A motivated basketball player can create a personalized workout in any high school or community centre weight room. Make the most of what you have instead of making excuses.

Adolescents and Weight Training

Resistance training can provide benefits to children and youth aged twelve to eighteen years old. Programs improve muscular strength and power, cardiovascular fitness, bone density and long-term health. There are also benefits in terms of self-esteem, mental health and prevention and recovery from injuries (Harries, Lubans, & Callister, 2012, p. 532).

During the brief preseason period between the start of school and the beginning of exhibition tournaments, athletes can make a tangible improvement in the duration and quality of their playing time. Programs should be individualized, considering the body composition, gender, age and experience of the athlete (Reynolds, Ransdell, Lucas, Petlichkoff, & Gao, 2012, p. 181).

There is no need to push too much weight. Performing the right exercises with correct technique using body-weight resistance or a small weight can transform a dedicated student-athlete.

Core Strength and Stability

At the elite level, core strength and stability is strongly linked to performance. Basketball players need more than core strength, they need to ability to respond to force and maintain their balance. Even players like Pau Gasol and Shaquille O’Neal needed to develop their core in order to enhance their performance and their longevity (McKechnie, 2014).

High school athletes can develop their dynamic balance and core endurance with a program as simple as three half-hour workouts for six weeks. Effective workouts should combine isometric (i.e. plank variations) and dynamic (i.e. wood chopper) exercises (Sandrey & Mitzel, 2013, p. 268). Core exercises involving an athlete maintaining a position as their partner tries to throw them off-balance will also help basketball players.

After a brief core training program, high school athletes experienced that dynamic balance more than doubled due to enhanced muscle activation and co-contraction boosting trunk control as the athlete moved. The athletes were able to reach farther while maintaining their balance. Core endurance was nearly doubled after six weeks (Sandrey & Mitzel, 2013, p. 269). This would help a basketball player because they could continue to defend, rebound and finish against contact as the game progresses.

Speed-Strength

A resistance training intervention can improve muscular power – an important athletic ability in basketball – and sport-specific performance. Alactic power (strength-speed) indicators such as vertical jump and sprinting are very responsive after a focused program. Combining weights and plyometric training (such as box jumps, stairs, explosive sport-specific movements) may lead to larger improvements (Harries, Lubans, & Callister, 2012, p. 538). High school athletes with an explosive first step will create opportunities for themselves and their teammates.

Preparing and Recovering for Strength Training

Combining a strength-training program with dynamic warm-ups can exponentially increase results (Reynolds, Ransdell, Lucas, Petlichkoff, & Gao, 2012, p. 180). Before beginning a resistance workout, it is important to perform a cardiovascular activity to raise the heart rate and promote gains.

Eat properly before and after workouts. Also, if time is short and it is necessary to practice the same day or the day after a workout, warm-up and cool-downs promote recovery and prepares the athlete for the next session.

Resistance Training for High School Basketball

Play Strong

Work out off the court so you can take it strong to the basket on the court.

To reach the next level, athletes must be quick, strong and athletic. Athletes that want to travel or compete in top tournaments will face great players who have been working out over the years.

LeBron James

At St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School, LeBron James and his teammates trained to win the Ohio State Championship on the basketball court and in the weight room. The Irish trained four times weekly and focused on core work, lower body strength and shoulders. The goal was to improve movement in all directions and finish against tough defense. Exercises were sport-specific and altered to suit the position of the athlete (Stack Magazine, 2005).

Kevin Durant

Alan Stein convinced Kevin Durant to work out with him in order to build his body for college and professional basketball. Stein phrased it as a challenge; he simply asked Durant to try one workout first but he made the future star work hard for ninety minutes. Their first workout featured forty-five minutes of core training and forty-five minutes in the weight room without any basketballs but Durant came back for more. Durant admits that the workouts were not always fun but understood that he needed to put the work in. Stein and Durant still work together now, more than a decade later (Slater, 2013).

Jimmy Butler

After his third season in the N.B.A., Jimmy Butler was not happy with how his performance had dipped after his sophomore year and he was certainly unsatisfied with the contract offers that he was receiving from the Chicago Bulls. Before his contract year, Butler disconnected from phone, cable and Internet and became an all-star performer (Davis, 2014). If you really want something, you need to set priorities.

Sample Workout

These suggestions are based on the equipment and space that one can find in almost every high school and community weight room.

Include the following elements and divide the workout based on the time you have:

Lunch Time
40 minutes
After-School
60 minutes
Prepare for Movement (Warm-Up) 10 minutes 15 minutes
Sport-Specific Exercises 25 minutes 35 minutes
Prepare for Next Workout (Cool-Down) 5 minutes 10 minutes
Recover and Regenerate (Nutrition) within 20 minutes

Working out about three times weekly for about forty-five minutes would be a safe start for most. A six to sixteen week regiment in the weight room is sufficient to achieve meaningful gains in strength and sport performance (Harries, Lubans, & Callister, 2012, p. 534).

Prepare for Movement

  • Cardiovascular Warm-Up
    • Time: 10-20 minutes
    • Purpose: raise heart rate, improve training results
    • Instructions: Choose an activity that interests you.
  • Interval Training
    1. stationary bike or other cardio machine
    2. Time: one minute hard, two minutes steady state
  • Skipping
    1. quick feet, line jumps, “Ali Shuffle”, single-leg hops, double-jumps
    2. Time: thirty seconds skipping, thirty seconds active recovery
  • Agility Ladder Footwork
    1. multi-directional footwork
    2. Instructions: Set up ladder in hallway, sprint one way, walk back.
rapid fire (both feet pound each square) inside/outside
single-leg hops two-foot hops
cross-steps backwards/lateral footwork, turn, sprint
  • Jogging outside School
    1. Safety: tell someone where you are going or run with a partner, check weather
  • Sport Specific Dynamic Movement
    • Time: 5-10 minutes
    • Purpose: increase flexibility, prevent injury
    • Instructions: Repeat each exercise for 20-30 metres in the hallway.
knee cradles can openers
figure 4s fence jumps
quad pushes floor sweeps
lunges + twists airplanes
sumo squats leg swings

Select what You Want to Develop

It is not possible to complete all of the activities or every exercise in a single workout. Pick some activities to suit your interests or alternate exercises on different days.

  • Stairs
    • Time: 10 minutes
    • Purpose: explosiveness
    • Safety: Stay within an arm’s reach of the railing, ensure stairways are clear, do not listen to headphones
    • Instructions: Perform each exercise for one storey, walk down between exercises.
    • Volume: 2-3 sets x 8 exercises
left leg hops two steps forward, one step back
right leg hops alternate feet
two-foot hops max jumps
rapid fire (each foot hits every step) sprint up the stairs
  • Core
    • Time: 10 minutes
    • Purpose: stability
    • Instructions: Choose two or more activities
  • Plank (Regular/Reverse/Side)
    1. Time: thirty seconds on, thirty seconds off and work towards one minute
    2. Progression: include multidirectional movement (arm/leg raises, rotations, knee lifts, push ups) or balance on medicine ball, Pilates ball or BOSU.
  • Basketball Push Up (One Hand on Ball)
    1. Quantity: 3 sets x 20 reps (10 reps per side)
    2. Progression: adjust position of the basketball as you work
  • Dynamic Resistance with Partner
    1. Instruction: assume athletic stance, engage core and hold the ball chest high as partner provides resistance.
    2. Safety: ensure area is clear
    3. Quantity: 3 x 30 seconds
    4. Progression: use a medicine ball
  • Slam Ball Sequence
    1. engage core throughout exercises
    2. Safety: watch for inward bending of the knee or bad posture
    3. Quantity: 12 reps x 6 exercises
    4. Progression: use a band around the knees
wood chopper (left & right) circles
serratus slams side wall/partner toss (left & right)
  • Core Exercises
    1. keep feet off the floor for three minutes
    2. alternate exercises every twenty seconds
dead bug flutter kicks
Russian twists scissor kicks
V-ups bicycle
  • Sport-Specific Exercises
    • Time: 20-30 minutes
    • Purpose: strength, explosiveness, stability
    • Safety: master technique before adding resistance, watch for inward bending of the knee.
    • Quantity: 3 sets x 6-8 repetitions
    • Instructions: Select different exercises that mimic basketball actions with increased resistance.
Upper Body
dumbbell snatch get down/get up
I/Y/T wall tips slam ball passes against wall
hand grenade overhead skull crusher
Lower Body
lunge + pass weight between legs split step + Russian twist
power lunge goblet squat
box jumps/depth jumps with ball medicine ball step ups
  • Resistance Training for Basketball
    • Time: 20-30 minutes
    • Purpose: strength, stability
    • Safety: practice good technique, workout with a partner
    • Quantity: 3 sets x 8-10 repetitions
    • Instructions: Utilize standard weight room equipment to strengthen muscles used for basketball.
Upper Body
narrow grip bench press lat pull down
bicep curl to shoulder press tricep dip
45° incline row front/lateral raises
cable crossover wide grip pull-up
Lower Body
front squat split squat
Romanian dead lift glute-ham raises
hip abduction and adduction calf raises
leg extension hamstring curl
  • Note: Work larger muscles first and focus on different body parts each workout.

Prepare for Next Workout

  • Foot/Ankle Exercises
    • Time: ≤5 minutes
    • Purpose: balance, injury prevention
    • Instructions: Perform 2-3 exercises for 30 seconds (each foot).
single-leg balance on BOSU ankle rotations on ball
curl & spread toes foot doming
roll foot from heel to toe barefoot walk
  • Static Stretching
    • Time: ≤5 minutes
    • Purpose: flexibility, promote recovery
    • Instructions: Hold each stretch for fifteen seconds (each side).
    • Suggestions: pigeon, hamstring roller, double hip, lunge + push, side lunge + cobra

Recovery and Regeneration

  • Refuel
    • Purpose: improve response to training, raise energy level, boost performance during next workout
    • Instructions: Ingest a small snack within twenty minutes combining protein and carbohydrates.
yogurt/berries/granola multigrain bagel with cream cheese
cut fruit or vegetables snack bar (read ingredients)
cottage cheese brown rice cakes and jam
  • Note: Place all waste in the proper container.
  • Hydrate
    • Purpose: restore fluid balance, lengthen attention span, boost performance during next workout
    • Instructions: Drink to replace lost fluids but do not ingest excessive sugar.
    • Suggestions: water, diluted juice or sports drink, chocolate milk.
    • Safety: Always consume fluids (small sips) before, during and after the workout.
  • Self-Massage
    • Purpose: repair micro-tears from exercise, reduce soreness
    • Instructions: After practice or at home, use a foam roller or a basketball to roll out the muscles that you worked on during the day.

List of Resources

  • Davis, W. S. (2014, November 25). The Chicago Bulls’ Breakout Star Went All Summer Without Cable And Internet So He Would Train More. Retrieved March 9, 2015 from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/jimmy-butler-went-all-summer-without-cable-and-internet-to-train-more-2014-11.
  • Harries, S. K., Lubans, D. R., & Callister, R. (2012). Resistance training to improve power and sports performance in adolescent athletes. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport , 15 (6), 532-540.
  • McKechnie, A. (2014, September 11). Sports Science and the Toronto Raptors. (B. Bourgase, Interviewer)
  • Reynolds, M., Ransdell, L. B., Lucas, S., Petlichkoff, L., & Gao, Y. (2012). An examination of current practices and gender differences in strength and conditioning in a sample of varsity high school athletic programs. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research , 26 (1), 174-183.
  • Sandrey, M. A., & Mitzel, J. G. (2013). Improvement in dynamic balance and core endurance after a 6-week core-stability-training program in high school track and field athletes. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation , 22 (4), 264-271.
  • Slater, A. (2013, August 17). Building Kevin Durant. Retrieved April 15, 2015 from The Oklahoman: http://newsok.com/okc-thunder-building-kevin-durant/article/3873172.
  • Stack Magazine. (2005, February 1). LeBron James’ High School Training Plan. Retrieved April 16, 2015 from Stack: http://www.stack.com/2005/02/01/lebron-james-high-school-training-plan.