Absolute Strength for Basketball

WSBB Education
Wed Feb 23, 2022

Absolute Strength for Basketball

To the average person, the game of basketball can seem like it is a game of speed and agility instead of explosive power and strength. However, anybody who has spent time playing competitive basketball can tell you that basketball is highly physical. Not only does an athlete have to possess high levels of speed and agility, but a basketball player must also have the size, strength, and explosive power necessary to move opponents and make a play on the basket.

Why Focus on Absolute Strength?

Watching at home can give you a skewed perception of the overall size of the average collegiate or professional basketball player. On television, basketball players can seem tall and lanky, not athletes you consider examples of absolute strength and explosive power. However, once you see these athletes in person, or better yet, play a game against them, you quickly realize these are giant human beings who can use their size to their advantage to perform explosive athletic maneuvers at game speed.

If the average person went and attempted to play basketball against the likes of these athletes, they would be outplayed, overpowered, and generally bullied on the court. Now, suppose basketball is truly a game requiring the ability to perform explosive movements and physically dominate opponents. In that case, it is reasonable to suggest that basketball players can benefit significantly from using training methods that develop absolute strength. The question then becomes, what exercises can help a basketball player the most, and how do we implement these exercises into a training program?

Max Effort Training for Basketball Players

When training a basketball player, you can continue to follow the traditional Westside Barbell four-day per week training schedule. This training will include a max effort upper body training day and lower body training day. Optimal recovery between max effort workouts requires at least 36, preferably 48 hours between the max effort lower and the max effort upper training day.

Exercise selection would be similar to the exercises used to train powerlifters. Something that is often misunderstood with athletes and weight training is the need to use “sport-specific exercises.” These exercises often require a high level of coordination and cardiovascular capacity to perform, forcing the athlete to train outside of effective intensity ranges to complete the exercise safely.

Coaches must understand; you need to program exercises known to be most effective in developing the specific type of strength you wish to improve. This training will include various types of squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. An exercise does not need to be sport-specific to improve the sport performance of an athlete. Weight training improves the strengths required by the sport; sports practice develops specific sport skills. Successful strength training combined with successful sport practice results in successful sports performance.

Things to Consider

Basketball players must develop a feel for their shots. When training these athletes, be sure to monitor the effect max effort upper training has on their shot quality and shooting percentages. Suppose a player typically drains three-pointers but begins to experience a drop in shooting percentage once max effort upper training has been implemented. In that case, you must immediately adjust the training.

These adjustments can include making max effort upper training days more focused on rep ranges between three and five, or lowering the overall intensity level to be less taxing on the player.

You can also alternate between barbell-focused heavy press exercises and dumbbell-focused heavy press exercises. Sometimes, athletes who use their arms and shoulders often in their sport will experience extensive fatigue levels in these muscle groups. Adding in constant barbell work can further this fatigue, increasing the chance of an overuse injury.

The remedy is a simple, program in a dumbbell-focused main exercise occasionally.

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