This piece was coauthored by Bryan Meagher.
Basketball has evolved tremendously over the past 25 years. Today’s game requires players who are not just skilled, but faster, stronger and more explosive than their competition.
Weight training is the trick for stepping up your game, dominating on the court and helping your team win. If you are serious about basketball, you need to be equally serious about basketball weight training. So what exactly needs to be worked in the weight room? Here are the top 10 strength exercises from the 2011-12 High School Basketball National Champions, Oak Hill Academy.
1. Front Squats
Why: All athletes are built from the ground up, so strong legs are crucial, especially for basketball players. The tried and true Front Squat is one of the best basketball weight training exercises to develop this power.
- Keep chest up and back flat
- Elbows stay high throughout movement so bar remains on shoulders
- As you descend, push hips back as if sitting down
- Keep weight on heels
- Lower until thighs are parallel to the ground to engage all major muscle groups in your legs
2. Clean High Pull
Why: Explosive triple extension movements are great basketball exercises, because they help athletes transfer their progress from the weight room to the court. This particular exercise involves the hip, knee and ankle, three major joints, which, when moved from flexed to extended position, create the explosiveness needed to jump for rebounds.
- Power comes from the hips, so hips should rock back first
- This places shoulders in front of bar and allows for full hip extension and drive
- Chest and back stay up and flat
Why: Basketball requires more pulling strength than pushing strength. The Chin-Up strengthens the muscles in upper back and biceps, which are needed for pulling down a rebound or playing tough with the ball in the post.
- Use a full range of motion to really work biceps
- If you can’t perform many Chin-Ups, continue to work up; perform them with assistance, from either a band or a spotter
4. Power Lunge
Why: Basketball athletes need to explode up and jump as high as possible. The Power Lunge trains for that powerful second jump, so you can get off the ground quickly and grab rebounds off missed shots.
- Feet should be walking distance apart in the lunge position
- Knee should be behind toes, chest up and shoulders back
- When landing, concentrate on landing back in lunge position, then exploding back up and off the ground as quickly as possible, while maintaining good posture and form
5. Towel Rack Rows
Why: This is another strengthener for the “pulling muscles.” Wrap two towels around bar to add another dynamic, and develop grip strength along with back and arm muscles.
- As you pull chest to bar, keep body in perfectly straight line
- Keep legs straight throughout
- If you’re not strong enough, bend knees to make movement easier; as you get stronger, move legs out so they’re straight
6. Dumbbell Jump Squat
Why: Basketball players need to be explosive and make high vertical jumps; and this trains for both, building up lower body power and strength. Because this exercise is meant to be done fast, you don’t need heavy dumbbells. Use weight equal to between 15 and 30 percent of your squat max.
- Use the same form as for the Front Squat, except hold dumbbells at sides
- Upon descent, push hips back like you were sitting down
- Keep weight on heels, chest up, back flat
- Concentrate on exploding up and jumping as high as possible, then landing softly in the squat position so you can immediately drive up off ground as fast as possible
7. Push Jerk
Why: This Olympic style lift requires coordination and synchronization of the upper and lower body, a key for dominating on the court.
- Once the bar has cleared your face, push your head through your arms and look slightly down; this forces the bar to finish directly over your head
- Sink hips and catch bar with knees slightly bent
- Concentrate on driving up with legs before pressing up with arms
8. Close-Grip Bench Press
Why: This is one of the best exercises to develop upper-body strength; and because it engages the triceps, it’s a better option than the regular Bench Press.
- Position hands no more than shoulder-width apart
- Elbows stay close to body throughout movement
- Keep feet on ground and butt on bench at all times
9. Dumbbell Step-Ups
Why: A multi-joint lower body exercise, it helps to eliminate any strength imbalance between your right and left legs. Plus, since it trains one leg at a time, it improves your balance, extremely important for a basketball player.
- Keep chest up while stepping up
- Moving off front foot, drive knee up and hold it in position for one second
10. Barbell Curl and Press
Why: The basic Barbell Curl only strengthens the biceps. Adding a press also trains the shoulders. These are “mirror muscles,” the ones people tend to notice. A player who feels good about his or her appearance will have more confidence and be more apt to play well. We want our players to feel good about their physiques.
- Do not use legs or back to complete this movement
- Maintain strict form and good posture