Since it’s creation by James Naismith in 1891, basketball has grown into one of the world’s most popular team sports.
In the US alone, there are over 24.2 million participants.
At the high school level, over 540,000 males participate and nearly 400,000 females.
These participation numbers mean that competition for spots on playing rosters has never been more fierce.
The modern game of basketball is remarkably athletic and combines both speed and endurance training. Gone are the days with shooting baskets at the park was enough to prepare for the tryouts.
Here at Back in Motion Sport & Spine Physical Therapy, we understand these diverse physical requirements and have built them into a “best-in-class” Basketball Strength & Conditioning Program.
Before the start of the next season, here’s what you need to know about getting in top shape and getting that extra edge on your competition.
On a positive note for parents, basketball remains one of the safest team sports when examining injury rates. We’ll talk about how to reduce the odds of getting injured even more in just a moment…
What Does A Properly Designed Basketball Training Session Look Like?
Before we can answer that question, we need to understand the physical requirements of the sport of basketball.
To excel at basketball, a player must possess:
- Strength: This is a given for all sports but in today’s very physical game, being about to secure a post position and fight for rebounds makes strength vital.
- Power: Most sports depend upon power, but as the game increases in speed and intensity, power—the combination of speed and strength together—becomes more desirable than ever
- Muscular Endurance: Basketball requires players to be just as fit in the game-winning situations in the final 30 seconds as they are at the first half tip-off. High levels of conditioning are central to today’s fast-paced game.
- Range of Motion: Sudden change of direction, explosive layups, evading rangy opponents require an excellent range of motion. It’s not unusual to see players forced into nearly acrobatic positions in a game. Poor range of motion invariably results in injury or poor playmaking.
- Coordination: Rapid play development, lightning-fast pass plays, and split-second timing require outstanding eye-hand coordination. Again, the accelerated pace of play in modern basketball puts a premium on coordination.
Each of these traits must be considered when designing the ideal basketball preparation program.
Using the above physical breakdown, we can start to layout a typical training session.
The key concept to remember is that no program is random and there is no place for “busy work” in a sports training session.
Everything is done for a purpose.
Here is an overview of a properly designed program…
- A complete dynamic warm-up.
A proper warm-up is a signal to your body that it’s time to be active.
The warm-up has the following functions:
- Increase blood flow to the muscles
- Elevate core body temperature
- Increase the range of motion for the muscles
- Activate the nervous system
- Increase heart rate and breathing rates
All of these things combine to get you ready for action.
Unfortunately, a proper warm-up is often blown off or watered down by even the most experienced athletes. This is a major mistake in many “generic” training routines.
Ignoring this section is the easiest way to get injured.
Immediately after the warm-up, athletes move on to that day’s skill. We do this at the beginning of the workout because the body is fresh and the nervous system is not fatigued from lifting weight or conditioning.
Typically activities here would include sprint technique drills or plyometric (jumping) work.
The skills section is a natural introduction to power work like Olympic lifting or some type of advanced power training, usually with weights.
Again, this is done early in the session because the demands on the nervous system are high.
For basketball players, this section as well as the “Core Strength Movements” that come next must be tailored to the unique build of the typical basketball player.
This means making accommodations for extremes in height and a decrease in flexibility in some body parts.
This doesn’t mean “core” as in abdominals. We’re talking about the basic strength moves every athlete should be doing.
This includes exercises such as bench pressing, squatting, back work, etc.
How do we determine which exercises are most beneficial to a specific athlete?
Here are the factors we look at:
- Athlete Age
- Athlete Limitations In Range of Motion Due to Height
- Athlete training experience
- Physical maturity level
- Sport proficiency
- Testing results and goals
- Injury history
- Length of the training program
Yes, that’s a good bit of information every sports preparation coach MUST know about the athletes they are working with…
That’s what we mean when we say that no sports training program is random!
This section of the training session would focus on the areas most frequently injured in basketball, which are:
- Foot and Ankle Injuries
- Hip and Thigh Injuries
- Knee Injuries
Because basketball is a contact sport, many injuries to the wrist, hand, and face related to collisions and contact and are difficult if not impossible to prevent
As the saying goes, “It’s not rocket science, but it is science.”
- Sport-Specific Conditioning
Much like soccer, basketball is typically a combination of short bursts of speed mixed with longer endurance demands.
The pure conditioning section must reflect these needs.
Examples would include:
20-40 yard dash speed
Rapid change of direction (COD)
And mid-distance conditioning to increase VO2 Max
All of these must be included in the conditioning portion of the program.
Additionally, the athlete needs to be able to repeat these high-speed bursts over and over.
This is called “work capacity” and is the primary goal of any conditioning routine.
NOTE: If a sports preparation program places conditioning at the beginning of the program, you know that the facility has not been keeping up with the science.
Fatiguing the muscles by doing conditioning immediately before you ask them to perform highly technical power work is an injury waiting to happen.
Conditioning should always be at the end of the session. Period.
- Flexibility and Cool-down
Finally, we end the session with targeted flexibility work and cool down.
This is when you send your body the signal that it’s time to relax and start the recovery process.
Making sure the shoulders have an ideal range of motion and maintain that subtle power is crucial.
It also the time to slow the breathing, heart rate, and respiration.