Basketball performance training for adults – part 3

by | July 31, 2018 | Fitness, Sport performance

In part 1 and of this series we talked about common injuries in basketball and how to avoid them, 
how to warm up effectively, 
how to get faster 
and how to increase your vertical. 
Today, we are going to build on these concepts by further discussing a method of training that can prevent injuries, increase your speed, increase your vertical, increase your strength around the net and even add some muscle to your frame. 
This article is all about strength training for basketball. 

Why strength training? 

Take a look at Lebron’s arms, 
Griffin’s abs
and Dwight’s delts
These dudes are no strangers to the gym and their bodies perform pretty well too.
So, there is a bit of vanity here…so what? 
The abs, arms and delts are all a byproduct of training to get more powerful, 
more strength, 
more force-producing muscles, 
and more armour one your frame.  
It is in training to acquire these qualities that the side effect is a rocking bod. 
But, performance comes first. 

Strength training exercises for basketball

When it comes to picking exercises to gain strength, 
and muscle, 
it is best to focus on big-muscle movements that use more than one joint. 
Examples include things like squats, deadlifts, presses and rows. 
These movements use a ton of muscle, 
have transfer to sporting movements
engage your core more so than sitting on an exercise machine, 
and also, rev up your metabolism. 
These big, bang-for-your buck exercises also save you a ton of time. 
Instead of doing 4-5 different machines, you can do one squat exercise and get more benefit than those 4-5 machines combined. 
No one has time to sit around waiting for 4-5 different machines at the gym, you need to be in and out and back to business, family, life, etc. 

Movements over muscles

We also focus on selecting movements instead of muscles when designing our strength programs. 
Focusing on muscles can be a slippery slope that leaves you in the gym for 3 hours looking for an exercise to work your intrinsic finger muscles. 
The truth is that basketball involves movements and those movements involve several muscles working together in unison. 
So, in order to be more relevant to your sport, you need to focus on movements over muscles. 
Here are the movements we focus on:



Squats are the big daddy when it comes to building the strength needed to jump higher. 
It is in building this foundation of strength that we can build power. 
And as you remember from part 2, jumping = power. 
Our favourite squat moves include:
Goblet Squats
Barbell front squats
Barbell back squats


The muscles in your butt play a major role in speed, jumping and keeping the knees healthy. 
Deadlifts are one of the best ways to attack these muscles. 
When done properly, a deadlift cannot only fire up your glutes, 
but it can also fire up both your core and your metabolism…
and a better core and a better metabolism = a better athlete with a bigger fat-burning furnace. 
Here are some of our favourite deadlift moves:
Cable pull-through
Barbell straight-lead deadlift
Barbell sumo deadlift (slightly-elevated)


The truth of the matter is that while it is still super important to be strong on two legs, the majority of sport actions happen on one leg. 
Just think of running and jumping. 
Usually, there is some component of single-leg activity in there. 
So, we need to be strong on one leg to have effective transfer to sport, 
but also to keep the hips, knees and ankles safe. 
Here are some of our favourite single-leg movements
Split squats
Reverse lunges
1-leg deadlifts
1-leg hip thrusts
Lateral lunge

Upper body push

Having a strong upper body is necessary to keep the shoulders healthy and robust,
But also gives you a little extra weight to throw around under the net. 
When it comes to upper body push movements, we like to focus on horizontal pushes like
and presses
but throwing in some overhead pressing is great too as it will fire up your core and build up those delts. 
Just be sure that it doesn’t feel sketchy when you do it. 

Upper body pull

Upper body pulling exercises are especially important for keeping the shoulders healthy and for building up that muscle armour. 
The nature of life and sport is that many of the things we encounter on a day-to-day basis happen in front of us. 
Like passing, shooting, working at a desk and driving. 
As a result, the back often gets neglected, lengthened and weak. 
So, we need to pull it back (no pun intended) into position with the use of some horizontal pulling actions. 
Some of our favourites are:
Split-stance 1-arm cable rows
Dumbbell 1-arm rows
and Face-pulls
Also, vertical pulling movements like pulldowns
and pull-ups
are great too. 
Just make sure you have some horizontal pulling in there as well 🙂


Core training is another essential component of sport performance. 
We wrote extensively about this here and here.
The true role of the core in sport is to prevent unwanted movements at the spine and to act as a force transmission vehicle in your body. 
What that last part means is that in order to effectively transfer force from your legs and arms into the floor to jump up, your core needs to be solid. 
In order to put force into the ground and run faster, you need to be able to resist unwanted movements at the spine. 
The core does that. 
In order to not get pushed around on the court, you need to be able to tighten up and brace your core. 
So, the core plays a pretty pivotal role in performing well, living well and looking good. 
Here are some of our favourite movements:
Core – carry
Core – anti-extension
Core – anti-lateral flexion
Core – anti-rotation

Sets and reps

So, you have your movements picked out…
Now what, coach??
Well, let’s talk sets and reps. 
In order to effectively talk about sets and reps, let’s first talk about the physical qualities we need to train for basketball. 
Basketball players need to be strong.
As in, they need to be able to generate lots of force. 
This allows you to run faster and jump higher. 
To train this, you want to do 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps. 
We’ll often do rest-pause sets here with our adult athletes. 
Next, not only do you need to be strong but you also need to be able to repeatedly produce force against submaximal loads. 
This is called strength-endurance.
This is useful for things like passing, dribbling and defending in a “squat-like” position. 
For this, train using 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps. 
We may throw in some cluster sets here too as they allow you to lift more weight for more reps while still keeping your form tight. 
Next, basketball players have muscle to not only produce force but to also have some armour while fighting for the ball. 
So, they need to focus on a rep ranges to build up that armour. 
For this, we typically get into 4-6 sets of 6-12 reps. 
Finally, power is definitely important for basketball athletes as it allows them to run faster and jump higher. 
One of our favourite methods for our adult athletes is to do some complex training. 
Complex training basically pairs up a strength movement like squats using a 3-5 rep load with a power movement like vertical jumps. 
The strength movement actually increases your ability to do the power movement. 
So, over time, your body actually adapts to the new level of jump height potentiated by the heavy-weight strength movement. 
Here is how this would play out:
Strength movement with a 3-5 rep load
rest 1-2 minutes
Power movement like vertical jumps
rest 1-2 minutes



To be very clear, the number of repetitions you can perform for a certain exercise is inversely proportional to the amount of weight you can do. 
So, a 3-5 rep load will be heavier than a 10-15 rep load.
Seems simple enough, right? 
Well, simple doesn’t always mean it’s easy. 
Many times, there is a lack of clarity when it comes to picking weights for a set. 
And especially around injury using heavier weights. 
Nothing changes when you use heavier weights.
It will feel heavier, 
but the form should still be the same. 
There is no need to get jazzed up. 
So, when picking weights, make sure the loads are appropriate to the rep range.  

The “two-in-the-tank” rule

The “two-in-the-tank” rule suggests that if you are using a weight and someone asked you to do as many reps as possible with good form, you would be able to do 2 more reps. 
That’s it!
So, if you’re doing a set of 3-5 and you decide to do as many as possible, you should be able to do 5 to 7 reps. 
If you can do 10, 15 or 20 reps with good form, then you won’t be eliciting the training responses conducive to better ball performance. 
You can periodically test this using the AMRAP test.
AMRAP stands for As Many Reps As Possible (with good form). 
Just make sure you have a spotter.



One of the most important principles of weight training is the “progressive overload” principle. 
The “progressive overload” principle states that in order to continue to improve your speed, strength and power, 
and thus, get better at basketball, 
you need to do more than your body is currently used to (overload) and you need to continuously do this over time (progression).
In order to apply this principle, start at the bottom of the rep range (10 reps) and build up over time. 
When you get to the top of the rep range (15 reps), drop back down to the bottom of the range and increase the weight. 
For example, start at 10 reps with 50lbs and over a few weeks, build up to 15 reps with 50lbs. 
Once you can safely do 15 reps, drop the reps back down to 10 and increase the weight to 60lbs.
That way you will continue to get those Griffin abs, 
Lebron arms
and Dwight delts. 


Sample 16-week program

Finally, putting this all together can be a daunting task, but we can make this ultra simple. 
Check it out. 
Weeks 1-4
Day 1 
A1. Squat option 3 sets x 10-15 reps
A2. Row option 3 sets x 10-15 reps
A3. Core – anti-rotation 3 sets of 6-8 reps per side
B1. Push-up option 3 sets x 10-15 reps
B2. Single-leg option 3 sets x 10-15 reps
B3. Core – anti-extension 3 sets of 3x10s or 6-8 reps
Day 2
A1. Deadlift option 3 sets of 10-15 reps
A2. Dumbbell row 3 sets of 10-15 reps
A3. Core – anti-lateral flexion 3 sets of 3x10s per side
B1. Lateral lunge option 3 sets of 10-15 reps
B2. Dumbbell press option 3 sets of 10-15 reps
B3. Band pull-apart 3 sets of 10-15 reps
Weeks 5-8
Day 1 
A1. Squat option 4 sets x 6-8 reps
A2. Row option 4 sets x 6-8 reps
A3. Core – anti-rotation 3 sets of 6-8 reps per side
B1. Push-up option 4 sets x 6-8 reps
B2. Single-leg option 4 sets x 6-8 reps
B3. Core – anti-extension 3 sets of 3x10s or 6-8 reps
Day 2
A1. Deadlift option 4 sets x 6-8 reps
A2. Dumbbell press 4 sets x 6-8 reps
A3. Core – anti-lateral flexion 3 sets of 3x10s per side
B1. Lateral lunge option 4 sets x 6-8 reps
B2. Dumbbell row option 4 sets x 6-8 reps
B3. Carry option 3 sets of 30s
Weeks 9-12
Day 1 
A1. Squat option 4 sets x 3-5 reps
A2. Push-up option 4 sets x 3-5 reps
A3. Row option 4 sets x 3-5 reps
A4. Core – anti-rotation 4 sets of 6-8 reps per side
B1. Single-leg option 3 sets x 6-8 reps
B2. Core – anti-extension 3 sets of 3x10s or 6-8 reps
Day 2
A1. Deadlift option 4 sets x 3-5 reps
A2. Dumbbell press option 4 sets x 3-5 reps
A3. Dumbbell row 4 sets x 3-5 reps
A4. Core – anti-lateral flexion 4 sets of 3x10s per side
B1. Lateral lunge option 3 sets x 6-8 reps
B3. Band pull-apart 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Week 13-16
A1. Squat option 3 sets x 3-5 reps
(rest 1-2 minutes)
A2.  Vertical jumps 3 sets of 3-5 reps
A3. Core – anti-rotation 3 sets of 6-8 reps per side
B1. Push-up 3 sets x 3-5 reps
B2. Row 3 sets x 3-5 reps
B3. Core – anti-extension 3 sets of 3x10s or 6-8 reps
Day 2
A1. Deadlift option 3 sets x 3-5 reps
(rest 1-2 minutes)
A2. Broad jump 3 sets x 3-5 reps
A3. Core – anti-lateral flexion 3 sets of 3x10s per side
B1. Dumbbell press 3 sets x 3-5 reps
B2. Pull-up 3 sets x 3-5 reps
B3. Core – carry 3 sets of 30s
Note: on the fourth week of each phase, drop 1-2 sets of off each exercise.
So, for example, on day Day 2, week 16, you will do 1-2 sets of each exercise instead of 3 sets. 
This will allow excess fatigue accumulated throughout that phase to dissipate and your strength and power gains to be full realized. 
We call this a deload week. 



So, if you’re getting man-handled around the net, 
if you want to build the foundation to jump higher, 
if you want to lay the groundwork to run faster, 
if you want to keep injuries at bay, 
if you want to add some muscle your frame, 
if you want a rock-solid core that looks and functions well, 
then go hit up that gym and start throwing around some iron. 
Or if you want some help setting up your strength program, you can always join our free 2-week “Jump into Shape” Basketball Academy Jump Start. 
In the Jump Start, you get 4 free strength and conditioning sessions with Coach Brent Lohmer, a certified strength and conditioning coach with 10 years of experience coaching athletes, 
a free one-on-one strategy session with coach Brent, 
free nutrition coaching, 
and 2 free on-court session with Coach Jon Giesbrecht, the number one up-and-coming basketball coach in Manitoba. 
You’ll also have access to great discounts on our 8-week “Jump into Shape” Basketball Academy. 
All you have to do is sign up here and we’ll contact you to let you know if you qualify. 

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