Basketball Strength Training
Basketball is a game of change. When you look at the history of the game, you can see how big changes occurred in the way the game is played. It’s just the way it is.
One of the things that became so important for any professional basketball player is fitness and strength. To put it simply, it’s not possible to be good player in modern basketball if you’re not good athlete.
Working on your strength is a prerequisite for any further basketball development. For this reason, BasketballPhantom decided to tell you a few things about basketball strength training.

As for everything nowadays, you can find huge amount of information and training programs on internet. But we have to warn you – be careful with applying those. Creating basketball strength training program is not an easy thing, and, more importantly, it’s different for every player.
In order to create strength training, one would need to know characteristics of a player that program is created for. So we advise you not to take any random training program you browse online and start practicing.
In this article, we’ll cover some general guidelines. Providing you with training that includes defined intensity and weight levels would be dangerous, because, as we mentioned it, every player is different.
Instead, we’ll give you something that can be useful for anyone who plays basketball, regardless of position, height and weight. We’ll give you a general guideline – which muscles and parts of your body are especially important for basketball athletes, and provide you with some exercises for development of those.

What is strength and what types of strength exist?

When you search for basketball strength training, what do you mean by that? If you’re not sure how to answer this question, let’s go into theory a little.
First of all, let’s be clear on one thing – every type and aspect of strength is important for basketball players. But the question is how important and in which way.
Basketball is a game of action and change. During the game, players are employed to perform some pretty unorthodox body moves. These moves activate unique sets of muscle activity, and those muscle groups can be trained only by performing special types of exercises.
This is why it’s so important to know that “strength” could mean several things. And therefore there are several different approaches to basketball strength training.
For example, let’s say you go into gym for training and work with heavy weights. You will get stronger, no doubt. But how much this strength means to you as a basketball player? And are you losing some other important strength forms with constant heavy lifting?
Let’s break it down a bit.
There are four main types of strength – maximum strength, speed strength, explosive strength and strength endurance. We’ll explain something about every strength type for you, and also provide you with how those types apply in the game of basketball, and what should your focus be on when creating basketball strength training.

1. Maximum strength

Maximum strength presents the maximum force muscles can generate during one contraction.
Clear example of maximum strength is bench press. It presents the maximum weight you can lift in single motion. So, the more weight you can lift in single motion, the bigger your maximum strength is.
Why it’s useful? – Maximum strength determines how much muscle power you can generate. Working on your maximum strength makes your muscles grow, and the bigger your muscles are the more power you can generate performing all kinds of basketball moves.
Examples – Exercises for building maximum strength include heavy loads (80%-100% 1 RM), with small number of repetitions (up to five) and with longer rest periods between sets. Also, longer pauses are required between two trainings – only 2-3 trainings per week are allowed.
Clear examples of exercises for maximum strength training include bench, shoulder and calf presses, dead lifts, weighted crunches, half squats…
So, working on your maximum strength is important. But it’s also important to know the flipside. Working heavily on maximum strength, especially during the season, can produce only negative effects on a player. How?
The best way to explain this is with an example from everyday life. Think of your muscles as dough. The goal is to model dough, bake it and get nice finished product – in your case, build basketball body.
So working on your maximum strength would be equal to the growth of dough. When it finally grows, you start modeling it to what you final product will look like.
If you constantly support the growth of dough, you’ll never get the chance to model it. Same with muscles – working constantly on improving your maximum strength by always adding more weight will make your muscles grow, but they’ll not get the chance to model themselves for basketball.
This is why building maximum strength occurs before season starts, usually until early pre-season period. After you enter the competition period, you work on basketball-specific strength.
During this time (competition period), improving you maximum strength can cause injuries and burn-out of your body. You need to aware of this! This is the reason we payed special attention on explaining what maximum strength is.

2. Speed strength

By definition, speed strength presents the ability of muscles to overcome relatively small load (15-45% of 1RM) during great contraction velocities. Simply said, speed strength shows how fast your muscles can react and get your body moving.
To be more detailed, speed strength presents how many muscle units (MUs) you can activate immediately after your muscles face external resistance.
Training programs for speed strength includes both indoor and outdoor workouts. While weight lifting, such as Olympic lifts, along with all the variety of squats, plyometric exercises (box jumps, skater jumps, standing long jumps, bounding…) and medicine ball throws will build your muscles to generate more MUs, outdoor running drills are also required in order to fully develop speed strength.
All sorts of skipping drills and short, intensive sprinting drills are good. In basketball, the length of ground you’re covering during one full-speed run is not big – at most 15-20 meters. This is why, as a basketball player, you shouldn’t focus on long runs, like trying to be as fast as possible on 100 meters.
Instead, focus on exercises that include short distances, applicable to real-game situations. In basketball, maximum speed is not as important. More often than not, it’s more important how quickly you can change direction, stop yourself for some hesitation move, and then explode to the rim. Have this in mind when building you training program.

3. Explosive strength

Another extremely important type of strength for basketball players. As we mentioned in our earlier articles, basketball is a game of rhythm, and a game of change. Having the ability to change the pace of your movement one moment faster that your opponent can make a huge difference in the game.
Explosive strength shows how much of a force your muscles can generate in one motion during very short period of time (we say instantaneously) when exposed to medium load (40-75% of 1RM). This component of strength is so significant for any basketball player, whether you’re guard trying to pass through defender on perimeter, or a center trying to be the first to grab a rebound. For both of this actions, having greater explosive strength than opponent gives you an advantage over him.
We talked about speed strength and activation of MUs. Well, explosive strength shows how long can you keep as much MUs “employed” as possible.
There are several different method approaches to exercise explosive strength, and among them the most used are speed-strength method, ballistic method and plyometric method.
Speed-strength method is explained in section above, and is used to activate muscle units and prepare them for further work.
Ballistic method uses low loads with maximum velocity. Includes drills with all kinds of props like medicine balls, heavy jump rope drills, belts, cuffs… the goal is to reach maximum speed of movement in short period of time with small loads.
Plyometric method is an effective approach to explosive strength training. It’s the most popular and the most applicable method for this type of training. The reason for this is because the drills used in this method resemble and mimic in great volume the moves in real-game situations.
The reason for this is because this method includes switch between eccentric to concentric muscle contraction, which is a form of contraction that occurs frequently during the basketball game (for example, series of jumping moves).
The goal is to make additional moves (like swings) prior to jumping moves, which generates both types of muscle contractions. Examples of drills for explosive strength include lateral jumps over barrier, bounding with rings, tuck jumps, zigzag hops, death jumps…
All of these exercises are to be performed with high intensity. The goal is to generate as much power as possible from a single motion.


4. Strength endurance (Endurance in strength)

This type of strength shows how long your muscles can be active without drop in efficiency. The longer your muscles can display the same amount of efficiency – the greater endurance you have.
What this strength training gets out of you is ability to absorb more contact during the game. For example, securing defensive rebound starts with staying in basketball stance in front of your opponent during the time of a shot. Since you’re not in your natural body position, your muscles are working. And as long as you can keep them working effectively, greater chances you have to grab a rebound.

Summary and additional tips

In this article we tried to explain you one thing – you need to approach basketball strength training seriously. Doing one set of drills will not help you get stronger as a basketball player, no matter how hard you practice.
It is important to activate and train all types of strength, and it’s also very important when and how you’ll put an emphasis to specific kind of strength.
Additionally, you have to consider your age and growth development stage in order to formulate ideal training program. These are serious stuff, and you don’t want to do something that could potentially jeopardize your health.
We wanted to show you what you should have in mind. Every player is different, and basketball strength training is therefore different for each and every individual. So keep this in mind, work hard, and as, always, feel free to comment in the section bellow.