Basketball Weightlifting 101—Do's and Don'ts

Basketball Weight Lifting

Training for basketball requires a specific approach, and many young basketball players make plenty of mistakes in the weight room. Here are some of the most common basketball weightlifting errors they make during workouts, as well as some tips on how to get better results in the gym.

Basketball Weightlifting Principles

Don't Overdo Plyometric and Explosiveness Training

Box jumps, plyometrics, and speed training all have merit in a well-designed program. But they're  just tools in the toolbox. You can't build a house with only a hammer and chisel. You need nails, a saw, wood and bricks, too.

Don't Put Too Little Emphasis on Strength

A common basketball weightlifting myth is that lifting for strength will make you heavy and slow. That's an outdated idea. Muscles are what help you move and produce force, so it stands to reason that if you want to run faster or jump higher, you need stronger muscles to produce more force. Think about NBA superstars like LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin. They all have plenty of muscle with minimal excess body fat.

Don't Use Poor Exercise Technique

Bad form means bad results. Test your Squat to see if you're doing it right. Stand three inches away from and facing a wall. Squat down until your hips are level with or slightly below your knees. If you fall down or are unable to get that low, refine your technique before adding weight.

Don't Skip Rest and Recovery

Young basketball players often play pickup games, lift weights, practice their shooting and ball handling, and work on core strength and agility in the same day. Then they wonder why they're skinny as a rail and weak, with no progress to show for any of it. Make sure to be efficient with your time and plan days for rest, recovery, and growth.

Now that you've learned a few things to avoid when training for basketball, here are a few positive habits you should establish.

Do Learn and Perfect Proper Movement Patterns

Watch videos; hire a trainer and/or get an expert to teach you. Whatever it takes, you need to learn proper form, because lifting incorrectly not only limits your gains, it places your body at a higher risk for injury. Don't lift with your ego and don't put too much weight on the bar. It will do nothing to increase your athleticism.

Do Focus on Strength

In your fight against gravity and your opponents, strength is your best friend. Just as a ceiling limits height, your maximum strength limits the amount of force you can produce. Raise your ceiling to produce more force.

Do Use Plyos & Explosive Work Properly

Once your strength has increased and your ceiling has been raised, train to improve your rate of force production. You'll always have a limit in the maximum force you can produce, but you'll also be constantly pushing it higher by training for strength. Since it's so important to be able to produce this force as quickly as possible, incorporate plyos and explosive work—in moderation.

Do Take Days Off

Growth, recovery, and muscle repair can't happen if you don't take time to rest. More is not always better. Plan your sport-specific work so that you can have one or two true rest days per week.

Try this sample weekly basketball weightlifting plan. You'll get bigger, faster, stronger, more explosive, and more powerful than you've ever been:

Day 1: Upper Body
A: Medicine Ball Push Press 3 x 3
B1: Standing BB Overhead Press 4 x 4-6
B2: Band Pull Aparts (palms up) 4 x 12-15
C1: Pullups 3 x 8-12
C2: Weighted Decline Crunches 3-4 x 8-15
Optional: Spend 15 to 30 minutes on shooting, ball handling, or other sport-specific drills.

Day 2: Lower Body
A: Broad Jumps 3 x 3 (reset between jumps)
B: Deadlift 4 x 4-6
C1: Split Squat 3 x 6-10/leg
C2: Reverse Hyper 3 x 8-12
C3: V-ups 3 x 10-20
Optional: Spend 15 to 30 minutes on conditioning, speed work, or agility.

Day 3: OFF

Day 4: Upper Body
A1: Speed Bench (50-60% 1RM) x 2 reps
A2: Bench Press 4-6 x 4-6
B1: DB Rows 3-4 x 8-12
B2: Cable Face Pulls 3-4 x 8-12
C1: Triceps Press down 3 x 10
C2: Hammer Curls 3 x 10
Optional: Spend 15 to 30 minutes on shooting, ball handling, or other sport-specific drills.

Day 5: OFF

Day 6: Lower Body
A: Box Jumps 5 x 2
B: Back Squat 4 x 4-6
C1: Reverse Lunges 3 x 10/leg
C2: DB RDLs 3 x 10-12

Photo: Garrett W. Ellwood

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock