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Basketball Conditioning: Run, Jump, Pass, Shoot and Play Defense

By Dan Hutchison, MS, ATC, CSCS

Athletic development in the sport of basketball involves more than practicing shooting and playing games.  The coach and athlete will both have longer careers if emphasis is placed on the fundamentals of athletic development that are adhered to on a regular basis.

In the four-part basketball conditioning series, we covered all areas of athletic performance for the sport – linear speed, lateral movement, jumping, and upper body strength.  In this blog, we summarize the series with each important aspect of basketball conditioning.

SPEED & AGILITY: LINEAR AND LATERAL TRAINING

The ability to run fast up and down the court is a game changer when it comes to the offensive transition game, and adequately defending an ‘up-tempo’, transition-style team.  Linear speed on the basketball court, especially with the basketball in hand, is personified by the likes of Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, and Lebron James – they all have that “extra gear”.

Likewise, lateral movement is essential for defending one’s opponent.  The ability to anticipate and ‘beat’ the dribbler to a specific spot requires conditioning, technical repetition, and court awareness.

Cord-loaded resistance applications can be utilized for improving both linear and lateral speed, quickness, and power on the basketball court once proper technique has been established and practiced.  By applying load to the individual in the sport setting, allows them to not only work on speed/power development, but also to enhance ball handling skills, defensive skills, running and agility technique and acceleration.  It is important that athletes should be able to maintain proper running mechanics at high velocity and intensity levels during cord-loaded training. In addition, cord-loaded drills should be followed by non-cord-loaded repetitions to elicit an enhanced training experience.

Basic plyometric drills involving double- and single-legged hopping and/or jumping, both in a vertical and horizontal direction can also be easily incorporated into a practice session.  This can begin with simple pattern drills, and progress to include barriers and box jumps, along with cord-loaded applications discussed below.

In addition to performance enhancement, lateral training can be very conducive to reducing the chances of injury.  More specifically, the Gluteus Medius, which allows for stabilization of the hip, is stimulated during lateral movement drills. Resisted lateral movements will not only provide a strength stimulus to the hip area, but also provide a conditioning effect to augment fatigue during practices and game situations.  This becomes particular important during competition when defensive play involves over 50% of the physical activity within a game, and when athletes get fatigued, technique is compromised and injury is more likely to occur.

JUMP TRAINING: GET UP! BOUNCE HOUSE! HOPS!

Basketball conditioning has always emphasized improving jumping ability.  Although the long-term goal of most basketball players is to ‘dunk’ or ‘throw it down’, many times the ability to jump just a few extra inches is beneficial.

The two anchors of the weight room – the squat racks and the lifting platforms – are often used to increase lower body strength and power.  However, in some cases the purchase of these items for some programs can be next to impossible due to budgetary constraints.  In other cases, the racks are old and rusty, in which case the administrators may encourage a ‘thrifty’ alternative or a shop-class paint job to cosmetically manipulate the functionality and look, respectively.  But, administrators may also appreciate an inexpensive conversion if the price, versatility, and effectiveness are worth it.

Perform-X Training Systems has developed a unique and convenient concept for adding jump training applications to existing lifting platforms.  The Trak-X™ System is an anchoring device that can be attached to existing lifting platforms to create a station to specifically improve vertical power.  Plyometrics can be added in a number of ways to the existing weight room, with the Trak-X™ anchoring system and Perform-X™ Jump Cords offering a safe, versatile, and effective approach to inexpensively adding ‘power training’ to the space.

UPPER BODY STRENGTH APPLICATIONS

Long, lanky, and a jersey that looks like it’s hanging from a hanger. Most basketball players can benefit from upper body strength training. And no, it won’t ruin your shot!

Upper body strength for basketball players is essential.  All aspects of the front, back and lateral shoulder complex are involved in offense (shooting, passing, dribbling) and defense (rebounding, post moves, defensive position, blocking shots).

At the developmental level (i.e., middle school and high school), many times basketball athletes have minimal opportunities to enhance strength and power in the weight room setting, or are negated weight room space and time to out-of-season sports like football.  During practice, conditioning can and should involve upper body strengthening to enhance both strength, power and stamina.  Resistance cord and body weight applications allow a multitude of movements to develop all aspects of the shoulders, chest and back muscles.

Key Exercises/Applications:

  • Chest Press (Double-arm and Single-arm)
    • Increased range for shooting the basketball, as well as increased strength for passing, defensive play and rebounding.

  • Shoulder Press (Double-arm and Single-arm)
    • Stimulates the front and lateral shoulder, which assist in shooting and rebounding.
  • Pulling or Rowing (Double-arm and Single-arm / High or Low anchoring point)
    • Assist in stabilizing the shoulder which can assist in basketball related drills, as well as reducing the chance of injury if the athlete falls on an outstretched arm.

  • Rotational / Core Exercises
    • Rotations, diagonal lift and chop movements, as well as anti-rotational movements (bracing), give coaches and athletes numerous options for strengthening the ‘core’.

SUMMARY

Basketball is a physically demanding sport that requires speed, lateral quickness, lower body strength and power for jumping ability, and upper body strength. Most basketball players prefer to be on the court shooting or playing hoops instead of in the weight room. This four-part series and summary on basketball conditioning can serve as a framework for meeting the basketball player half-way between the weight room and the court to improve the physical capacities required to stay injury free and play at a high level. Many of these training devices have the versatility to be incorporated into an on-court practice or training session.

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