Lifting weights will not only make a basketball player stiff, bulky and slow, it will mess up his jump shot. If you still believe this statement, take your game back to the 80s where it belongs. Don’t forget your high socks and tiny shorts.
“We have found this to be an outdated concept,” says University of Cincinnati strength coach Scott Greenawalt.
“We have guys who are putting on lean muscle mass, jumping higher, getting quicker, grabbing more rebounds and getting stronger with the ball in their hands from performing the right kind of strength training.”
Conventional weightlifting is great for strengthening muscles in a single plane, but you have to dig deeper into the toolbox to develop rim-rattling court strength. Greenawalt’s toolbox is one of the deeper ones in the business. “When basketball players are running all over the court, cutting, dribbling and posting up, they are using every muscle in their bodies in every range of motion and angle,” he says. “They are using their ankles, hamstrings, hips, groins, midsections and shoulders simultaneously through different planes, so they have to be trained that way. They are not 100-meter sprinters moving straight ahead on a track; they never know what direction they will have to move in.”
Greenawalt’s recommendation for strengthening your game for the 21st century is simple; get down with some variation. In the Bearcats’ strength program, this comes in the form of manual resistance, band work and progressive overload—highly effective tools for working players’ muscles at every angle and range of motion.
To gauge the results, look at the career of Jason Maxiell, a first round pick in the 2005 NBA Draft Maxiell arrived at Cincinnati the summer before his freshman year at 208 pounds, and he bought into the Bearcat philosophy from day one, according to Greenawalt Maxiell’s belief in the program and his hard work propelled him to become one of the best Bearcats ever. As a 6’ 7 ”, 268-pound senior, he averaged 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, blocked 91 shots, and earned a reputation as one of the strongest and toughest players in the nation. His powerful, aggressive style of play makes him a great fit with the bruising Detroit Pistons.
An alternative to conventional forms of strength training with weights, manual resistance is performed with a partner who provides force throughout the entire range of motion. Benefits gained cannot be achieved with standard weightlifting. The athlete performing the exercise can exert maximum effort into each rep, because his partner controls the amount of resistance, increasing or decreasing it to match the athlete’s strength capability throughout the set. Greenawalt says, "With manual resistance, the partner provides steady resistance in the opposite direction throughout the whole range of motion. Because of this, you can work through different angles of resistance rather than in a fixed plane." With weights, resistance is always directed toward the floor, regardless of where you are in the movement.
Bonuses of manual resistance exercises: you can perform them without equipment, in the confines of your home, and you can replicate nearly all non-explosive weightlifting movements.
Lifting a 50-pound dumbbell provides 50 pounds of resistance throughout the motion—even though you are stronger in different positions along the way. "With band resistance," Greenawalt says, "the load increases about 20 to 30 percent along the way. As it stretches, the band matches your strength curve and provides more resistance at points where you are stronger and less at points where you are weaker."
According to Greenawalt, the biggest problem with athletes when they get to the collegiate level is low intensity in the weight room. "When they get here," he says, "they have to learn how to work with high intensity every step of the way."
To keep his athletes’ intensity high, Greenawalt uses a progressive overload technique that forces them to take every set to momentary muscle failure. This means that when a set calls for 8 reps, the athlete uses the heaviest weight he can handle for 8 reps. To challenge his muscles as he gets stronger, he gradually increases the weight.
To keep heart rates elevated for an entire weight room session, Greenawalt allows only 1 minute of recovery between sets, or closer to 2 minutes for exercises involving large muscle groups.
Hold dumbbells at chest level slightly wider than shoulder width
Drive dumbbells toward ceiling until arms are straight
Lower with control
Hammer Row (with top grip)
Hold handles on top grip of Hammer Strength row machine
Pull weight toward chest without moving torso from chest pad
Lower weight with control until arms are straight
Recover while partner does push-up
Perform two push-ups
Recover while partner does two push-ups
Repeat progression until failure
Band Jammer Twist
Begin in athletic stance holding band in front of chest
Rotate trunk and pivot feet
Press band away from chest
Rotate back with control
Repeat on other side
Manual Resistance Neck
Lie on bench with head hanging over edge
Push against partner’s resistance through full range of motion using only neck muscles
Pause for one count, then lower to starting position with control for 4-second count
Repeat to both sides, front and back
Begin with bar on back in athletic stance with toes pointing slightly out
Focus on point high on wall
Squat with control and good posture until thighs are just below parallel
Keep weight back on heels
Drive upward out of squat into starting position, keeping eyes up and chest out
Band Stiff-Leg Deadlift
Stand on top of box or bench holding band wrapped underneath
With slight flex in knees, bend forward at hips and slide band down front of legs keeping back flat
Drive hips back and lower band as far as possible without changing flex in knees or spine position
Ascend in same fashion until standing
Manual Resistance Hip Abduction
Lie on side on bench
Keeping top leg straight, raise it as high as possible against partner’s resistance
Pause at top of movement, then return leg to starting position with control for 4-second count
Repeat with other leg
With bar on back, place front foot on top of bench
Push through bench to move into standing position without pushing off back leg
Lower with control
Repeat with other leg
DB Standing Press
Stand with dumbbells at shoulders
Press weight overhead until arms are straight
Manual Resistance Lateral Raise
Stand or sit with arms at sides and partner’s palm pressed against wrist
Keeping arms straight, raise them to side against resistance until they are at shoulder height
Lower with control for 4-second count
Manual Resistance Tricep Extension
Lie on back with upper arms pointing to ceiling and arms bent
Push against partner’s resistance without moving upper arm until arms are straight
Lower through same range of motion with control for 4-second count
Stand at bar with hip-width athletic stance
Grasp bar with over-under grip just outside of stance
Drive up to standing position keeping back flat and chest out
Lower through same motion with control
Manual Resistance Ankle
Sit on bench with foot hanging over edge
Keeping foot flexed (toes up), push against partner’s resistance
Return to starting position with control for 4-second count
Repeat with resistance on inside of foot and then perform on other leg
Place lower back against wall and lower into squat position until thighs are parallel to floor
Keep knees behind toes
Hold weight at your chest or rest it on your thighs or shoulders to increase intensity
Hold position until failure
Manual Resistance Sit-ups
Lie on back with knees bent and feet flat on floor
Roll up against partner’s resistance until back is off the floor
Lower down with control for 4-second count