The Basketball Revolution Is Here: Train for a More Physical Game

Today's hoops game is more physical than ever. Train for a more bruising game with a basketball workout from STACK Magazine.

LeBron James

For the Fall 2013 issue of STACK Magazine, we talked to some of basketball's best minds training today's ballers about the Basketball Revolution. Read more about the speed and skills of today's players.

Since 1985, the weight of the average NBA player has increased by nearly 10 pounds, hovering just below 223 pounds at the beginning of last season. The numbers are even more compelling when you look at the stars of recent eras. LeBron James often draws comparisons to Michael Jordan, but at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, James is closer in size to "The Admiral," former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson. The two share the same playing weight, though Robinson stands 5 inches taller than The King. But although LeBron's size is impressive, it's by no means exceptional in today's game (Carmelo Anthony clocks in at 6-foot-8, 230). What's driving the development of players' increasingly muscular physiques?

Alan Stein: "It's amazing the way bodies have changed. The guys at the NBA level are just so strong. Look at LeBron's measurements and go back 15 years. All the two-guards and small forwards in the NBA back then were two to three inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter. And LeBron has less body fat [than those guys did]." 

Dan Barto: "For the last 20 years, players have emphasized playing less in the off-season and training more. Basketball has finally become like running, tennis, golf, or any other sport where the athletes aim to peak in a certain part of the year. During the other parts of the year, they're trying to make incremental gains. It's a departure from the time when players were just expected to play year-round."

Steve Hess: "What athletes do now is they take responsibility for every aspect of their bodies—nutrition, training, and recovery."

Barto: "Guys understand nutrition substantially more than they did five years ago. More players have chefs. In high school you don't have anyone helping you with that. You grab a bowl of cereal, you go to the cafeteria for lunch, you head to Applebee's with your family after the game. That's not going to cut it if you're practicing three hours a day and trying to gain 25 pounds of muscle. If you want to have substantial results, you need to pay attention to your quality of sleep and the meals you're eating, and making sure they match your level of activity."

Bryan Meyer: "Athletes should spend a lot of time on being able to hold and own their posture. Being able to control your spine and hips—your foundation—is really important."

Stein: "Kids need to be able to do perfect Push-Ups, Pull-Ups and Lunges, and hold Plank position. Once they can do those things perfectly with their body weight, then they can graduate to using traditional strength training tools like dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells."

Meyer: "When players do start lifting, they should aim to mimic positions that they would hold on the court—a staggered stance, an even stance, or a slightly lunged position. When you're performing a strength move, if you simply bring your feet from even to staggered, it changes everything. I think a lot of times people are too busy sitting on benches or strapped into machines—positions that don't really translate to the game.  Instead, let's work on mobility and stability."

Stein: "When you build your strength, that will trickle down to all of the other aspects. If you get stronger, it will help you get quicker by default. It will help you run faster and jump higher. Strength has always, for me, been the epicenter of those other areas." 

Basketball Workout for a More Physical Game 

Lifting big weights can help you get bigger, but young athletes should first focus on mastering exercises that use little to no weight other than their own body weight. These moves translate to better stability and mobility on the court. Stein uses the following moves with his athletes at DeMatha. They can be performed with a medicine ball (shown below), or just a basketball.

Partner Med Ball Shot Put

Stand with your left side facing your partner, about 10 feet away, holding a med ball with both hands in front of your right shoulder. Drive through your right hip and throw the med ball to your partner with your right arm. Have your partner do the same. Catch the med ball and throw it back in one motion.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x4 each side

Partner Med Ball Shot Put

Single-Leg Med Ball Reaches

Stand upright holding the med ball against your chest. Bend forward at the waist, and kick your left leg out behind you while balancing on your right. Push the med ball out past your head as you bend until your arms are fully extended. Return to starting position, then switch legs.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x5-12 each leg

Single-Leg Med-Ball Reaches

Med Ball Squat to Press

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width, holding the med ball at chest level. Sink your hips back and lower into the squat position until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Extend your knees and hips to drive up out of the squat and push the med ball up over your head. Repeat.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x4


Med Ball Chest Passes

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your head at the feet of your partner, holding a med ball at your chest. Throw the ball straight up in the air and have your partner catch it. Have your partner lower the ball back into your hands, and repeat the movement.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x4

Med Ball Chest Pass

Lunging Med Ball Torso Rotations

Lunge forward with your right leg, keeping your left leg bent. Hold a med ball with your arms extended and rotate your upper body to the right as far as possible. Return to center and then rotate to the left side. Repeat the movement.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x4 each leg

Lunging Med Ball Torso Rotations

Lunging Floor Taps

Lunge forward with your right leg, keeping your left leg bent. Hold a med ball against your chest, then lower the ball to tap it on the ground in front of your right foot. Bring the ball back up and tap it lightly against your chest, then hoist it above your head until your arms are fully extended. Repeat the movement.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x4 each leg

Lunging Floor Taps

Elevate Your Game 

If you're confident that you have mastered the bodyweight moves at left, amp up the difficulty by trying the ones Meyer prescribes for Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard.

Push-Up Variations With Basketball

Use a basketball to change up your Push-Up. Try performing ten reps each with your right foot on a basketball and your left foot in the air (or vice versa), both feet on the basketball, and the ball beneath your hands.

Push-Up Variations

Reverse Lunge With Reactive Holds

Place your left foot on a piece of paper. Slide that foot backward into a lunge and hold for duration. Push through your front leg to return to an upright position.

Sets/Duration: 3-4x10- to 20-second holds

Reverse Lunge With Reactive Holds

Photo: AP

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