Coaching Athletes: Strength and Conditioning for Basketball
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A strength coach for basketball must motivate, educate, and inspire athletes to become better.
Whether you are the head coach, assistant strength coach, or position coach you need to help every athlete to show up for practice and train effectively.
Though attaining basketball strength takes more than just showing up for practice. Weight training is a major component to a basketball program. Normally, the off-season for athletes is a time where they can focus on improving sport performance traits.
This is where each athlete can fully commit to a strength training program. A basketball athlete needs to focus this exercise on explosiveness, change of direction, and force absorption. These are just a few components to a strength and conditioning program for basketball.
If you are a strength and conditioning coach, your goal should be to progress each athlete accordingly. Let’s take a closer look at some of the phases a basketball strength program encompasses.
Phases of Strength Program
As a general overview, different positions in the sport might require different training techniques. But an exercise like a squat can help any athlete develop stronger legs. This helps all positions, including an athlete’s vertical jump. Plyometric training will transfer to each position's unique demands.
Taking an entire basketball team through a strength program can be demanding. Just like starting a basketball program needs lots of planning and management. To progress each athlete through a strength and conditioning program, structure it by time of season and training phases.
The beginning phase of the strength program is executed during the off-season. During this phase, each athlete focuses on hypertrophy training. Building muscle tissue helps establish a foundation so you can increase the overall intensity of training.
Off-season basketball training encompasses low to moderate intensity exercise. Rep ranges usually stay on the higher end. This helps to build and maintain a solid foundation.
After 4-6 weeks of hypertrophy training, athletes often move into the strength phase for 6-8 weeks. Muscular strength is achieved by using high intensities with low rep ranges. The goal is to help athletes build muscular strength for injury prevention.
As the pre-season approaches, athletes prep for the actual season. This is where basketball skills become front of mind. During this phase, coaches focus the program on using sport specific exercises.
As a coach, you understand the importance of both lower and upper body strength. Being able to bench press a lot of weight is great. But athletes need to use the strength they developed for sport specific movements now.
Force production contributes to strength. Explosive exercises, plyometrics, and agility drills are part of the pre-season phase.
When the athlete is in-season they need to maintain the build and skills they developed leading up to this point. Maintaining strength guarantees that the athlete makes it through the season without interruption.
In-season training intensity and volume is different from pre-season training. Most of the training during the season is dedicated to basketball practice itself. Performing an agility or basketball drill is more common than a weight training workout. Weight training will include less volume than previously.
When athletes finish out a season, encourage them to take time to recover. This does not mean they completely stop strength training. Though they do need to significantly decrease the frequency, volume, and intensity.
Instead of training six days per week, athletes might train three days per week. Proper periodization will ensure athletes do not overreach or burn out.
Training Prescription for Each Basketball Phase
Throughout each program phase you must prescribe effective exercises, volume, and intensity.
Off-season Hypertrophy and Strength
During the off-season, hypertrophy is the goal of training. Exercises may include:
- Leg curls
- Leg extensions
- Lat pulldowns
- Cable rows
- Bench press
- 65-75% of their 1 rep max
- 8-12 reps
- 4-6 sets
- 2-3 minutes of rest in between sets
Focus on time under tension and train at least 4 days per week.
The strength phase progresses the athlete to compound movements like squats, deadlifts, presses, and rows.
Adjust to the following training parameters to 4 times per week.
- 80-90% of their 1 rep max
- 4-8 reps
- 3-5 sets
- 3-5 minutes of rest in between sets
Pre-season training forces athletes to use their muscular development and strength for explosive movements.
Exercises that mimic basketball movement patterns include:
- Hang cleans
- Jump squats
- Box jumps
- Plyo push ups
- Med ball slams
Power training comes down to the rate of force development. Encourage athletes to train as fast as possible for 1-5 repetitions. If the intensity is closer to 90%, they should aim for 1-2 reps. If the intensity is closer to 75%, aim for 3-5 reps. Rest for up to 5 minutes in between sets.
The main focus during the season is to maintain strength and power through basketball practice itself.
Do not train athletes at high intensities. Focus on a low intensity of 50-70% for 4-6 reps.
Transition and Recovery
Think of this recovery phase as the transition between in-season to off-season training. This is where athletes give their bodies the longest break from intense training. It is like a reset.
Reduce peak training intensity by 30% and include three days each week completely off. The transition or recovery phase lasts 3-5 weeks based on the demands of the athlete and position.
Conditioning and Movement Training for Basketball
Conditioning and agility are also important for basketball. Conditioning will assist each player in the constant running and jumping they do.
In a basketball strength and conditioning program, you can plan each workout as follows to ensure you address each aspect.
- Dynamic warmup
- Plyometrics, speed and agility
- Strength training
- Cool down
Each warm-up should be customized with dynamic movement patterns that will be used in the workout. If it’s a lower body workout, focus on lower body warm-ups. Speed, agility, and plyometrics include change of direction drills, sliding, backpedaling, and linear sprints. Strength training exercises depend on the phase of the program. Finish each workout with fast break drills, sled pushes, or suicides to condition the players.
Want to help athletes with their sport-related goals? Check out the ISSA’s Strength and Conditioning course. Learn the exercise science behind strength and conditioning and exactly how to create the perfect training program for any athlete. Launch your new specialization today!
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