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Performance for Basketball and Athletes

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Although there is an abundance of evidence to support the benefit of strength training on basketball performance, the number of high level Australian basketball athletes (both junior and senior) that invest in a well-structured strength and conditioning program is very limited.

If you take a look at the US sporting system for example, their athletes are taken from a young age and taught the basic fundamental movement such as the squat, deadlift, lunge, press and pull which sets them up for success later in their sporting careers and drills in the importance of the strength and conditioning program for success. Sadly, in Australia no such programs exist (to my knowledge) that develop junior athletes right through to the college level. It is no wonder that young Australian athletes that go to the states don’t thrive in the college systems; you are at a disadvantage before you even start!

Some of you may be thinking, “But why is strength training so important for basketball performance? We play basketball, we don’t lift weights.” Correct you do play basketball but result of strength training improve will improve the physical qualities of the sport of basketball, such as, vertical jump height, acceleration, change of direction/agility and repeat sprint ability.

I guess this is as good a time as any to get a little geeky! Below is a picture of the force velocity curve. From left to right we see increases in velocity and from bottom to top we see increases in force. The faster we move, the lower the force and the higher the force, the slower we move. Essentially, a well-structured strength and conditioning program will see a shift in the force-velocity upwards and to the right which will allow you to move at a faster speed with a higher force. Ultimately, this leads to improved performance as you will get stronger, more powerful and can move faster.

 

The issue is that if an athlete spends all of their time training the speed portion of the curve, there will only be an improvement in the speed portion of the graph. Now, from my experience both playing basketball and coaching basketball athletes, a large percentage of these athletes spend almost all of their time training the speed portion of the graph. They have 2-3 training sessions per week, which are all developed around basketball skills and drills which are body weight and involve sprinting, jumping and change of direction (speed portion of the curve). This doesn’t include matches, individual skill sessions and/or games played at lunch time at school. Little to no time is spent on developing the maximal strength (lifting heavy) and strength-speed (lifting moderate – heavy but fast) portions of the curve.

Developing maximal strength and strength-speed is extremely important for performance. Unlike speed training, where no improvements in maximal strength are seen, developing maximal strength will see improvements right across the curve. Therefore, developing strength will improve all aspects of performance, including, vertical jump, acceleration and change of direction/agility. Not only will your performance significantly improve but your risk of injury will dramatically reduce. Taking time out of the sport itself (ie: 2-3 sessions/week) will help reduce the risk of repetitive load injuries such as tendinopathy.

So the questions I have to all the parents of basketball athletes and basketball athletes themselves out there that want to reach the next level of competition, whether that’s a goal of playing at a professional level, college ball, Big V, getting to a higher junior representative team or just wanting to improve your ability to perform at any level are:

  • Have you developed sound movement patterns under coach supervision?
  • Are you just working the speed portion of the curve and neglecting the maximal strength and strength-speed?
  • Have you invested in yourself outside of the basketball court to get to the next level?

If this sounds like you, do not hesitate to contact me at mitch@gw-performance.com to talk about how I can help you achieve your goals.