So many different training methods exist that are specific to a given sport. Here's where I challenge the system: do things really need to be so complicated?
You're young, fit and athletic. Some well-structured weightlifting guidelines will go a long way toward kickstarting your career as an athlete. The problem is, some athletes and experts get too caught up in the madness of staying on top of trends and trying to be as innovative as possible.
As an athlete, I've been told to avoid certain movements in the weight room because they "didn't pertain" to my sport. The first time you hear that, it makes perfect sense. Performing an exercise that mirrors your sport is the best way to go, right? But if you dig deeper, you find holes in this argument.
Most young athletes—no, all young athletes—have muscle imbalances that need to be corrected. I'll be blunt—simply training to fix those imbalances will positively affect your athletic potential. When athletes learn how to use their bodies, and their bodies cooperate, the athletes immediately becomes better players on the field.
That said, situations do arise when weightlifting is so important that it can make or break an athlete's career. Dramatic, but true. Take injuries for example. As a sprinter, I dealt with issues in both hamstrings. When I was on the mend from tearing my left hamstring, I was instructed against performing Hamstring Curls of any sort, since the butt-kicking action was considered the devil in sprinting mechanics. However, that mindset neglected the fact that Hamstring Curls are a great way to strengthen the muscle group. Like many young athletes, I had to worry about getting truly strong before trying to tailor my workouts to match those of world-class sprinters.
Specialized exercises are great, but at a young age, you should focus on general strength and conditioning. The time you spend actually practicing your sport is what makes you better at that sport. Weight room training is independently responsible for your strength, muscular development and injury prevention—regardless of what movements are chosen.
Focus on improving your performance with the primary barbell and dumbbell movements, like the Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press and Barbell Row. If you have weak links, make sure to give them special attention so your body can function as a strong and cohesive unit, even if the movement doesn't match a sports movement or skill. In the end, your athletic development and performance on the field will benefit from this approach.
Photo: Nike Basketball