Designing an In-Season Training Program for Basketball – Part II

In Part I, I provided an assessment each athlete should complete prior to beginning an in-season strength program. If you missed it, be sure to check it out here. Today, I want to discuss several considerations that will need to be taken into account when designing and implementing a strength program for basketball players. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on designing programs for players at the high school and college levels (NBA doesn’t need to worry about in-season right now, unfortunately).
Training Considerations
After completing the assessment, there should be a deficit or two that will need to be addressed in the training program. Mobility, flexibility, and balance deficits are most easily improved during the season, where as strength and power gains will be minimal (compared to off-season training, which I will cover in another post). The reason being mobility, flexibility, and balance work all place much smaller demands on the body, and can therefore be trained more frequently during the season. Because the goal of training is for production on the court (and not in the weight room), a program designed for massive strength gains will undoubtedly affect players on court performance and predispose players to overtraining. This brings me to my first training consideration:
Team Schedule – For high school players, the schedule is usually pretty standard with two games per week, with one or three on a rare occasion here and there, and a few weekend tournaments. This allows for a relatively consistent training schedule for coaches and players to get two workouts a week with ample recovery time. For college players, the schedule is slightly more hectic (more tournaments, farther travel, etc.) but still manageable as most games are scheduled late in the week, allowing Monday/Wednesday training splits. Below is a sample schedule (the game schedule taken from a high school program):
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Off
No Lift
Game
Lift
No Lift
Game
Lift
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Off
Game
Lift
Game
No Lift
Tournament
Tournament
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Off
No Lift
Game
Lift
Game
Lift
No Lift
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Off
Game
Optional Lift
Game
Game
Lift
No Lift
As you can see, basketball schedules aren’t as simple to navigate as football, but still generally allow a day between games, and two/week separated by at least a day is usually the quota. I usually prefer training players the day after a game, because it USUALLY means they will have a day of recovery before their next game, and any delayed onset muscle soreness will have dissipated. Because of the grind of tournament play, where it’s common to play 4-5 games minimum, it is very important to allow the players to recover physically and mentally.
Other Time Demands – As I said above, this article is focused on high school and collegiate players, and with that comes their academics. Most college programs require a minimum number of study hall hours per week. In high school, parents don’t want their kids wrapped up with basketball for four hours every day and watch their grades suffer. In addition to academics, many players may also have a part-time job, family responsibilities (e.g. babysitting their younger brother), etc. With that in mind, two training sessions a week is likely going to be the biggest commitment an athlete can make.
Age/Gender/Height – All three of these physical characteristics will impact the type, volume, and intensity of training, as well as require modifications to lifts (such as a 6’8” player performing deadlifts from blocks instead of the floor). Younger kids will need lower intensity lifts until they develop proper form and technique. Females will need additional knee stability work in order to protect against ACL tear due to natural position of the femur. Tall athletes, as mentioned above, will need to perform lifts through a different range of motion than their shorter counterparts, as they are at an extreme mechanical disadvantage due to longer lever arms.
Individual Deficits – This is where the results of the assessment come in. While the majority of a training program can be applied to all players, it is important part of each session is dedicated to improving deficits and correcting imbalances. If the deficit is mobility or balance related, the final 5-8 minutes of a training session should be dedicated to improve these areas. If a player suffers from a strength imbalance, this should take place earlier in the workout, primarily with modified lifts.
Training Outline
Below is an example workout program for a high school player who was revealed to have a lack of hip mobility and dynamic balance:
Workout 1
Workout 2
Workout 3
Lower
Superset
Dumbbell Lunges
Bulgarian Split Squats
Hex Bar Deadlift
3×8-10 (each side)
3×6-8 (each side)
3×6-8
Hip Ext on Stability Ball
Kettlebell Swings
Single Leg Glute Bridge
3×10
3×10
3×10
Upper
Superset
Dumbbell Incline
Single Arm DB Bench
Push Ups w/ Band
3×6-8
3×8-10 (each side)
3×8-10
Dumbell Rows
Chin Ups
Cable High Row
3×6-8 (each side)
3×6-8
3×6-8 (each side)
Core
Med Ball Wall Slams
Ab Wheel Rollouts
Pallof Press
2×5
2×10
2×8 (each side)
Balance
SL RDL/OH Press
SL Twists w/ Med Ball
SL Reachbacks
2×8-10 (each side)
2×8-10 (each side)
2×8-10 (each side)
Mobility
PVC OH Squat Against Wall
Lunge & Reach
Lunge & Twist
2×10
2×8 (each side)
2×8 (each side)
Yes, I realize I have said multiple times that two training sessions per week is the best course of action, and then provided a three-workout split. There’s a good reason, I promise – by creating three workouts (instead of two or four) is you get the most bang for your buck. By having two sessions per week, and three different workouts to chose from, you create an easy three week rotation. Instead of needing to create two workouts per week, you’re essentially making one workout per week, allowing constant change in the program (in an effort to avoid plateaus) with minimal time dedicated to program design. Plus it’s easy for the athlete to follow: Week 1 –  complete Workouts 1 & 2, Week 2 – complete Workouts 3 & 1, Week 3 – complete Workouts 2 & 3.
As far as the individual exercises, these are some of my preferences, but certainly not set in stone. Two days with single leg compound lifts to one bilateral compound leg lift because most of basketball is one leg at a time, but it is important to train both sides together as well to ensure solid neuromuscular pathways. Nearly all lifts require movement at multiple joints; this is to minimize the time necessary to train the entire body. Time is always the enemy, as I am usually limited to 30 minutes per session with my basketball players (for all the reasons listed above). As you can see, because the player had two glaring deficits (both bilateral, so he was equally deficient on both sides), the corrective portion of the workout was split to address them both. When it comes to correcting deficits, it is best to address imbalances first and bilateral deficits second, due to the heightened predisposition to injury that accompanies an imbalance.
I don’t like to include much plyometric work with my players in-season, namely because they complete enough jumps and hops during practice that additional contacts would be more detrimental than beneficial. However, if an athlete has a glaring lack of power development, plyos can be put first in the workout to ensure maximum benefit.
This is by no means a complete training program, but I hope it has given you some insight in developing one that is right for your team, players, or self. If you have any questions, or would like assistance in developing a program for your players, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW
480-241-4112
HenleySportsPerformance.blogspot.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley

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