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Weight Training for Basketball

Basketball Strength and Power With Weight Training

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Updated June 10, 2014

Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs lays the ball up over LeBron James #23

Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs lays the ball up over LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game One of the 2007 NBA Finals on June 7

Getty Images/ Ronald Martinez/Staff
Updated June 10, 2014

Comprehensive training programs for individual sports are “periodized.” That is, they are broken into three or four phases in the year with each phase concentrating on a particular fitness development. Periodized programs provide a progressive buildup to peak fitness and performance.

For professional sports that utilize weights in their training, which is most these days, each phase has different objectives and each successive phase builds on the previous one.

Important note: Basketball also requires a lot or "running" training in any comprehensive program. The part of the program outlined here is confined mostly to the weights and strength development part of the program. You will need to do cardio training to develop aerobic fitness early pre-season and then build up anaerobic fitness with wind sprints, shuttles, sprints and intervals to be fully prepared for the season start.

Aerobic fitness means you can jog or run for a long time at moderate pace without getting too tired. Anaerobic fitness means you can keep going longer at high intensities before your legs and body slow down. Both are important in basketball, especially if you are likely to play the whole game. When you optimize all elements of basketball fitness -- running fitness, strength and power, you can claim to be at peak fitness.

A year-long basketball weight training program could look like the program I’ve outlined below.

Early pre-season

  • Players are preparing for the season and starting to build up after the off season.
  • Emphasis is on building aerobic fitness, functional strength and hypertrophy.

Late pre-season

  • Players are working up to the start of the season and pre-season trials are imminent.
  • Emphasis is on building anaerobic fitness and maximum strength and power.

In season

  • Competition is underway and players are expected to be fully functional for competition.
  • Maintenance of speed, aerobic and anaerobic fitness and strength and power is emphasized.

Off season

  • You won the title; time to relax for a while but you need to keep active.
  • Emphasis is on rest and recovery with maintenance of light activity -- cross training, light gym work. Several weeks break from serious fitness and strength training is helpful.
  • As pre-season approaches, more regular work can resume with an emphasis on building aerobic fitness once again for the pre-season training.

Role-specific Training

Within a generic training program for a particular sport, further specialty programs may be useful, especially in teams where members have specific roles and certain advantageous physical attributes apply. For example, in football a quarterback and a defensive lineman will probably have a different program in the gym. One emphasizing speed and agility and the other bulk, strength and power.

In basketball, guards are likely to require more agility and speed and less strength and bulk than centers and power forwards, although all of the above would be nice for every player if it was possible. Building strength while minimizing bulk and thus maintaining speed and agility is an essential technique in mobility training for those for whom these attributes are essential.

For example, guards might lift heavy, with low repetitions and plenty of rest in between sets in order to build strength without excessive bulk. On the other hand, the big men would require a program that builds strength and bulk, which means more repetitions and less rest in between sets.

Consider the program presented here to be an all-round program, best suited to beginners or casual weight trainers without a history of weight training for basketball. The best programs are always specific to an individual's current fitness, role in the team, access to resources, and, no less important, the team coaches' essential philosophy. You will be best served by using the following program in conjunction with a trainer or coach.

If you're new to weight training, brush up on principles and practices with the beginner resources.

Always warm up and cool down before and after a training session. A medical clearance for exercise is always a good idea at the start of the season.

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