No longer can you play ball only from November through February and expect to head to your number-one school on any type of scholarship. If you want to be a dominant baller, you need to hit the hardwood year round-in summer leagues or with an AAU squad.
This type of dedication will have you living out of your suitcase with little time on your hands. However, it doesn’t mean you can abandon your training habits. Working to maintain your strength, speed and agility is just as essential to stuffing your stat sheet for the sharp eyes of college scouts as playing the game itself. And while playing will help you maintain, you need to put in some extra effort and train in a way that will complement what you do on the court.
According to Erik Phillips, strength and conditioning coach for the perennial playoff contender Phoenix Suns, “whether you’re playing in a summer league or on an AAU team, you have to get just as prepared as if you were playing in the season.”
Phillips, with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, compiled a manageable eight-week training plan that can be performed in conjunction with a hectic summer game schedule. The first four weeks deal with Integrated Stability Training (IST), and the second four weeks are focused on Strength Equivalency Training (SET). “The IST ensures that you are strengthening the muscles that stabilize you, which helps you avoid common basketball injuries,” he says. “SET is more traditional strength exercises, followed by a stability exercise.”
Following Phillips’ proven plan is a surefire way to make your body click on all cylinders come game day. “This eight-week plan will have all the muscles you use on the basketball court become active and gain strength,” he says. “High school athletes play multiple sports, so staying injury-free is a big factor with this training plan. It doesn’t mess up the rest of their seasons,” Phillips says.
One important factor in the program’s effectiveness is the controlled tempo of some of the exercises. The eight-week plan implements 4-2-1, 3-2-1 and 2-1-1 tempos. “The first number indicates the count for the deceleration of the movement, the second is for the rest and the third is the acceleration between,” Phillips explains.
Though the workout is simple to follow, it is crucial to perform the exercises with correct form. If you don’t, you may find yourself at the end of the bench, injured—a terrible way to spend your summer. “You have to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly and with the right tempo—or you’ll be looking at a possible injury,” Phillips says. “If you have stabilization issues with any one-leg or split-stance [exercises], then you should stay in that phase before moving on.”
Perform the Suns’ training plan three times per week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each day has five phases. Here, Phillips explains the benefits of the phases so you will understand the importance of each when you start the workout.
1. Pre- and Post-Workout Flexibility
“It is important to get your muscles ready for the speed, agility, quickness and strength exercises. You want to perform a dynamic warmup, foam rolling and some static stretches of the muscles you’ll be using that day during your workout.”
2. Core and Balance
“These exercises make sure your abdominals and the intrinsic muscles of the lumbo-pelvic hip complex activate and work correctly. Strength comes from your core muscles, and [they] need to be able to offset any force coming from other extremities. In basketball, you never really land or take off with both feet; you’re running, single-leg jumping or twisting, so you have to be balanced and stable in your core to absorb forces from awkward positions.”
“This phase incorporates basketball movements into your training so you can work the muscles you use on the court. Reactive drills make you move from one leg to the other and adjust your body to make gains.”
4. Speed, Agility and Quickness
“Most of the time, this is part of your basketball practice, when your coach runs lines, suicides and lane agility drills. One way to work your quickness and speed by yourself—something you won’t do in practice—is with the speed ladder.”
“Besides making gains in strength and speed, this phase is to prepare you for the impact you may experience on the court. Building upper body strength will not only improve your basketball shot, but it will get you ready to absorb the forces you might get from driving to the lane, playing defense or getting caught in a pick-and-roll. Building strength is important so your muscles fire and don’t become inactive when you head onto the court.”
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