)
  • One-legged dumbbell calf raise
  • Basketball plank hold (core)
  • Basketball woodchoppers (core)
  •  

Healthy Weight Gain Tips for Basketball Players

It's a weight-loss world. People of all ages are constantly trying to shed pounds, to tighten their frames and to make the scale spit out a smaller number. It's a billion-dollar industry.

So it's a bit awkward that so many young basketball players actually need togain weight.

If you're a teenage basketball player who's too skinny, you're hardly alone. Teenagers--both boys and girls--often feel like they're too underweight to play basketball to their highest ability. That's especially true for those who are tall and are forced to play physically in the paint.

"With adolescents, there's so much energy expended in growing taller, there's not a lot left over to grow out," said Becci Twombley. "That's a big issue."

Twombley is the nutritionist for the UCLA athletic department, and it's her job to make sure the Bruins' athletes are doing everything they can to add good weight to their often lanky frames.

From the time they enter high school until they're around 21 years old, some basketball players can eat whatever they want, as much as they want, and not gain a pound. While it's an uphill battle for a body that's still finishing its final growth spurt, there are things you can do to try to pack good weight onto your frame.

Eating Habits

First thing's first: eat a good breakfast. Before diving into a diet reconstruction, Twombley insists that without starting the day with breakfast, you don't stand a chance of putting on good weight.

"A lot of people get up and leave the house without breakfast," Twombley said. "Make sure you eat a big breakfast, not just a banana on the way out. Have oatmeal with sliced bananas, maybe some walnuts, a yogurt, a piece of fruit."

From there, set up your eating schedule so that you're consuming calories every three hours, instead of just three meals a day. Breaking up your eating into six meals gives you the opportunity to eat more calories. And calories are the key to any good weight gain.

"Don't eat so much at one sitting that you're not going to be hungry in three hours, because if you're overeating at one meal, you're going to be able to go six hours without eating," Twombley said. "The reality is, you can fit more calories in if you're eating every 3-4 hours during the day."

Twombley also insists that eating good food is as important as eating often. She stresses the need for young players to add in high-calorie food that's healthy. This includes:

  • Trail mix, which is a great grab-and-go snack with a lot of varieties available.
  • Granola
  • Cereals like Raisin Bran
  • Dried fruit
  • Avocados are a great food for those looking to gain good weight, due to its "good fat" content as well as Omega 3s. Avocadoes can be added to sandwiches, burritos, salads and other normal meals.

"A lot of my guys like to eat junk food," Twombley said. "They like to eat Doritos or chicken wings or chicken fingers with ranch dressing. Even though those are calories, they aren't functional calories so they don't actually do anything for them. If they eat them, they'll burn off really quickly because they have these great metabolisms and they're working so hard. But they're not getting the results they want to get."

So how many calories does an underweight player need? It depends on several factors, including age, maturity level and existing muscle mass. At UCLA, Twombley notices that most of the men's basketball players in need of weight gain can eat between 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day.

Female basketball players looking to add weight don't need as many calories as the guys because of less muscle mass. But at UCLA, they can still average between 3,000 and 4,000 calories a day.

Strength Training

While proper nutrition is key, it's also important to build muscle mass through strength training.

Alan Stein, the strength coach at basketball power DeMatha, says that the main component to weight gain is nutrition. He also said that from a strength training standpoint, he doesn't do anything special for players who specifically need to gain weight because "95 percent of all high school basketball players need to gain muscle mass and get stronger."

He does offer these three tips for players wanting to build muscle mass:

  • Lift like a bird, look like a bird. You need to progressively add resistance in order to get stronger and gain muscle weight. Don't be afraid to push weight! You should aim for a weight that is challenging to get 10-12 reps. Those last few reps should be really difficult. If you are still lifting the same weight 60 days later, you haven't gotten any stronger.
  • Get more bang for your buck. Don't bother with lateral raises and curls. Perform multi-joint exercises that work several muscle groups at once. Chest presses, shoulder presses, pull-ups, and rows for your upper body; and squats, deadlifts, lunges and step-ups for your lower body.
  • You are not an Olympic lifter or bodybuilder, so don't train like one. Strength training for basketball is a means to an end, not an end itself. You need to train for the demands of the game, not for show and not for skill. Doing three sets of concentration curls will do nothing to help you on the court. Your body functions as a unit on the court, so it should do the same in the weight room.

What You Can Expect

So you've got a plan in place, either through research or hiring a dietician or following some new guidelines.

When will you start seeing results?

Twombley breaks it down in three different groups, though it varies often by body types, and maturity levels:

  • For males under the age of 18, a gain of ½ pound a week is ambitious and may be a challenge.
  • For males over the age of 18 who have reached their peak height, you can gain a pound a week or more until you're around 20 years old.
  • For females, it's hard to gain much more than ½ pound or a pound a week.

It's important to realize, though, that there's no magic formula. Sometimes, your body won't respond like you want it to. At least not yet.

"Sometimes we'll get guys that come in at 18 or 19 that are still thin, but by 20 are filled out," Twombley said. "They're training just as hard, they're eating just as well. It's just that their bodies are now catching up."

Through the right nutritional habits coupled with strength training, you can maximize your potential to gain good weight. Beyond that, though, it's up to your body to respond favorably to your changes.

3 Ways to Make Nutrition Work for You

You've been working hard on your game. Your handles, your jump shot, your pull-up J -- it's all coming together. That's great, keep at it!

But there's an area of improved performance that most people don't even consider: nutrition.

Eating right will help you perform at your highest. It will help with recovery from tough games, practices, and lifting sessions. Proper nutrition is also HUGE in putting on strength and size. After all, you can't build a bigger house (body) without having enough bricks (calories).

Let's Be Realistic

I'd love to sit here and tell you that I want you to have a few servings of chicken breasts and broccoli everyday. But I'd bet on the Washington Generals winning a title before I'd bet on the chicken breast/broccoli combo happening with any consistency. I mean, I have a difficult enough time getting my adult clients to follow my nutrition advice. There's no way I'm getting a 16-year old that is used to eating fast food, soda, and Twinkies (as their staple), to jump on the lean protein, fruit 'n veggie, healthy carb and healthy fat bandwagon.

With that in mind, it's going to take some work to make this whole nutrition thing work for you, rather than against you. Let's find out how to make it happen.

It Doesn't Have To Taste Bad

When most people think of healthy food, they think of boring, bland and nasty tasting food (i.e. the chicken and broccoli mentioned above). Well I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be that way. There are many great recipes out there that are both healthy AND tasty. I believe Gourmet Nutrition is the best resource out there that delivers that coveted tasty and healthy combination. At our house, we make meals that come from this cookbook on a weekly basis.

Tip No. 1: Find a way to make healthy foods taste good. It is the only way (for most people) that you are going to stay with it over the long haul.

Parents/Coaches: It's Time To Step Up

Parents are the ones that are bringing the food home. So it is up to them to supply their children with fuel that will contribute to improving their kid's health and performance. It is pretty difficult for the athlete to properly fuel their body when they open their cupboards up to a bunch of chips and other snacks.

And coaches, you have the ability to lead by example. If your athletes see a coach that works out and eats healthy, the chances of him/her following your lead goes way up.

Tip No. 2: Parents and coaches, you have the ability to influence your kids in positive, or negative manner when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. The choice is yours.

Cook In Bulk

This tip is quick and to the point. Teenagers seem to have a bottomless gut! If you cook for just the meal at hand, then you'll be falling behind. With all of the games and practices kids play, they NEED to constantly be eating good quality foods. The easiest and most convenient way to do this is to cook in bulk and store the leftovers for later. This seems like such a simple tip but believe me, this can make or break you nutrition-wise.

Tip No. 3: When cooking, cook for the meal at hand, and make extra for the next few days to come. This will make life so much easier, and increase your chances for "nutrition success."

If eating healthy is just too boring for you, look into the Gourmet Nutrition cookbook. Parents and kids NEED to work together to make the above tips work. Together, you CAN use nutrition to help take your game to the next level!

A Nutritional Guide for Basketball Players

Optimum performance on the basketball court requires sound nutritional habits, as being adequately fueled directly affects your stamina and focus.

You can get your daily requirement of nutrients and calories through everyday food. It is rare to need the use of supplements, with the exception being weight-gain shakes for those of you who have trouble consuming adequate calories to provide for muscle gain. You should most certainly steer clear of performance-enhancing supplements, such as creatine and ephedrine, because of the possible side effects.

Do not underestimate the role nutrition plays in acquiring maximum physical development. What you eat on a daily basis helps to determine body fat levels, as well as how much energy you will have for intense workouts and practices. Whether you are trying to gain muscle, reduce body fat, or maintain your current stature, it is very important to follow these basic dietary recommendations:

  • A balanced diet consists of approximately 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent fat and 20 percent protein.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.).
  • Limit the intake of fat, sugar, and sodium.
  • Drink plenty of water. Many nutritionists recommend a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day.
  • Eat 5-7 small meals throughout the day. The size of the meal depends on the actual goal (weight loss vs. weight gain), as well as level of activity (two-a-days versus regular practice, tournaments versus regular games, etc.).

Weight Gain the Healthy Way

Most basketball players are tall and slender, and are looking to add muscular bodyweight. In order to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you expend on a daily basis. This means if you are looking to put on weight, you must eat, eat, and eat! Now for the select few looking to lose weight (i.e. reduce body fat), they must do the opposite -- consume fewer calories than they expend. This is done by controlling their portion sizes.

Below is just a very basic and general sample menu one can follow to get an idea of how much food he or she needs to consume on a daily basis to gain weight. A reasonable goal is to try and gain one pound per week for an 8-10 week stretch:

Example Menu No. 1

  • Breakfast: Orange juice, four pancakes w/syrup, and four scrambled eggs.
  • Snack: one cup of low fat yogurt, granola bar, and a banana.
  • Lunch: two deli sandwiches on whole wheat bread, an apple, and a glass of milk.
  • Snack: two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a glass of milk.
  • Dinner: Steak, potatoes, steamed vegetables, and a roll.
  • Snack: two sticks of string cheese and crackers

Example Menu No. 2

  • Breakfast: Granola with dried fruit and milk.
  • Snack: two cups of instant oatmeal.
  • Lunch: four slices of cheese pizza and a salad.
  • Snack: Trail mix: peanuts, raisins, and dried fruit.
  • Dinner: Pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, a vegetable, and milk.
  • Snack: Weight Gain Super Shake (see below)

Weight Gain Super Shake

  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 cup of low fat strawberry yogurt
  • 3 scoops of protein powder

How to Treat a Jammed Finger

If you've played basketball for any amount of time, this probably has happened to you.

You're going up for a rebound. Or you're trying to steal a pass from the other team. Or your dribbling was disrupted by a defender.

Whatever the case, the ball was deflected and awkwardly struck the tip of one of your fingers. In most cases, the pain isn't serious, but it's real.

You may have a jammed finger. Even though the ball might have hit the tip of your finger, the injury actually occurs in the knuckle because that's where the brunt of the trauma is absorbed.

A jammed finger is swollen, hard to bend and somewhat painful. It is a common basketball injury.

If your finger looks crooked or dislocated or is unbearably painful, see a doctor immediately. You may have broken your finger, which is more serious. But if your finger looks normal except for a little swelling and stiffness, a doctor may not be necessary.

As with any trauma-induced swelling, the popular "RICE" method should be used on a jammed finger. This involves resting it, icing it, compressing it with a wrap and elevating it.

Applying ice to a fresh injury will reduce swelling, which is the immediate goal of RICE treatment. So, too, will elevating it so blood moves away from the injury.

After a few days of rest and ice, slowly begin to work your finger back into shape. Start to bend it slightly--putting yourself only through minimal pain--as you work the swelling out of the joint. You know your body best so trust your pain tolerance. If it still hurts, don't push it.

In most cases, a little ice, a little rest and a little time is all that's needed to mend a jammed finger. Some injuries are more serious and require the attention of a doctor.

Either way, your finger should recover before long and before you know it, you'll be back on the court healthier than ever.

How to Develop Ankle Mobility

If you're on the sidelines with an injury, there is no chance that you are improving your game. Taking a proactive approach with injury prevention could be the difference in you becoming a good player, or staying an average player. Or maybe a big factor in what allows you to eventually become a GREAT player.

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing your game take off, only to get injured and sidelined for a prolonged period of time. If decreasing your chances of injury sounds like a good idea to you, then follow along...

Over the last few years there have been some great strength coaches talking about the importance of "ankle mobility." Unfortunately, when I take a look around at most gyms and high schools, the message is not getting out there.

As strength coach Mike Boyle brought to the forefront, some joints are made for mobility, while others are designed for stability. You see, if one joint loses mobility, we are going to go to the next joint to find this mobility (a joint that is meant to be stable, NOT mobile). So, if you are asking a joint designed for stability to become more mobile, then you are asking for trouble!

In regards to basketball players, this means that if we lose ankle mobility, the knee will have to "pick up the slack" and move more than it is designed to move. The knee joint is supposed to be a stable joint. And when we ask it to become mobile, guess what happens? Have you heard of the dreaded ACL injury?

Ask your dad about how many of his teammates were sidelined "back in his day," with ACL injuries. Today we are much smarter, doctors have had many years to get more research in, and technology has greatly advanced. In the old days, without all of these benefits, I'm sure your dad will tell you at least half of his team tore an ACL at one point in their career, right? Wrong! Back when Pistol Pete and Oscar Robertson were on top of the basketball world, there wasn't even an ACL problem. And today people seem to be going down with ACL injuries left and right. What's going on here?

I have no doubt this will surprise you, but here is a big problem: high-top shoes, ankles braces, and excessive taping of the ankles. We've gotten to the point that we put so much "gear" on the foot/ankle that I'm surprised our ankle can move at all. As I mentioned above, when we lose this range of motion in our ankle, our knee joint is the joint that is going to become more mobile. And this is a recipe for disaster.

Shoes

Pistol Pete (and your dad) used to wear All-Star Converse--the good 'ole Chuck Taylors!

These were shoes that did not restrict range of motion at the ankle. They didn't have this fancy "air" cushion at the heel--the more the heel is elevated you end up losing "dorsiflexion" range of motion.

We have basketball players wearing these restricted high-top shoes and ankle braces on the court. And now (again, ever since Air Jordans become popular) we have players wearing Jordans in school all day, going to the movies with their friends, and out on dates with their girlfriends.

And here is another problem: when your foot/ankle are dependent on the support provided by the high tops and ankle braces, the muscles basically stop working as they no longer need to work. The shoe and brace do all the work for you. In college, we had to wear ankle braces to every practice and every game. When I finished my college career, loving the game like I do, I continued to play quite a bit. There were times that I forgot to bring my ankle braces with me for pick-up games. And seriously, I could barely make it up and down the court one time without tweaking my ankle. My ankles had gotten so weak from the braces, that they couldn't support me at all.

What to Do, What to Do?

I'm not going to suggest that you wear low-top shoes every time you play basketball for now on. What I am going to do is suggest that you wear shoes that mimic a barefoot feel as much as possible. And, I always walk around my house barefoot--get your shoes off whenever possible! You should be wearing the "Nike Free" shoe, and/or Chuck Taylor's when you are just walking around school, or hanging out with friends.

Also, when you are in the gym lifting weights, wear these Frees or Chucks every time. Another smart thing is to go barefoot while doing your warm-ups (walking lunges, high knees, leg swings, etc) before lifting. Not only will this help you improve your range of motion of your ankle, it will help strengthen those muscles that were once dependent on your high-top shoes and/or ankles braces.

What Else Can You Do?

Before lifting, I have all of my basketball players performing ankle mobility drills. Below you will see two videos demonstrating how to do them. Depending on how limited your range of motion is, perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. For the single-leg ankle mob, make sure to keep the heel of the forward leg flat throughout the movement. And for the mobilization that involves both legs at the same time, elevate your feet onto two 5-pound plates. Once again, keep your heels flat throughout. With both exercises, make sure you do NOT shift your weight towards the inside of your foot or toes.

The Definitive 6-Week Guard Workout

Here is a six-week training program for a point guard or 2-guard that emphasizes first-step speed and overall strength and explosiveness. Below is the weekly schedule, followed by the specific exercises that correspond with the schedule:

Monday: Upper Body Lift No. 1 and Conditioning
Tuesday: Agilities and Lower Body Lift No. 1
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Upper Body Lift No. 2 and Conditioning
Friday: Agilities and Lower Body Lift No. 2
 

Strength Training

Sets: 1-2 sets per exercise
Reps: Reach muscular fatigue between 8-12 reps
Rest: Rest one or two minutes between exercises
 

Upper Body Workout No. 1

  • Chest fly
  • Bench press
  • Pullover
  • Pull-ups
  • Lateral raise
  • Shoulder press
  • Rear delt raise
  • Seated row
  • Tricep Extension
  • Bicep Curl

 

Upper Body Workout No. 2

  • Pulldown
  • Shoulder press
  • High row
  • Incline press
  • Seated row
  • Chest press
  • Low row
  • Decline press
  • Upright row
  • Dip

 

Lower Body Workout No. 1

  • Squats
  • Leg curl
  • Walking Lounge
  • Hip adduction (groin)
  • Lower back extension
  • Calf raise
  • Abs

 

Lower Body Workout No. 2

  • Leg press
  • Straight Leg deadlift
  • Step-ups
  • Hip abduction
  • Wall sit
  • Calf raise
  • Abs
  •  

Agility

Here are some drills that will help improve agility, quickness and reaction time.

Drills: Pick 3 drills each workout
Time: Perform each drill for 20 seconds
Reps: Perform 5 reps for each drill
Rest: Rest 60 seconds between drills
 

Ball Drop

Benefits: Footwork, hand quickness, eye-hand coordination
Reps: 30 seconds
Sets: 4-6
Rest: 60-90 seconds
Instructions:

  • Stand arms length away from partner in defensive stance
  • Partner holds tennis ball in each hand
  • Sprint to ball after partner's throw
  • Catch ball before second bounce
  • Toss back to partner and sprint back to starting position
  • React and sprint to next throw from partner
  • Partner should vary distance, direction and speed of throws

Coaching Point: Your partner should vary the hand he uses on throws and constantly change-up the pattern. For example, throw left hand, left hand, left hand and then right hand because it's much more unpredictable then throwing left hand, right hand, left hand. This forces you to react faster and improve your first-step.

Block to Block

Benefits: Lateral quickness and agility
Reps: 12-15 seconds
Sets: 4-6
Rest: 60-90 seconds
Instructions:

  • Stand in lane in athletic position between the blocks
  • Partners kneels at top of key behind three point line with two basketballs
  • Partner rolls one ball to either block
  • Defensive slide to block, tap ball back to partner, slide back to starting position
  • React to next roll and repeat

Coaching Point: Don't ever cross your feet and make sure to stay low with your chest up and your hands up and active. You have to stay low to the ground so you can reach the ball and tap it back to your partner. Your hands should be in front and active like they are in a game so you can catch a pass or grab a rebound. If your hands are in by your sides you can't do these things in a game and you can't perform this drill. And most importantly, work hard. Your intensity of effort during this drill is crucial.

Star Drill

Benefits: Reaction and short burst quickness
Reps: 15 seconds
Sets: 4-6
Rest: 60-90 seconds
Instructions:

  • Place five cones around three point line
  • Perform athletic movement such as backboard taps, or defensive slides from block to block
  • When partner calls number of cone, sprint to cone and sprint back to starting spot
  • Continue performing original movement
  • React to partner's next call and sprint to and from cone
  • Repeat

Coaching Point: Adjust the drill by sprinting to the cone as if you are closing out on a shooter. Chop your feet as you get close to the cone, get low and keep a hand up to put a hand in the imaginary shooters face. Then sprint back to the start. You can also change the movement pattern used such as sprinting to the cone and then backpedaling back to the start. Each different movement helps work another part of your game.

Highest Point

Benefits: Focus and explosiveness
Reps: 1 jump
Sets: 10-12
Rest: 5-10 seconds
Instructions:

  • Player stands in a solid box out position as if about to rebound
  • Partner tosses two (to four) different colored balls into the air (you can use painted whiffle balls, racquet balls, or tennis balls for this drill.)
  • Partner calls out a color
  • Player vertically jumps to catch the corresponding colored ball at its highest point

Coaching point: Player should stay in a low athletic stance and keep their hands up and active. They should try and keep the caught ball above their shoulders once caught and return to their original stance as quickly as possible.

2 Ball Pick Up

Benefits: First step and lateral quickness
Reps: 1 sprint (plus additional ball pick-ups)
Sets: 10-12
Rest: 30-60 seconds
Instructions:

  • Player faces forward and assumes a push-up position (with partner behind)
  • Partner rolls tennis balls (in the direction the player is facing) one at a time (with about a one second delay in between rolls) at varying angles and speeds
  • Player sprints to the first ball, picks it up and turns around (to face partner), assumes a defensive stance and then slides laterally to pick up the second oncoming ball

Coaching point: Player should spring to his/her feet as quickly as possible and sprint directly towards the first ball rolled. They should pick it up with the closest hand and turn to survey the next ball.

Color Match Up

Benefits: Concentration and agility
Reps: 1 series of match ups
Sets: 6-8
Rest: 15-30 seconds
Instructions:

  • Four different colored cones (red, blue, green, and yellow) are arranged in a square about 5-10 yards apart
  • A non-matching colored ball is placed on each cone (red ball with yellow cone, green ball with blue cone, etc.). You can use painted whiffle balls, racquet balls, or tennis balls for this drill.
  • The player is placed in the middle of the square with eyes closed
  • Partner says "Go" and tosses the player a 5th ball (any color)
  • Player opens his/her eyes, catches the colored ball, and sprints to the same color cone
  • Player then takes the colored ball from that cone and sprints to the same color cone, etc.
  • Continue until all of the colored balls match the colored cones

Coaching point: Players should stay low and in an athletic stance and use short choppy steps to close out to the cone. To make competitive see who can match up the correct balls and cones the quickest.

Conditioning

The primary goal of your conditioning program should be to get in peak basketball shape. There is a huge difference between being fit and being in basketball shape. Being able to run three miles is great for cross-country but not necessarily for basketball. Basketball is a game of starting and stopping and jumping with varying bouts of very high intensity activity. Your conditioning workouts should mimic this. You should aim for each workout to incorporate drills that include sprinting, cutting, back pedaling, defensive sliding, and jumping. The more game-like the drill, the better. You must go all out every rep of every drill in every workout to truly reach your conditioning potential.

There are two reasons why you should participate in a comprehensive conditioning program; the first is for injury prevention. It is important acclimate your body's muscles and joint structures through the specific motions used in basketball. If your conditioning program only incorporates straight-ahead sprinting (a typical track workout), you will not sufficiently prepare the hip, groin, and ankle areas, all of which are high-risk areas for basketball players. The second reason you need to condition is for performance enhancement. A proper conditioning program establishes a solid fitness foundation and will reduce your mental and physical fatigue toward the end of a game.

A good portion of every game is played in a defensive stance and thus a well-designed conditioning workout should reflect this. You must be trained to stay in, and move from, a solid defensive position for several minutes at a time. Sprints are only a part of the overall program. To get into great basketball shape, your conditioning program must be:

  1. Energy system specific. Your conditioning drills need to be short to medium in duration (15 seconds to two minutes) and very intense with limited rest.
  2. Movement specific. Utilize basketball movement patterns: sprinting, back pedaling, defensive sliding, and jumping (limit jumping and emphasize defensive position). Stress changing direction (agility) and the importance of being able to plant off of either foot. Emphasize being in a low and athletic stance at all times with hands up.
  3. Progressive. You need to increase intensity, increase volume, and/or decrease rest. Your workouts should get progressively harder.

Drills: Pick 4 drills each workout
Time: Perform each drill for 45 seconds
Reps: Perform 4 reps for each drill
Rest: Rest 60 seconds between drills
 

Zig Zag

Start in one corner of the court. Sprint to the closest elbow, reverse pivot, and defensive slide to where mid-court and the sideline intersect. Then drop step and sprint to the next elbow, reverse pivot, and defensive slide to the corner baseline. Lastly back pedal (hands held above your head) back to the starting point. Repeat for the desired time or reps.

Full Court Z

Start in one corner of the court. Defensive slide (facing away from the court) up the sideline to mid-court, drop step, and sprint diagonally to the opposite corner (on the same baseline) from where you started. Then back pedal (hands held above your head) to the corner of the far baseline. Then jog the baseline and begin the drill again from this corner.

Hourglass

Start in one corner of the court. Sprint diagonally across the court to the opposite corner, drop step, and defensive slide (facing the court) to the other corner. Sprint diagonally across the court to the opposite corner, drop step, and defensive slide (facing the court) back to where you started.

Up the Alley

Start at one elbow. Sprint straight ahead to the far baseline, defensive slide to the close sideline, back pedal (hands held overhead) the length of the court, and then defensive slide to the lane and repeat for desired reps or time.

4 Line Drills for Quick Feet

Do you want to have an extra edge over your competition?

Do you wish you were a step quicker?

Would you like to start blowing by your defender?

Here are some of my favorite foot-quickness drills that you can do anywhere as long as you have a decent pair of shoes, a stop watch, some tape or a line, and a whole lot of heart.

If you practice these drills two or three times a week, with one day of rest in between, I guarantee you will develop quicker feet and become a more explosive basketball player.

Keep this in mind for all of these drills: Select three of your favorites and perform two sets of 5-10 second intervals. Your focus must always be quick ground contacts--not conditioning.

Double Leg Forward And Backward Line Hops

  1. Stand with both feet behind a line/piece of tape on a soft surface or gym floor.
  2. Explosively and quickly jump backwards and forward over the line while being light, quick and effortless on your feet. (Visualize stepping on hot coals).
  3. Repeat pattern for desired amount of time.
  4. Use a 1:3 work to rest ratio.

Double Leg Side To Side Line Hops

  1. Stand with both feet on the side of a line/piece of tape on a soft surface or gym floor.
  2. Explosively and quickly jump side to side over the line while being light, quick and effortless on your feet. (Visualize stepping on hot coals).
  3. Repeat pattern for desired amount of time.
  4. Use a 1:3 work to rest ratio.

X Hops Over The Line

  1. Stand with one foot on the left side and one foot on the right side of a line/piece of tape on a soft surface or gym floor.
  2. Explosively and quickly cross right foot over left foot in an X pattern over the line while being light, quick and effortless on your feet. (Visualize stepping on hot coals). Be sure to alternate feet each set.
  3. Repeat pattern for desired amount of time.
  4. Use a 1:3 work to rest ratio.

Muhammad Ali Line Shuffle

  1. Stand with both feet behind a line/piece of tape on a soft surface or gym floor.
  2. Explosively and quickly alternate the left and right foot over the front of the line while being light, quick and effortless on your feet. (Visualize stepping on hot coals).
  3. Repeat pattern for desired amount of time.
  4. Use a 1:3 work to rest ratio.

Remember, reading these drills will not make you quicker. But actually performing them regularly two or these times a week will provide you with great results and a noticeable increase in your foot quickness and explosion.

If you have trouble at first on some of the drills, don’t worry. Just slow yourself down until you master the movement. Always remember form before speed. It takes over 17,000 times to build a new habit so be persistent.

How to Improve Your Court Speed

All athletes need speed--particularly in a sport like basketball where the first player up and down the court can mean the difference in winning or losing a game.

In the world of sports, the fastest, quickest athletes are usually the most successful. But exactly what kind of speed and quickness is best for basketball?

Many coaches may place too much emphasis on "straight-ahead" speed by, for example, focusing too much of their attention on getting their athletes to run a faster 40-yard dash. In a sport like basketball, this isn't necessarily going to be the kind of speed that's going to make for a more effective player. Seldom, if ever, does a player run baseline to baseline in a straight line, and even if they did, a fast 40-yard dash might not equate to an effectively fast basketball player.

Having fast top-end speed measured at 40 yards wouldn't necessarily make you as effective as perhaps being a bit slower in the 40, but having the quickness and explosiveness to be faster down the court (which is a shorter distance).

Most sprinting in basketball starts from moving or "rolling" positions, not a stationary one. So, some of your training should be spent with that in mind. Performing your speed training from different starting positions such as turning and sprinting from a backpedal, accelerating from a side-shuffle, or running after getting up from the floor (simulating being knocked down and having to get up and hustle down the court) translates into more "real world" training for basketball players than simply lining up at one baseline and sprinting to the other.

This doesn't mean there is no room in your training for that kind of sprinting. It may have a place in your conditioning program--to build, for example, speed endurance. But, don't confuse this type of training with working on your game speed.

Here are three tips that can help athletes plan a program designed to improve their basketball speed:

Build Strength

Before any speed work is done, an athlete must have adequate strength. Without it, you might as well be trying to get a car to go 100 miles per hour with a go-cart's engine. Studies have shown that weight training to build strength can improve running speed. We're not talking about building big muscles here. We're talking about building strong muscles that can help us produce speed.

A basic strength-building program for speed includes strengthening the legs (calves, hamstrings, and quads) with exercises such as calf raises, squats, leg curls and extensions; strengthening the upper body with exercises such as dumbbell (bench) press, seated row, shoulder raises, bicep curls, and triceps extensions; and the core muscles (abdominals and back) by using regular crunches from the floor, stability ball crunches, oblique rotations, and back extensions. These basic exercises and more can help the basketball athlete begin to develop the strength necessary to build speed.

Work on Acceleration and Quickness

Acceleration is the ability to increase velocity. The key here is how quickly you can increase your speed. This is perhaps more important in basketball than raw speed, because unlike a sport like track where all the athletes take off at the same time, basketball players must be quick to recognize when they must start a sprint--such as a rebound leading to a fast break--and then be able to accelerate quickly. In basketball, having the ability to accelerate from a stationary position or from a moving position is equally important.

Drills such as learning the proper 45-degree body position to begin acceleration, or using the proper arm action in the sprint can be helpful in this type of training. Each of these seemingly simple, but often overlooked aspects to becoming faster can help athletes improve their acceleration.

Don't Forget Deceleration

Training for speed without including deceleration training is like learning to drive a car very fast without brakes. Athletes need effective speed, and effective speed means being fast, but under control.

When a basketball player dribbles fast down the court for a breakaway lay-up, she'd better be able to effectively slow down as she approaches the basket. Otherwise, she's out of control, and will probably miss the lay-up and perhaps even get injured.

Braking or decelerating is extremely important to speed training--perhaps the most important skill in basketball speed training. This may seem counter intuitive to some, but in order to have effective speed on the basketball court, the athlete must be able to run fast, decelerate or slow down, and reaccelerate into a sprint, cut, or jump. Slowing down properly actually aids in the athlete's ability to reaccelerate. A fast, out-of-control player is not very effective in a game. So make sure that learning proper deceleration techniques are an integral part of your speed workouts.

An extensive discussion about proper deceleration technique is complex and beyond the scope of this article. However, many experts suggest that two key components to good deceleration is in keeping nice flexed or bent knees, and in lowering the athlete's hips during deceleration--whether from a sprint or from a landing.

5 Recovery Exercises for the Downtime

In order to be your best this pre-season, you need some rest during the month of August.

Most players have been going hard with individual workouts, AAU tournaments, summer league games, and elite camps. I know of several players who haven't slept in their bed at home for more than a dozen times the entire summer!

With such a rigorous schedule, your body is banged up, fatigued, and broken down. You need to get in some quality active rest between now and when school starts. Honestly, scheduling an adequate period of active rest may be the most important thing you do all summer.

You need to get away from the game, mentally and physically, to re-charge your battery and be refreshed and ready to start the school year and your team's preseason workouts.

I recommend you take anywhere from a few days, to two full weeks, and do nothing physically active except for the five recovery exercises listed below. You need to evaluate your current state. If your summer wasn't too exhausting, then take a few days off. If your summer was packed tighter than an airplane bathroom... then you should probably take an entire week or two off.

And when I say "off"... I mean off. That means no lifting, no conditioning, no shooting, no ball handling and no pick-up games. Trust me, it will do you good.

Perform the following exercises every day during your active rest period:

 

Lacrosse Ball Foot Massage

Why it's important: Basketball players' feet are constantly confined to rigid, stiff basketball shoes and ankle braces 20-25 hours a week. If your feet are constantly in basketball shoes, your ankles and feet get weaker and less mobile. Performing a "self massage" on a lacrosse ball helps loosen up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your feet.

How it's done: In just your socks, balance on one foot and roll your other foot on top of the lacrosse ball. The more weight you put on the ball, the more pressure and the deeper the massage.

How many reps: Do two sets of 30 seconds for each foot.

 

Foam Roller

Why it's important: It has a similar premise to the lacrosse ball. It's a self-massage that helps elongate your muscles and rid your body of lactic acid and "knots."

How it's done: Start with your lower calf. Roll back and forth on top of the foam roller as if you were kneading dough. Follow the same protocol for your hamstrings, butt, outside of your hip, lower back, upper back, and your shoulder.

How many reps: Roll over each body part for 30 seconds.

Variation: You can substitute the foam roller with an over-inflated basketball.

 

Lunge and Reach Stretch

Why it's important: Great stretch for the entire body!

How it's done: Step out as far as you can into a forward lunge. Keep your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders facing forward. Put your palms on the floor in front of you (inside of your front leg). Straighten you back leg. If your left leg is forward, keep your right palm on the ground and raise your left palm toward the ceiling (by rotating your core). Look up as you reach up. Then perform the same movement with your other hand (left leg forward, raise your right hand). Then switch legs and repeat.

How many reps: Perform 5 reps for each hand on each leg.

 

Assisted Hamstring Stretch

Why it's important: Tight hamstrings can cause numerous problems.

How it's done: Lay on your back with both legs flat. Wrap a towel or elastic band or jump rope around the middle part of one foot. Keeping both legs straight (one stays on the ground), slowly pull your foot towards your nose. Make sure your ankle stays dorsi-flexed ("toes to your nose"). Hold for 15 seconds. Then, keeping your torso and hips flat on the ground, drop your leg laterally (if you are stretching your left leg, drop your leg down to the left). For a more intense stretch, continue to pull your foot towards the top of your head. This is a great groin stretch. Hold for 15 seconds. Lastly, cross over and drop your leg to the opposite side. For a more intense stretch, continue to pull your foot towards the top of your head. This will give a stretch to your low back and IT band. Hold for 15 seconds.

How many reps: Perform 3 rounds of all 3 phases (straight, lateral, crossover... each round takes 45 seconds).

 

Bodyweight Hangs

Why it's important: Helps decompress your spine.

How it's done: Find a sturdy pull-up bar that is high enough that you can hang from it without your feet touching the ground. Then simply grab the bar and hang. Let every muscle relax and let gravity decompress your spine.

How many reps: Hang for 3 sets of 15 seconds.

3 Drills for an Explosive First Step

When you have the ball, you control the game. The defense is at your mercy. You know exactly where you want to go and when you want to go there. This alone gives you a decided advantage over the defense. But adding an explosive first step to your arsenal can give you an even bigger advantage. Quickness is one of the top three traits for a basketball player. The quicker you are with the ball, the more of a threat you are as an offensive player. In order to be quicker with the ball you need to utilize game speed ball handling drills and quickness/reaction drills in your training program.

These drills add an element of reaction. The ability to read and react to visual and audible cues is important in the game of basketball.

The following three drills will improve your quickness, agility and reaction time. Perform two to three of these drills twice a week during the offseason. The time each drill is performed and the rest time between sets can transform each drill from a quickness drill to a conditioning drill. Because there’s a time and place for conditioning, make sure to stick to the prescribed times to keep these drills improving your quickness so you can achieve the most benefit for your first-step and scoring ability.

Ball Drop

Benefits: Footwork, hand quickness, eye-hand coordination

Reps: 30 seconds

Sets: 4-6

Rest: 60-90 seconds

Instructions:

  • Stand arms length away from partner in defensive stance
  • Partner holds tennis ball in each hand
  • Sprint to ball after partner’s throw
  • Catch ball before second bounce
  • Toss back to partner and sprint back to starting position
  • React and sprint to next throw from partner
  • Partner should vary distance, direction and speed of throws

Coaching Point: Your partner should vary the hand he uses on throws and constantly change-up the pattern. For example, throw left hand, left hand, left hand and then right hand because it’s much more unpredictable then throwing left hand, right hand, left hand. This forces you to react faster and improve your first-step.

Block to Block

Benefits: Lateral quickness and agility

Reps: 12-15 seconds

Sets: 4-6

Rest: 60-90 seconds

Instructions:

  • Stand in lane in athletic position between the blocks
  • Partners kneels at top of key behind three point line with two tennis balls
  • Partner rolls one ball to either block
  • Defensive slide to block, tap ball back to partner, slide back to starting position
  • React to next roll and repeat

Coaching Point: Don’t ever cross your feet and make sure to stay low with your chest up and your hands up and active. You have to stay low to the ground so you can reach the ball and tap it back to your partner. Your hands should be in front and active like they are in a game so you can catch a pass or grab a rebound. If your hands are in by your sides you can’t do these things in a game and you can’t perform this drill. And most importantly, work hard. Your intensity of effort during this drill is crucial.

 

Star Drill

Benefits: Reaction and short burst quickness

Reps: 15 seconds

Sets: 4-6

Rest: 60-90 seconds

Instructions:

  • Place five cones around three point line
  • Perform athletic movement such as backboard taps, or defensive slides from block to block
  • When partner calls number of cone, sprint to cone, challenge an imaginary shot, and back pedal back to starting spot
  • Continue performing original movement
  • React to partner’s next call and sprint to and from cone
  • Repeat

Coaching Point: Adjust the drill by sprinting to the cone as if you are closing out on a shooter. Chop your feet as you get close to the cone, get low and keep a hand up to put a hand in the imaginary shooters face. Then sprint back to the start. You can also change the movement pattern used such as sprinting to the cone and then backpedaling back to the start. Each different movement helps work another part of your game.

2 Ways to Maximize Training Time

Time is a valuable commodity. Unfortunately, not every athlete can afford to spend countless hours in the gym working on their game. While some athletes are blessed with the opportunity to focus on the game of basketball while their parents pay the bills, many players don't have the choice but to have a job in the summer or even work year round.

Either way, whether you have an hour a day to spend in the gym or four hours, the same challenge always remains: how do you get the most out of your time?

Skills and Athleticism

Athleticism is an important part of being a basketball player, and there are many tools, resources, and ways for players to work on quickness, speed, agility, coordination, and jumping. Some players will jump rope, some run a few miles across a hot, sandy beach and others strap a parachute on their back and run with some added resistance.

However, while these methods may help increase overall athleticism, they all require time. Look around you and you will notice many, many players who have used their time for the purpose of being more athletic. The problem is too many have sacrificed the time they needed for skill work, in order to become faster, stronger, and jump higher. The truth is, time must be spent on your skills and your athleticism. That means, for the sake of efficiency, players must find ways to work on both at the same time.

If you want to work on your quickness, speed, and agility without losing out on the reps you need to become a better shooter, ball handler, and skilled player, go out and get an agility ladder. Jump ropes are absolutely necessary for basketball training, but if you are short on time you can't dribble or shoot a basketball while holding onto a jump rope.

A basketball, on the other hand, can be carried through an agility ladder. This provides you with the opportunity to take many shots, from game spots, at game speed, while working on your quickness, balance and overall athleticism. Research some agility ladder footwork, lay one down, carry a basketball through it, and then shoot or drive to the basket. Your workout will immediately become more time efficient and basketball specific.

Free Throws

Let's look at the above question from the perspective of the free throw shot.

Basketball players must take game shots, from game spots, at game speed. They must also learn how to take game free throws. It's not enough to stand at the free-throw line, go through your routine, and just shoot 100 free throws per day. If you never shoot free throws when you are tired, you won't be ready to knock the important foul shots down when you are exhausted in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

That being said, there are many ways to get tired, but not as many ways to get tired in a basketball-efficient manner. Running countless sprints and suicides may be able to take the wind out of your lungs, but what if you only have 15 minutes to practice your foul shots?

Give this a go. First, break up your free throws. It's not realistic to stand at the line and shoot 25 or 50 straight, because the most you will ever shoot in a game is three in a row. Then, add pushups. Shoot two, do five pushups. Shoot three, do five pushups. Shoot two, do five pushups.

As your arms get tired you will have to rely on your legs, which is a great way to simulate the fourth quarter when your legs are needed most.

If you are a little skeptical, think of it this way: when it comes to training efficiently, you don't necessarily want to burn out your legs for free throw practice. After all, you'll need them fresh for the agility ladder.

5 Jump Rope Drills to Improve Quickness

One staple in the game of basketball and conditioning has long been the jump rope. While every tool has its place, the jump rope is a tool that I use regularly for two reasons:

• The natural rhythmic pattern of having to turn the rope and jump/bounce at the same time, there is a major coordination factor involved.

• Quick contacts with the feet force athletes to stay on the front half of their foot - thus improving the "elasticity" of the lower leg (this means quicker and more explosive!).

Here are 5 of my favorite and most effective jump rope drills:

Quick Feet

While this isn't the most exciting variation of jump roping, it's perhaps the most important. You will simply start with both feet on the ground at the same time while you're turning the rope as quickly as you possibly can. Do not underestimate the effectiveness of this drill. This is a great starting point if you aren't able to currently jump rope and if you are a master you can always work at improving your quickness.

Lateral Quick Feet

This variation is the exact same as the above drill except you're going to move side to side instead of just up and down. This will help improve your ability to move laterally. This is a great starting point for improving the foot/ankle complex to control stability (balance and control) while being quick.

Ali Shuffle

With this drill you will start with your feet staggered (one foot forward and one foot backward). You will then jump up and switch the feet so that you now have your other foot forward. Continue in this pattern working at contacting the ground at the same time with both feet.

The Ali shuffle will help greatly with learning to recover with one foot forward (much like defense).

Hurdle Step

Start with one leg off the ground with the knee up toward waist height. You will hold that leg up and in position while hopping up and down on the other foot.

This drill is great for improving single-leg power and elasticity. Make sure you start with shorter times (or fewer reps) with this drill as the stress on the lower leg is MUCH higher than the double leg versions listed above. Too much single-leg jump roping can cause shin splints!

Lateral Hurdle Step

This is exactly the same as above except you are jumping side to side while on the one leg. This is very challenging as it incorporates stability in the foot/ankle complex.

Bonus Exercise - Double Jumps

If you're already good at jump roping and you're looking to improve your jumping ability one of the best drills I know are the double jumps. Start like Quick Feet except instead of doing only one turn of the rope you will make two turns of the rope each time you jump.

Because of the height you are jumping it works great at improving the power in the lower leg (picture higher jumps).

As a general rule I like jump roping drills to last about 10-30 seconds if you're trying to improve your quickness or jumping ability. As you get better, do more sets/reps of the 10-30s intervals and shrink your rest time in between sets. Below you will find a sample 10-minute program:

  • Quick Feet: 3 x 30s, rest 15s between each 30s rep
  • Lateral Quick Feet 3 x 30s, rest 15s between each 20s rep
  • Ali Shuffle 3 x 30s, rest 15s between each 30s rep
  • Hurdle Step 3 x 5s, each leg, rest 10s
  • Lateral Hurdle Step 3 x 5s, each leg, rest 10s
  • Double Jumps 2 x 10 (20 total)

Techniques to Improve a Player’s Explosiveness on the Court

Explosiveness, as it pertains to basketball, is a combination of strength, power, conditioning, flexibility and skill proficiency. These traits are vital to the success of basketball players at every level and they improve through proper training. Even someone considered a “mediocre” player has the opportunity to shine on your squad if that player works to improve explosiveness.

Gone are the days of simply playing pick-up basketball to improve as a player. To reach their potential on the court, players must be encouraged to work on skills outside of just playing basketball in order to improve their game. It is critical they participate in a truly comprehensive training program, which maximizes their athletic ability. In addition to drilling fundamentals, your players need to include strength-training exercises, low-level plyometrics, conditioning drills and flexibility movements.

In particular, a player’s explosiveness on the court successfully develops through the use of plyometrics.

A properly implemented training program improves your team’s overall performance by getting your players to run faster, jump higher and box out stronger. This program needs to reflect the true motions of basketball — short, high-intensity bursts of energy, which include sprinting, backpedaling, defensive sliding and jumping. Have your workouts reflect these movement patterns. By doing so, your team has the ability to compete at a high level for the entire game, which is the difference between good teams and great teams. And, don’t be scared about who your are coaching when it comes to implementing a plyometrics training program as it is designed for both male and female players ranging from junior high to the professional level.

What are Plyometrics?

“Plyometrics” is a huge buzz word in the athletic industry right now. To place everyone on the same page, plyometrics are exercises usually involving some form of explosive movement such as jumping, hopping or bounding movement for the lower body, as well as some swinging, pushing and throwing for the upper body. Plyometrics are designed to increase power, coordination, balance and quickness.

These exercises work by using the force of gravity or of a weighted medicine ball to store the potential energy in the muscles. Then, this energy is released immediately in the opposite direction. The energy stored, in addition to the physiological responses and mechanisms in the body (myotatic reflex) during the eccentric (negative, muscle lengthening) phase of a muscle contraction, is used to produce a more powerful concentric (positive, muscle shortening) phase of muscle contraction — simply stated — a more explosive movement.

Be sure to pick appropriate plyometric exercises so they are safe and a productive supplemental training tool for your players. The game of basketball already is plyometric in nature, so adding a large volume of additional plyometric exercises is counterproductive and produces overuse injuries such as orthopedic trauma to the joints, tendons, ligaments, and bones, which occurs from too much impact. Use as soft a surface as possible to reduce orthopedic stress placed on the body as it is not necessarily the jumping that potentially causes problems but rather the landing. Be very cautious when having players jump off boxes and/or performing weight jumps. As explained later in the article, players should jump onto boxes instead of off them. This ensures you are maximizing the positive part of jumping (explosiveness) while minimizing the negative part (impact from landing).

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Improving Explosiveness To improve explosiveness, which is critical to gaining an edge in the game of basketball, have players concentrate on the following five areas. 1. Strength. Increasing strength in legs, hips and core automatically improves a player’s ability to produce force, which results in increased explosiveness. For example, the more force a player exerts against the ground, the higher the potential is to jump. To do this, while also being safe about it, players need to work within an appropriate repetition range (8-15 reps per set) and avoid maxing out (seeing how much they can lift for one repetition). Plus, as with most activities, time is of the essence. Efficiency in workouts is key, so players need to focus on a limited number of sets and exercises to make the workout brief yet intense. This also is accomplished by minimizing rest intervals between sets to induce an overall conditioning effect. Also, focus your strength program on training the entire body equally to ensure muscle balance, as well as having each exercise taken to the point of momentary muscular fatigue (the point where no further reps can be achieved). Working opposite muscle groups equally also helps reduce the risk of on-court injuries while still allowing the player to train at a high level of intensity to produce maximum results. Accomplish all of this in two or three well-planned, full-body workouts per week with each workout lasting about an hour. 2. Power. Sure, it sounds obvious, if a player wants to jump higher, that player needs to practice jumping as high as possible. Plyometric exercises such as jumping, skipping, bounding, etc. provide a means for players to practice jumping with maximal effort in a controlled and safe environment. Plus, a proper plyometric program trains the nervous system to perform athletic movements more efficiently. Once again, look for exercises that reduce impact and orthopedic stress. Use soft training surfaces and make sure players are wearing proper footwear. Stress that in plyometric training more is not necessarily better. Once all of that is accomplished, have players try squat jumps, broad jumps, lateral bounds and box jumps (have players jump onto boxes and walk off the boxes to reduce impact). Have players perform these exercises when their legs are fresh.

Improving Explosiveness

To improve explosiveness, which is critical to gaining an edge in the game of basketball, have players concentrate on the following five areas.

1. Strength. Increasing strength in legs, hips and core automatically improves a player’s ability to produce force, which results in increased explosiveness. For example, the more force a player exerts against the ground, the higher the potential is to jump. To do this, while also being safe about it, players need to work within an appropriate repetition range (8-15 reps per set) and avoid maxing out (seeing how much they can lift for one repetition). Plus, as with most activities, time is of the essence. Efficiency in workouts is key, so players need to focus on a limited number of sets and exercises to make the workout brief yet intense. This also is accomplished by minimizing rest intervals between sets to induce an overall conditioning effect.

Also, focus your strength program on training the entire body equally to ensure muscle balance, as well as having each exercise taken to the point of momentary muscular fatigue (the point where no further reps can be achieved). Working opposite muscle groups equally also helps reduce the risk of on-court injuries while still allowing the player to train at a high level of intensity to produce maximum results.

Accomplish all of this in two or three well-planned, full-body workouts per week with each workout lasting about an hour.

2. Power. Sure, it sounds obvious, if a player wants to jump higher, that player needs to practice jumping as high as possible. Plyometric exercises such as jumping, skipping, bounding, etc. provide a means for players to practice jumping with maximal effort in a controlled and safe environment. Plus, a proper plyometric program trains the nervous system to perform athletic movements more efficiently. Once again, look for exercises that reduce impact and orthopedic stress. Use soft training surfaces and make sure players are wearing proper footwear. Stress that in plyometric training more is not necessarily better.

Once all of that is accomplished, have players try squat jumps, broad jumps, lateral bounds and box jumps (have players jump onto boxes and walk off the boxes to reduce impact). Have players perform these exercises when their legs are fresh.

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3. Flexibility. Improving the range of motion in a joint or group of joints is how to achieve greater flexibility. Explosiveness comes from improving flexibility in a player’s hamstrings, ankles, lower back and hips. Improving flexibility is best accomplished by performing all strength-training movements through a full range of motion, as well as performing dynamic flexibility exercises before every workout or practice. This means you should not allow players to sit on the ground and do static stretching — it does nothing to increase overall flexibility. Dynamic flexibility exercises also assist in developing coordination and motor ability, both of which are attributes that help improve a player’s explosiveness. 4. Skill Proficiency. Don’t overlook proper skill training when trying to improve players’ explosiveness on the court. Decreasing the time it takes to perform a specific basketball skill is in essence increasing the speed at which the skill is performed. Thus, increasing the speed at which a skill is executed results in improved explosiveness on the court. The most effective and practical way to improve skill proficiency is to perform skills through hours of task-specific skill practice. Have players practice specific skills as those skills are to be used in competition (or at least at game speed). For example, the more efficient a guard becomes at shooting a jump shot, the more range that guard has. Competent coaching, studying videotape and hours of perfect practice are the best ways to increase skill proficiency. 5. Conditioning Level. Keep players in basketball shape to improve their ability to increase their explosiveness on the court. Preventing or delaying the onset of fatigue is crucial to performance. A well-prepared and well-conditioned player should be just as strong and skillful in the second half of the game as he or she was in the first half. Of course, being in shape and being in basketball shape are two different things. Jogging for hours isn’t going to help a player’s need to repeat high intensity efforts and sustain them for several minutes on end with minimal rest and recovery in between. Design your progressive, pre-season court-conditioning program accordingly. Another necessity of being in great shape is keeping body fat at an appropriate level. Excess body fat simply is dead weight. Too much dead weight inhibits flexibility, reduces skill proficiency and diminishes overall conditioning ability — all of which tie into explosiveness. To maintain body-fat levels, players need to eat an appropriate diet featuring a certain amount of calories for their body types, as well as to adhere to a year-round conditioning program. Always keep in mind that additional muscle mass is not a hindrance to improving power but an asset.

3. Flexibility. Improving the range of motion in a joint or group of joints is how to achieve greater flexibility. Explosiveness comes from improving flexibility in a player’s hamstrings, ankles, lower back and hips. Improving flexibility is best accomplished by performing all strength-training movements through a full range of motion, as well as performing dynamic flexibility exercises before every workout or practice. This means you should not allow players to sit on the ground and do static stretching — it does nothing to increase overall flexibility.

Dynamic flexibility exercises also assist in developing coordination and motor ability, both of which are attributes that help improve a player’s explosiveness.

4. Skill Proficiency. Don’t overlook proper skill training when trying to improve players’ explosiveness on the court. Decreasing the time it takes to perform a specific basketball skill is in essence increasing the speed at which the skill is performed. Thus, increasing the speed at which a skill is executed results in improved explosiveness on the court.

The most effective and practical way to improve skill proficiency is to perform skills through hours of task-specific skill practice. Have players practice specific skills as those skills are to be used in competition (or at least at game speed). For example, the more efficient a guard becomes at shooting a jump shot, the more range that guard has.

Competent coaching, studying videotape and hours of perfect practice are the best ways to increase skill proficiency.

5. Conditioning Level. Keep players in basketball shape to improve their ability to increase their explosiveness on the court. Preventing or delaying the onset of fatigue is crucial to performance. A well-prepared and well-conditioned player should be just as strong and skillful in the second half of the game as he or she was in the first half.

Of course, being in shape and being in basketball shape are two different things. Jogging for hours isn’t going to help a player’s need to repeat high intensity efforts and sustain them for several minutes on end with minimal rest and recovery in between. Design your progressive, pre-season court-conditioning program accordingly.

Another necessity of being in great shape is keeping body fat at an appropriate level. Excess body fat simply is dead weight. Too much dead weight inhibits flexibility, reduces skill proficiency and diminishes overall conditioning ability — all of which tie into explosiveness. To maintain body-fat levels, players need to eat an appropriate diet featuring a certain amount of calories for their body types, as well as to adhere to a year-round conditioning program. Always keep in mind that additional muscle mass is not a hindrance to improving power but an asset.