Basketball is a demanding sport. Players must be strong, fast and agile. Basketball strength training conditions muscles by increasing the strength of muscle contraction, along with reaction time and flexibility. The end result is a player who can move quickly, can evade opponents and can pass and shoot with power and strength. Strength training also is a good way to help decrease the chances of injury and the amount of time that injuries take to heal.
Many other sports concentrate more heavily on total body strength training than basketball does, but this focus is beginning to shift as basketball players and coaches realize the importance of lower body strength and agility. Because players must use their hips, legs, knees, ankles and feet to run, jump, shuffle and cut for long periods of time, basketball strength training has taken on more of a total body approach than in the past. As competition gets tougher, many coaches expect players to be in good physical condition before early season practices begin. The offseason is considered to be the optimal time to get strong before the season begins. Strength training regimens should begin and continue throughout the offseason.
Training programs for basketball players are not all the same. Typically, basketball strength training regimens should be tailored to the primary position of the player. Small forwards and guards are directed to work on muscle tone to add strength and not bulk, and power forwards and centers are expected to build more bulk. Muscle tone without bulk is the result of training with less weight but doing more repetitions. Bulk is added by doing the opposite.
Children who are participating in basketball strength training give cause for specific consideration and concern. Growth plates can be affected by a child whose body is not developmentally prepared to handle weightlifting, so resistance training using the child's own body weight is recommended. Simple exercises such as push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups, leg raises, calf raises and dips are enough to build a child's strength, flexibility, stamina and self-confidence. It is important to stress proper stretching and exercise techniques to avoid injury and maximize results.
High school and college students can focus more on free weights and resistance machines than younger students can. Prior to lifting, players need to stretch and warm up with a light cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, rope-skipping or other quick exercise to raise the heart rate. This helps to warm up the muscles and prepare them for weights, and it helps burn excess fat and increase endurance. Weightlifting exercises should be done in muscle groups. A typical three-day routine works the chest, biceps and triceps on the first day, and the second and third days follow with the thighs, hamstrings and calves and then with the back, shoulders and abdominals.
Professional basketball players have detailed workouts and basketball strength training regimens throughout the season and the offseason. It is imperative for players to be in great shape for the season, so the offseason is not a vacation time when players can slack off of healthy habits and staying in shape. Skilled professional trainers and coaches use many different methods to encourage players to continue developing strength and agility throughout the year. Team doctors monitor the health of players and adjust routines according to need.
It is important to ensure that a player has the ability to participate in a basketball strength training program prior to allowing the player to begin. A complete physical assessment should be done by a qualified medical professional to ensure that the player's body can handle the stress of a particular workout program. The workouts should be monitored by an educated trainer or coach who can monitor heart rate, breathing and proper form. It also is important that the coach, trainer or workout partner be able to "spot" the player if they get into trouble or aid the player in case of injury.