How to Improve Your Basketball Skills in the Weight Room

Developing your basketball skills requires many hours on the court practicing your dribbling, shooting and passing. But although that is an important part in becoming a great player, it is only half of your workout. Gains are made not only on the court, but in the weight room. Weightlifting exercises specifically designed too mimic the physical demands and skills required for basketball can improve your game.

1. Dumbbell Chest Press

The Dumbbell Chest Press strengthens your chest, triceps and anterior deltoids, all essential for basketball movements such as the chest pass. Using dumbbells confers an added benefit in that each one must be lifted independently, decreasing the chance of using one arm more than the other, avoiding weakness in one arm and increasing stability and strength.

How to Perform:

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand.
  • Lie down on your back on a flat bench.
  • With a slow and controlled motion, press the dumbbells up above your chest.
  • Once your arms are fully extended, slowly lower them back down to the starting position. That is one repetition.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10

RELATED: 9 Ways to Improve Your Basketball Game

2. Standing Barbell Military Press

Power forwards and centers benefit the most from this exercise, because most of the time they have the ball above their head and/or they are fighting for a rebound. The Military Press strengthens your shoulders, triceps, and traps. If you have watched Dwight Howard, you know that strong shoulders benefit your game.

How to Perform:

  • Set up a squat rack with the bar at chest level.
  • Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and take a few steps back.
  • With your knees slightly bent, back neutral and core tight, press the bar above your head until your arms are fully extended.
  • In a slow and controlled motion, lower the bar back down to your chest, making sure not to overextend your lower back.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10

RELATED: A Tough Basketball Workout to Build Conditioning and Skill

3. Standing Dumbbell Single-Arm Shoulder Press

With benefits similar to the Military Press, the Single-Arm Dumbbell Press engages your stabilization muscles and increases individual arm strength for grabbing rebounds or throwing the ball with one hand.

How to Perform:

  • Grab a dumbbell in one hand.
  • With your knees slightly bent, back neutral and core tight, press the dumbbell above your head until your arm is fully extended.
  • In a slow and controlled motion, lower the dumbbell back down to your shoulder, making sure not to overextend your lower back.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10 each arm

4. Medicine Ball Chest Pass

The Medicine Ball Chest Pass should be second nature to basketball players, because essentially it is a weighted basketball chest press. It builds strength and explosive power in your chest and triceps, helping you make quicker and more precise passes on the court.

How to Perform:

  • Grab a medicine ball that is challenging, but not so heavy you lose form.
  • With a partner, perform a regular chest pass; put your whole body into it—not just your arms—by stepping into the pass and fully extending your arms.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x15

 

5. Medicine Ball Overhead Pass

The overhead pass is another key skill, and it can be improved through resistance training via the Medicine Ball Overhead Pass. This exercise increases shoulder and triceps strength and power to help you throw the basketball harder and farther for an outlet pass on a fast break.

How to Perform:

  • Grab a medicine ball that is challenging, but not so heavy you lose form.
  • With a partner, perform a regular overhead pass; put your whole body into it—not just your arms—by stepping into the pass and fully extending your arms over your head.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x15

6. Barbell Bent-Over Row

Most basketball skills require chest and triceps strength, but don't ignore your back, shoulders and biceps. The Bent-Over Row is a great exercise, because it engages both your upper and lower body, promoting overall strength.

How to Perform:

  • Set up a squat rack with the bar at waist level.
  • Lift the bar off the rack with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
  • Bend your knees until you reach a partial squat.
  • Keeping your back arched, shoulders retracted and chest out, bend at the waist until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
  • Retract your shoulders and bend your elbows as you bring the bar to your lower chest/upper abdominal muscles.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10

7. Barbell Squats

Squats are one of the best exercises for any athlete, especially basketball players, who must squat to perform several skills on the court. Squats build strength in your quadriceps, glutes, lower back and hips, which help with jumping, shooting and maintaining your defensive stance.

How to Perform:

  • Set up a squat rack with the bar level with your collarbone.
  • Center the bar on your upper back/traps.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and take a few steps back.
  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, slowly lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your head up, shoulders retracted, butt out, weight on your heels, and back in a neutral position.
  • Once you reach parallel, power straight up, driving your heels into the floor. Do not lift up with your back like a Good Morning.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10

8. Trap Bar Deadlift

The Deadlift is an excellent exercise for building lower-body strength, and performing it with a trap bar is one of my favorite variations, because it centers the weight around your body.

How to Perform:

  • Load a trap bar with enough weight for 10 reps.
  • Stand in the middle of the bar with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat down and grasp the bar with both hands in a neutral grip.
  • With the same technique as the Squat, lift the bar off the floor to stand tall, driving through your hips.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10

9. Barbell Hang Clean

This exercise builds explosive strength in your legs, hips, arms and back, mimicking the explosiveness you need when driving to the basket or jumping for a rebound. This is a full-body exercise that is sure to improve your basketball skillls.

How to Perform:

  • Set up a squat rack with the barbell at mid-thigh level.
  • Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and take a few steps back.
  • With your feet shoulder-width apart and your back in a neutral position, bend at the hips and knees until the bar is just below your knees.
  • Explosively shrug your shoulders as you bend your elbows and pull the bar up to your chest.
  • As the bar reaches chest level, rotate your forearms under the bar, then catch the bar on the front of your shoulders, with your knees bent.
  • Lower the bar, and repeat quickly.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10

10. Barbell Squat Jumps

Adding an explosive jump to a Squat will increase your vertical leap and boost your explosive power to help you grab rebounds and (every player's dream skill) dunk the basketball.

How to Perform:

  • Set up a squat rack with the bar level with your collar bone.
  • Load the barbell with weight that is challenging, but not so heavy that it severely hinders your jump.
  • Center the bar on your upper back/traps.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and take a few steps back.
  • With your feet shoulder-width apart, lower down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your head up, shoulders retracted, butt out, weight on your heels, and back in a neutral position.
  • Once you reach parallel, power straight up off the floor, driving your heels into the floor. Do not lift up with your back like a Good Morning
  • Try to land softly on the floor and immediately transition into your next Squat Jump.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10

11. Medicine Ball Overhead Lateral Hops

This exercise builds calf, quadriceps and shoulder strength, helping you jump higher and increasing your ankle strength, specifically for lateral movements. It gets as close as you can to mimicking jumping for a rebound.

How to Perform:

  • Set a barbell on the floor in a wide and open space.
  • Load each side with a 45-pound weight plate.
  • Grab a medicine ball you can hold over your head for 60 seconds.
  • Stand on one side of the barbell with your feet close together.
  • Hold the medicine ball above your head with arms slightly bent.
  • Laterally jump back and forth over the barbell, keeping your weight on the balls of your feet.
  • Avoid letting the ball lower as you jump over the barbell.
  • Sets/Duration: 2x60 seconds

RELATED: Build a Basketball Body with this Basketball Workout Plan

Topics: BASKETBALL TRAINING | CHEST | POWER | EXERCISE | PRESS | BARBELL | HEELS | MEDICINE BALL | SQUAT RACK

Andrew Meyers Andrew Meyers - Andrew Meyers is a NASM-certified personal trainer at Youfit Health Club in Gilbert, Ariz. He specializes in long-distance running and weightlifting. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Athletic Training from Grand Canyon University, where he also ran cross country and track.
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