Cal Basketball's 5-Week Bodybuilding-Style Workout Program

STACK Expert and Cal basketball strength coach Scott Thom offers a 5-week bodybuilding-style workout to help players build muscle and get in shape for the season.

Cal Basketball

At Cal, my basketball players often show up to training camp a bit weak and out of shape. The same can be said at the end of a long season. However, I've found success getting the Cal basketball team stronger in only four to five weeks with a method I call "B2B," or "Back to Bodybuilding."

"B2B" Defined

Cal's "B2B" workouts involve insanely high volumes, limited rest periods and big moves (i.e., Squats, Pulls and Pushes). Add in some good old-fashioned bodybuilding techniques, such as drop sets, strip sets and triple drop sets, and you have a formula that will increase strength and work capacity in only one hour.

Benefits of "B2B"

Players need to build their foundation of strength and conditioning before the regular season starts. But since time is limited, they cannot do separate strength training and cardio sessions.

The high-intensity aspect of "B2B" improves the players' ability to perform weight-training exercises that build strength. The method is efficient and effective.

This kind of training is also important at the start of the off-season. Players inevitably de-condition as the season progresses. However, they need a foundation of strength and conditioning before performing intense power-phase workouts. "B2B" is the best way to help them transition to that point.

"B2B" workouts can help your team work together. It builds a team dynamic that is often lost when workouts become individualized. The competitive atmosphere encourages hard work and stimulates greater results.

"B2B" Workout Guidelines


I recommend performing "B2B" workouts for four weeks before training camp or tryouts.

After the season, rest for two weeks, then do another five-week "B2B" phase. Five weeks of high-volume work capacity is sufficient to build a base of strength and conditioning so you can progress into a strength or power phase. Anything more may lead to overuse injuries, physical or mental fatigue.


Follow a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio for the workouts. If a set of exercises takes 15 seconds to complete, rest for 15 seconds before your next set.

The limited rest period improves conditioning, promotes a "muscle pump," and improve workout efficiency. If working with a partner, switch positions quickly with no chit-chat between sets.


The high volume of "B2B" workouts stimulates muscle growth because of the fatiguing effect placed on your muscles.

For an example of the volume we use, let's look at the Bench Press on day one. It calls for four sets of greater than 10 reps. Specifically, I have my athletes do sets of 20 to 30, 15 to 20, 11 to 15 and 11 to 12 reps. Follow this with a strip set (see below), and you'll do a minimum of 117 reps for the exercise. Talk about a muscle-building challenge!

Bodybuilding Techniques

For big movements like Squats, Pushes and Pulls, our guys finish with a strip set, drop set or triple drop set. These bodybuilding techniques ensure there's a sufficient volume to cause muscle fatigue and stimulate growth.

Strip Set

Load enough plates on each side of the bar to create a load you can lift for 10 reps with two in the tank. Perform 10 reps and strip a plate off each side. Perform another set without resting, and continue this pattern until you're only lifting the bar.

Triple Drop Set

On a triple drop set, you reduce the weight and increase the reps. Let's say you're lifting 185 pounds. After eight reps, drop 10 to 15 pounds and do another 10 reps without rest. Drop another 10 to 15 pounds and finish with a minimum of 15 reps.

Sample Schedule

The "B2B" plan involves a four-day split, which allows for 48 hours of rest before working the same muscle groups. The varied intensity helps promote growth hormone levels, increases volume and flushes out sore muscles (on light days) to promote recovery.

I have my Cal guys do their lighter leg workout on Tuesday so they can hit the court during the week without sore muscles hindering their progress. Friday is a heavy leg day so they have the weekend to recover. A light pick-up game on Sunday accelerates the process.

  • Monday - Heavy Push, Light Pull
  • Tuesday - Light Legs, Auxiliary Shoulders
  • Wednesday - Recovery (Foam Roll, Stretch, Hydrate, Pick-up Basketball)
  • Thursday - Heavy Pull, Light Push
  • Friday - Heavy Legs, Auxiliary Arms
  • Saturday - Recovery (Foam Roll, Stretch, Hydrate)
  • Sunday - Pick-up Basketball

As you progress from week to week, make sure you beat the previous week's numbers. Make small jumps in weight and let the volume do the work for you. If you only increase 5 pounds each week for four weeks, that's still 20 pounds of improvement! Remember, this is a 4- to 5-week program, and once it is complete, you should transition into another phase.

Thanks for reading, GET AFTER IT and GO BEARS!

The Workout

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

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