How do you design a basketball training program that really maximizes the time and resources YOU have available? After all…
To perform at your very best you have to dedicate some time to strength conditioning, power and jump training and speed and agility drills. What about aerobic and anaerobic conditioning? And don’t forget flexibility.
Even if you play the game for a living, how do you ever incorporate all of those components of fitness into just a handful of training sessions a week?
You don’t. Not even the pros do.
Conditioning for ANY sport is not about being perfect. It’s about making the very most the time and resources you have available.
And assuming you’re not a professional your time is limited.
Step number 1 then, is to determine those areas or elements of fitness that will make the greatest difference to YOUR game.
Forget what others do. Where specifically are your weaknesses?
Don’t guess. Take the time to get objective results – you might be surprised. And how do you do that?
Develop a series of simple fitness tests you can perform in one afternoon.
Assess your strength, strength endurance, aerobic endurance, take off power, speed and acceleration and flexibility. You can do 5 or 6 tests in just a couple of hours.
Record the results and plan a re-test in 6 to 8 weeks. Don’t worry about whether your scores are ‘good’, ‘average’ or ‘bad’. There is always some degree of error.
What is far more important is whether those scores are improving over time.
Ideally you’d test yourself just prior to the start of pre-season, at the end of pre-season and maybe half way through the in-season. But don’t wait round until the timing is perfect. Just make a start with where you are today.
Remember how even professional players don’t work on every component of fitness at once? Instead their basketball training program is split into at least three separate phases…
The 3 Phases to a Basketball Training Program
The competitive basketball season may only last 6-7 months but a basketball training program stretches the full year round.
Most players forget (or just aren’t aware) that what they do in the off-season plays a crucial role in how their season plays out.
Add the all-important pre-season phase into the mix and we get a year that looks something like the following…
- Off-season phase – 2-3 months
- Pre-season phase – 3-4 months
- In-season phase – 6 months
Even if you only have 2 days a week aside from your games, you can still benefit greatly by splitting each year up in this periodized way.
In the rest of this article we’ll take a close look at each phase in a basketball training program and what it involves…
This is the big picture. It’s where all the individual sessions come together. The finer details of each session – sets, reps, intensity, specific exercises and drills are covered in separate articles.
Off-Season Basketball Training Program
Don’t underestimate the importance of the closed season. It’s a prime opportunity to restore the imbalances that basketball places on the musculoskeletal system.
Of course, it’s also a time when you rest and recuperate. But resting does NOT mean doing nothing…
It takes just a few weeks of sedentary lifestyle to undo the majority of any fitness you’ve gained over the previous season.
You will lose some fitness. And that’s absolutely fine. It’s a necessary trade-off for recovery and mental refreshment.
Spend 2-3 days per week doing some kind of low intensity, cardiovascular exercise. Avoid running. And avoid playing basketball, even recreationally for at least a few weeks. This is an ideal time to try your hand at a new sport – swimming, cycling or racket sports.
There’s no need to monitor heart rate but if you must, keep to a zone of 65-75% of maximum heart rate (220 – age). Better yet…
On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being a gentle stroll in the park – 10 being all-out exertion) stick to around a level 7.
You can take several weeks off strength training completely if you’ve had a particularly demanding season. But it can be sensible to spend the off-season following a functional strength program…
The idea is to work stabilizing muscle groups that may have been neglected during the in-season. A good deal of your time should be spent on core stability. Loads are typically light (50-60% 1 rep max) and repetitions are higher (15 and above).
Keep sessions short and avoid drop sets or any other technique that will leave you exhausted. Two to three sessions per week is ample and you can perform your strength sessions immediately before your aerobic workouts if needs be.
Losses in range of movement occur incredibly quickly if you don’t actively stretch on a regular basis.
Perform stretching exercises daily or at least 3 times a week. Be sure to warm up thoroughly first.
For more information on flexibility training click here
Early Pre-Season Basketball Training Program(4 weeks)
Most athletes leave pre-season training far too late. And who can blame them?
Wind sprints and gruelling shuttle runs are usually on the menu served up by a merciless coach who loves to see players suffer!
While punishing training sessions WILL still feature in the latter stages of pre-season, it makes sense to start gently and build up. Not only that…
If you take the time to prepare your body at the start, you’ll reap innumerable benefits later on down the line.
Focus on continuous type training. This is lower intensity aerobic conditioning. After 2-3 weeks gradually begin to move into more intensive interval type training. Jogging is preferable to swimming or cycling at this stage in your basketball training program.
Sessions should last between 30-45 minutes with heart rate between 75-80% maximum.
For more information on continuous and interval training click here
Towards the end of this phase (the early pre-season) begin a maximal strength program.
Focus on compound movements like squats or leg presses, the bench press, dead lifts and the shoulder press.
Lift heavier weights (up to 90-95% 1 rep max) for fewer repetitions (2-6). Three sessions is adequate and avoid strength training on consecutive days.
For more information on strength training for basketball click here
For a sample maximal strength training program click here
Maintain your flexibility program right throughout the season.
Mid – Late Pre-Season Basketball Training Program(8 weeks)
So you’ve taken the time to prepare.
You’ve rebalanced you body reducing the risk or injury.
You’ve begun to develop high levels of strength and you’ve laid a good aerobic foundation…
This is where it really starts!
This phase is not easy. But the rewards are well worth any short-term discomfort.
You should start to move away from general aerobic conditioning and towards more basketball-specific sessions.
Basketball is a multi-sprint sport. In a game you’ll be required to perform several successive sprints close to maximum speed on numerous occasions. The result?
Your body quickly begins to accumulate lactic acid.
Your ability to recover from this build up of lactic acid can have an enormous impact on your performance. As such your basketball training program must incorporate anaerobic endurancedrills.
Shuttles runs are a classic example and very effective. You can also make drills even more specific if you throw in a ball and some basic skills.
We’ll look at these types of sessions in more detail in a separate article.
For now, know that 2-3 sessions a week lasting 30 minutes are required to reach peak fitness in time for the start of the competitive season.
Strength & Power Conditioning
It can take up to 3 months to develop maximum strength, so continue maximal strength training into the late pre-season.
About 4 weeks prior to the start of the in-season you’ll want to exchange some or all of your strength sessions for plyometric training.
Plyometrics or jump training is one of the most effective methods for developing explosive power. And because power is a product of both speed of contraction and strength, your groundwork in the weights room will pay dividends here.
For more information on plyometrics training click here.
For a sample program to increase vertical jump power click here
Speed & Agility Conditioning
As the competitive season draws closer your basketball training program should place more and more emphasis on quickness and agility. Again your conditioning must be basketball specific…
Try to incorporate a ball and basic passing and shooting skills. This type of training shouldn’t leave you fatigued either…
Yes, you should perform all the drills at 100% but keep them short enough and allow enough recovery time in between so that form doesn’t suffer.
Click here for some sample basketball agility drills
Same again here – at least 3 stretching sessions per week.
In-Season Basketball Training Program
So after all that preparation and hard work, you’re fit for life! You need never visit the weight room again!
Well, not quite…
But you can begin to enjoy the benefits of all your hard work and discipline.
Because of your new level of fitness your skill on the court will increase. There is nothing more debilitating and disconcerting than trying to perform intricate skills when you’re gasping for breath. Likewise…
It’s a great feeling to know that no game situation is as demanding as the training sessions you’ve endured.
The goal of the in-season is to maintain what you’ve developed during the pre-season.
You need to find a balance of strength training and power training. Two weights sessions and one plyometric session is a good model to follow. Similarly two anaerobic endurance sessions is ample, especially as a game counts as another one.
You can perform some speed and agility drills two days a week also. If you focus on form and keep them undemanding physically, you can tab them on to to the start of other training sessions.
Look at the chart below to see how our “master plan” fits together…