In-Season strength training
In order for you to reach your true potential on the basketball court, you must maintain the strength you built during the off season. As obvious as it sounds, in-season strength training is still an underestimated aspect of preparation for many players. You are not an Olympic lifter, Power lifter, or bodybuilder, so you 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 you on the court. Plus you will improve your performance. The stronger you are the more efficiently you can perform your basketball skills.
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) your overall muscular size and strength. Your in season program should address your major muscle groups (legs, hips, core, and upper torso) as well as the most injury prone areas: ankles, knees, groin, lower back, and hands.
Your goal 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. You should always perfect exercise technique and form prior to utilizing additional resistance or weight. Additionally, you should perform every movement in a slow, controlled, and deliberate fashion, with special emphasis focused on the lower portion of each lift. Lastly, you should work within an appropriate repetition range (8-15 reps for most high school and college athletes) 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 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. Below a certain level of intensity, strength training will have very little benefit. I define intensity as the level of effort exerted. If you are capable of lifting 100 pounds 15 times and you stop at 10, the exercise was 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.
Given you are practicing and playing almost every day (at high levels of intensity) and are 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 your body. Do fewer sets and less total exercises, especially for the lower body.
My philosophy with the DeMatha Basketball program can be summed up with these two quotes:
“Seven days without strength training makes one weak.”
Try to get in one or two workouts per week throughout the season – even if they are brief – it is better than nothing!
“Get in what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
You may have to sneak workouts in right before or right after practice, and if you can’t get in the weight room, there are numerous strength exercises you can do right on the court!
FOLLOW Alan on Twitter at @AlanStein
Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the Head Strength and Conditioning coach for the nationally renowned DeMatha Catholic High School boys basketball program. He spent 7 years serving a similar position with the Montrose Christian basketball program. Alan brings a wealth of valuable experience to his training arsenal after years of extensive work with elite high school, college, and NBA players.