The final buzzer of your basketball season has gone off. Whether your team’s run fell short of playoffs, ended midway through the postseason, or ultimately resulted in the cutting down of the mesh and a banner celebration, everyone has to start back at square one…the offseason.
There was once a time in which the spring signaled a time to relax for a couple of weeks both physically and mentally before heading off to partake in some other activity, but over the years, like most other sports, basketball has become a twelve-month activity and commitment.
While ideally, you may think you would have extra time to hang out with friends, play some video games, catch up on school, or work a part-time job, the reality is you will also have to find time to train and workout in order to keep up or stay ahead of everybody else.
Rest & Recovery
Also known in the NBA world as “load management”, it is important for young players to take some time away from the court to let their body and mind rest and recover. There have been many studies about the wear and tear that young players are now experiencing on their bodies. Young players may also want to mentally remove themselves from their offseason program from time to time in order to avoid mental exhaustion and falling out of love with the game.
This is also a great time to check in with your doctor and your physical health specialists (chiropractor, physiotherapist, etc.) to address any health concerns that may have come up after the grind of the high school season. Spend time repairing your body before you set out trying to build it up.
Make A Plan
Whether your coach is moving up with you to the next level or you are going to be under the tutelage of a new coach, it is important to find out what they feel your strengths and weaknesses are and how they envision using you next season. While there are some things that may be obvious, you don’t want to go into tryouts and next season surprised by anything.
Assuming that you officially begin your school season at some point in mid-late October you have about six months to work on your body. The question is, what to work on and how to do it? Are you looking to become quicker, stronger, lose weight, gain weight, or have better mobility, flexibility, and balance? There are many factors to consider when approaching your off-season workout program. Rather than just hitting the gym and throwing some weights around, focus on building the proper periodization schedule which is important to achieving your physical goal.
If you can afford a personal trainer, it may be worth looking into as they can help create a proper workout program that is catered specifically to your needs. If this is not an option, use the following guidelines
Functional Strength: April – Mid-June
This focus here should be on preparing your body for more intense work in later months. Target improving core stability and stabilizing muscles through functional exercises. Don’t think that just because you are not lifting heavy weights, you aren’t improving your overall strength, balance, and athletic ability.
Workout Schedule: 2-3 days per week, 2-3 sets, 15-20 reps, 50-60% of 1 rep max
Maximal Strength: Mid-June – August
The focus for this stage is optimal strength. As you will be lifting heavier, your rep count will drop significantly and your rest time will increase, allowing you to exert more energy. Ideally, you would want to plan your routine for every other day in order to allow for proper recovery.
Workout Schedule: 3 days per week, 3-5 sets, 4-8 reps, 80-90% of 1 rep max.
After months in the weight room building strength, it’s time to convert that work into power. Using body and resistance exercises such as plyo pushups, medicine ball wall throws, medicine ball squat throws, Vertimax machines, and depth jumps will help build explosive power. Focus on form and proper movement.
Workout Schedule: 2-3 days per week, 8-10 sets, 8-12 reps, bodyweight, and resistance bands/medicine balls
Assuming you will be practicing or running open gym sessions multiple times per week, strength training during the early part of the season should be limited to maintenance only. Lifting too heavy can cause injury or muscle fatigue which can have a negative impact on young players who are still growing.
Workout Schedule: 2-4 days per week split between the weight room and power/plyometric training.
It is just as important during the offseason to work on speed, agility, quickness, balance, and stability as it is to increase your strength and power. Incorporating drills that focus on linear speed, change of direction, first step, acceleration, deceleration as well as reaction, and the ability to absorb contact with and without the ball.
Whether it is improving your handle, extending your range, working with your non-dominant hand, or attacking the basket, practicing on-court skills in the offseason is one of the most important components to becoming a better player. Whether you are at the gym, the park, or your driveway, it is important to have a plan and keep track of what it is you are working on so you can see improvement.
If you are working on skill development on the same day as you are scheduled to work out, take into consideration proper rest periods. Having your arms and legs completely exhausted will not only negatively impact your ability to shoot, dribble or run, but it could also lead to injury. Aim to do three skill development sessions a week.
If you ask any coach or skills trainer, they will likely give you a number of shots that they believe you should be taking over the course of a session and the entire off-season. And while that is true, it is also important to understand that you could be putting up thousands of shots with many of them being terrible. There is no point in putting up 1000 shots in a session with most of them having terrible form. Aim for a minimum of 500 shots per workout. If you want to get more shots up, make sure you give your body adequate rest.
With that being said, focus on keeping your skills workouts to within 60-90 minutes maximum. Chances are if your workout or skills session is any longer, you are having too many breaks or periods of time in which you aren’t working at an optimal level. Taking 500 mid-range shots in an hour with half of them having poor form doesn’t do you any good. Compare that to making 100 mid-range shots in twenty minutes with proper repetitive form and you will see that sometimes more is not better.
In your 60-90 minute skills session, incorporate defensive drills, ball handling, passing, footwork (jab steps, etc), attacking the basket, post-up, mid-range, free throws, and three-pointers (all of your shots should be off the catch and off the dribble).
Obviously, this is the most enjoyable part of the offseason for most players. This is a time when you can not only work on improving the skill set that you already possess, but you can also add another element to your game. If you are playing pick-up with friends or at the gym, don’t be afraid to try something new. If you aren’t comfortable handling the ball, try it. If you are not a three-point threat, go ahead and put a couple up.
However, when you take into consideration your strength training and your skills training, there are only so many hours in the day to add in gameplay.
At the beginning of your offseason, your primary focus should be on individual work, improving both your mind and body. Aim for a 75/25 split with 75% focus on individual work and 25% gameplay, whether it be 3-on-3 or 5-on-5.
During the summer months, start to shift your focus to a 50/50 split and then a 25/75 ratio as the offseason comes to an end.
One of the biggest hurdles that young players today face is the draw of AAU or Club basketball. With so many teams and tournaments, it’s like being in a candy store with unlimited funds. However, playing multiple games over the course of a back-to-back (and sometimes another back) days does not allow your body to rest and recover properly.