Basketball Performance Workout: Building A Better Baller

Basketball Performance Workout: Building A Better Baller
Train like a NBA pro with this baller workout that not only covers technical skills, but also helps to build solid muscle and increase strength!

Workout Summary

Sports Performance
Sports Training
Intermediate
4
Bands, Barbell, Bodyweight, Cables, Dumbbells, Exercise Ball, Foam Roll, Other
Male & Female

Workout Description

There’s no doubt, if you’ve watched the likes of Lebron James, Blake Griffin, or Dwayne Wade, I’m sure that you’ve seen some incredible displays of raw strength, power, and athleticism. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of basketball players from high school all the way up to the NBA and their skill sets never cease to amaze me.

Truth be told, high-level athletes aren’t much different from you. They have to sit for extended periods of time due to bus rides, plane trips, and sponsorship deals. They battle muscular imbalances, joint issues, and other musculoskeletal problems that might hold them back from lifting or conditioning. They also struggle with the pressure to perform, the ever-watchful public eye, and the immense weight of social media.

However, what if it was possible for you to attain that level of elite performance? Which limiting factors hold you back and how do you maximize your potential while minimizing the risk for injury?

Jump on it!

I have yet to meet a basketball player who wasn’t concerned with their “bounce” - aka their vertical jump.  Now don’t get me wrong, having the ability to exert maximal force upwards via the stretch shortening cycle is incredibly important, especially in a sport where the primary goal is multiple feet above your head.

However, you have to remember that most sport specific practices are plyometric in nature due to the lack of equipment and technical demands of the coach. In essence, most basketball players train their jump maximally all day long without even realizing it. So, when they walk into the weight room, the last thing I’m going to do is hammer jump training until their calves cramp and they start sweating Gatorade.

Now, I’m sure some of you reading this article are thinking, “Well I follow Lebron on Instagram and I’ve seen him doing jump training, so what is this guy talking about?” Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying, I still recommend incorporating some plyometric training but in actuality, I teach my athletes proper jumping and landing mechanics rather than just utilizing excessive amounts of volume.

Plyometric Exercises That Improve Jumping Ability

If you’re looking to boost your vertical, here are some general coaching cues that you should utilize within your own training:

1. “Big arm swing; the arms lead the legs in sprinting and jumping.” - Don’t believe me? Go check out some of the footage from the NFL combine, specifically the 12’3” broad jump from this year. Doesn’t matter how bad you “want it”, you’re not going to touch anything close to that without getting your arms incorporated.

2. “Extend and absorb!” - When jumping, the main component we’re trying to train is hip extension by actively pushing the forefoot through the floor. However, I’ve noticed that during box jumps, many tend to focus on trying to pull the knees up as high as possible rather than driving through the floor to propel their body upwards against the force of gravity. Focus on hip extension first, then pull the knees up and land soft.

3. “Think like a ninja.” - All too often people get caught up dueling against gravity to see just how high they can jump without kneeing themselves in the face. In all honestly, it eventually just turns into a contest for “who can land in the deepest squat and not crack a tailbone if they miss” but I digress. I get it, sometimes it’s cool to see what your body is capable of achieving but if you’re training every jump like you’re trying to qualify for the Olympic trials, you’re going to be in trouble. When you land, you want to try to eccentrically absorb force in order to create the least amount of noise possible - aka get yo’ Jackie Chan on!

Bottom Line: The vertimax is not a game changer and it’s not going to turn your into Michael Jordan overnight. Worry less about your vertical and worry more about your squat; if you can’t control the landing phase of a jump, what makes you think you need to jump higher?

Fast and Furious

If you YouTube “basketball strength and conditioning”, odds are you’re going to find at least 2 or 3 videos of guys running suicides until they puke or the soles of their shoes fall off. Sure, there is a time and a place for those drills depending upon the athlete and the specific outcome you’re trying to accomplish (i.e. mental toughness, aerobic metabolism, etc.)

But, if you look at the bioenergetics of basketball (aka which energy systems are primarily utilized), you’ll see that about 65% of all play occurs within the phosphagen system (anything less than 10 seconds). The other 35% is essentially completed by your anaerobic (glycolytic) and aerobic systems.

In essence, the majority of your time spent on the court revolves around high intensity, short duration activities that typically last less than 10-15 seconds - think about how quickly a steal and subsequent basket on the other end of the court can occur.

Basketball is a change of direction game, not a speed game. This is most notable seen on defense as opponents must control their momentum and move as efficiently as possible in order to change directions and respond to movements made by the offensive player.

Bottom Line: If your goal is to excel at basketball at the highest level, make sure your conditioning matches the demands of the game; don’t just run suicides because it’s the only thing you can think to do, always train with a purpose.

Exercises That Improve Jumping - Pushups and Box Jumps

Your High Tops Aren’t Helping…

I know, I know, you just bought the Air Jordan 11s in limited edition legend blue. They may look cool but in the end, they may be contributing to some biomechanical issues that could hamper your performance in the long run. Lets examine some of the pertinent issues with these shoes relating to basketball performance and everyday life.

Most basketball shoes come with a fairly significant heel to toe drop that tends to shift your weight towards the forefoot, not to mention the lack of intrinsic ankle stability due to the high tops and ankle braces worn by most.

So, what happens when you shut down your ankles ability to move and shift the majority of your weight forward?

Your body is likely going to compensate by firing everything on the back of your body to keep your center of gravity stable and try to shift your weight posteriorly. Chronically tight hamstrings, calves, and spinal erectors coupled with ankles that are stiff as a 2x4 - the recipe for success, no?

If you find that your calves resemble two blocks of concrete and your body has pretty much forgotten how to actually dorsiflex (pull your toes towards your face) your foot, then it’s time to do a little soft tissue work and get yourself back on track.

1. Start by performing some self-myofascial release (SMR) on both the anterior and posterior aspects of the lower leg.

Foam Rolling (SMR) - Tibialis Anterior:

Foam Rolling (SMR) - Posterior Calf Complex:

Pro Tip: I prefer to use a Rumble Roller as shown in the videos above since I can get a bit more localized pressure through the calf complex. If you really want to take things up a notch, throw a sand bag on top of your calf, then roll out the backside of your leg.

2. Perform a bit of dynamic ankle work in order to help length the posterior complex. Make sure that you utilize both drills since only one of the calf muscles crosses the knee joint.

Rocking Ankle Mobilization (Gastroc Emphasis):

Rocking Ankle Mobilization (Soleus Emphasis):

Pro Tip: Your body will try to default by rotating your hips or collapsing your arches if you lack ankle range of motion. Make sure to remain mindful of your arches and keep your body moving in a single plane to limit compensatory patterns.

Bottom Line: Look, I’m certainly not hating on your J’s by any means; like Nelly said, “It’s all good until I get my first scuff…” I appreciate a nice, fresh pair of shoes just the like next guy, but just make sure you’re spend the majority of your time out of your game day Nikes. They may prevent ankle sprains on the court but off the court, they’re robbing your body of its natural stability.

Lazy or Weak?

You can’t grab rim, your lateral footwork is choppy at best, and Shaq could run circles around you all day - where do you start? You get stronger. Strength is the basis for all other qualities that you’re trying to enhance in order to make yourself a better basketball player.

I once heard an excellent analogy from Eric Cressey who’s one of the brightest minds in strength and condition: imagine strength as a glass and all of the water inside the glass is the specific qualities that you want to train (i.e. agility, power, speed, endurance, etc). If you make your glass as large as possible by continually getting stronger, you will allow yourself the ability to express more abilities at a higher level.

“But what about dribbling, passing, shooting, and all of the other components within basketball?”

Fundamental movement patterns are learned skills that take time, repetition, and technique to develop. However, they don’t create strength, but rather build motor and neural efficiency.

If you want to improve your hand eye coordination, then you should spend a good amount of time actually working on your jumper and crossover. But, if you’re looking to build physical attributes rather than technical skills, you should always look to improve your strength.

Bottom Line: There is no quick fix when it comes to building muscle and becoming a world-class athlete. If you want to excel above the rest, you must be willing to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and continually get stronger.

The Road to the NBA Starts Today

Alright, so we’ve laid the ground work by discussing a few fundamental that every basketball player should encompass within their training. Now, the real question is what should my training look like once I step into the weight room?

I’ve got you covered, here’s a simple 4-week offseason mesocycle that will help you to build strength while allowing enough time for recovery and technical skill practice.

Lower Push/Upper Pull
Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
A1. Front Squat 3x3 4x3 5x3 6x2
A2. Depth Jump (16"-18" box) to Hurdle Hop 3x5 4x4 5x3 6x2
B1. Reverse Lunge (Unilateral Load - 1DB) 3x8 /Leg 3x8 /Leg 3x10 /Leg 3x10 /Leg
B2. Seated Cable Row 3x8-10 3x8-10 3x8-10 3x8-10
C1. Reverse Sled Drag 4x40yds 4x40yds 4x55yds 4x55yds
C2. 3-D Band Pullapart 4x15 4x15 4x15 4x15
Upper Push/Lower Pull
Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
A1. DB Bench 3x6 4x6 3x8 4x8
A2. Bench T-Spine Mobilization 3x5 4x5 3x5 4x5
B1. Standing Landmine Press 3x8 /Arm 3x8 /Arm 3x8 /Arm 3x8 /Arm
B2. Cable Pullthrough 3x12 3x12 3x12 3x12
C1. Tall Kneeling Vertical Pallof Press 4x8 4x8 4x8 4x8
C2. Physioball Leg Curl 4x10 4x10 4x12 4x12
Lower Pull/Upper Push
Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
A1. Snatch Grip Deadlift 5x3 4x4 6x2 3x3
A2. Rocking Ankle Mobilization (Gastroc & Soleus) 4x5 /Leg 4x5 /Leg 4x5 /Leg 3x5 /Leg
B1. Pushup w/Chains 3x6-10 3x6-10 3x6-10 3x6-10
B2. Facepull 3x12-15 3x12-15 3x12-15 3x12-15
C1. Glute Ham Raise 4x5-8 4x5-8 4x5-8 4x5-8
C2. Slide Plank w/Rotation 4x5 /Side 4x5 /Side 4x5 /Side 4x5 /Side
Upper Pull/Lower Push
Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
A1. Weighted Hammer-Grip Chin-Up 3x5 4x5 3x6 4x6
A2. Lateral Tuck Jump w/Stabilization 3x4 /Direction 4x4 /Direction 3x5 /Direction 4x5 /Direction
B1. BB Anterior Loaded Bulgarian Split Squat 3x6 /Leg 3x6 /Leg 3x7 /Leg 3x7 /Leg
B2. DB Row 3x8-10 3x8-10 3x8-10 3x8-10
C1. Farmers Walk 4x35yds 4x35yds 4x45yds 4x45yds
C2. Half-Kneeling Cable Chop 4x6 /Side 4x6 /Side 4x6 /Side 4x6 /Side
  • Ensure adequate rest between each rep on depth jumps; anywhere from 5-10 seconds to allow for maximal intensity on the next jump.
  • Utilize a 2-on/1-off/2-on/2-off schedule for this program to allow adequate rest and growth.
  • For prescribed rep ranges, aim for the lower end. If it’s easy, shoot for the higher end.

Now, this program doesn’t address the conditioning aspect of basketball that I touched on in point 2 because that’s another article in and off itself. Not to mention, I can’t give away all my trade secrets on day 1, now can I?

Got questions regarding what a specific exercise looks like? Check out my YouTube channel, drop a comment, or shoot me an email, address is in my bio below.

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About The Author
Mike received his B.S. in Exercise Science from USC and is currently pursuing his Masters in Exercise Physiology and Sport Performance at ETSU while continuing to serve as a strength and conditioning coach in his free time.

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