Coaches have a plethora of training tools to choose from when putting together their workout plans for basketball. One of my all-time favorites is the weight vest, a great tool when your players are ready for it. Incorporating weight vests into your team’s basketball workouts can build toughness and prepare your players for the demands of the season.
As with other training equipment, the trick is knowing when to use it and for how long—and making sure you have specific goals to accomplish when you employ the vest. Just throwing a weight vest into your players’ workouts for the sake of using a cool tool can lead to potential problems. (Learn the six rules of weight vest training.)
When your body isn’t ready for weight vest training, it will let you know. Knee tendonitis, shin splints and low-back tightness are warnings that you are training incorrectly. Check out the video above to see Dwight Howard’s workout, which includes a Weighted Vest Crossover Push-Up.
Why Implement Weight Vest Training?
- To improve team toughness
- To increase overall conditioning
- To improve overall power and explosiveness
When to Incorporate Weight Vests
- Pre-season workouts for team toughness drills and jump circuits
- During the season for players with limited playing time to keep their competitive edge and conditioning
- In the spring with a work-capacity phase
When Not to Incorporate Weight Vests
- When players aren’t strong or conditioned enough to handle the impact of ground forces the weight vest increases
- When players have poor kinesthetic awareness and lack the coordination they need to move efficiently while wearing a vest
- When your only goal is to “spice up” an exercise just for the heck of it, with no overall plan
Take a Break
It’s extremely important to take a break from the grind once in awhile. I shake my head when I hear of coaches who want their players to work through the off-season with no time off for themselves to be with their families and friends. I’ve always believed that you get more out of your players if they have fresh legs and a positive mindset rather than feeling like they can never have a break. The elusive balance of work and rest is hard to find, but it’s needed in my opinion.
Build a Base
My number 1 goal when I first get my guys back is to set the tone. Counting together, working together, and getting better together are very important if you want your team to improve over last year. I put the guys through a two-week “get after it” phase that involves team building and toughness drills, as well as strength work.
During this phase, we spend a lot of time on landing mechanics, body awareness and jumping technique. Arm drive, knee bend, toe push-off—if it involves jumping or landing, we work on it. Revisiting their mechanics and offering coaching cues helps my guys focus on the importance of quality jumping and landing. In turn, it gives me confidence that they will be able to handle the physical demands of the next phase—four weeks involving more jumping, landing and “moving like an athlete.”
Like my good friend Joel “Dr. Jump” Smith, strength coach for University of California Berkeley, often says, “If you want to jump higher, you have to practice jumping.”
I use a four-week progression with the goal of slowly building our volume of jumping, all while maintaining perfect jumping and landing mechanics.
It’s important to progress the players slowly, allowing their bodies to adapt to the training demands. Hitting your players with too much volume too soon will lead to injuries, or at least soft-tissue issues. Quality is just as important. If 70 percent of the jumping they did during the workout was poor, you might just as well have had them play “open gym.”
You’re the coach. Hold your players accountable and set high expectations.
Like my good friend and amazing coach Robert Dos Remedios says, “Tell them what you want to see, not what you don’t want to see.” This positive approach to coaching will do wonders for their jumping mechanics and their confidence. If you see a kid jumping and landing perfectly, stop and “spotlight” him or her. Having everyone watch someone do a drill perfectly helps the other players improve. The more confidence they have in jumping, and the more improvement they see, the more enthusiasm they’ll have for their workouts.
You always want your players leaving your muscle factory feeling better than they came in. The feeling of accomplishment is a powerful tool to get players to buy in.
Learn the best basketball conditioning drills.
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(All Jump Circuits done with 20-pound HumanX Weight Vest)
Low Level Jump Circuit (LLJC) — 5-second sets
Focus: Quick feet, limited ground contact, competition with teammates (how many reps of a given exercise can you do in 5 seconds?) Takes only 5 to 8 minutes to complete, and recovery time is less than 24 hours.
- Two-Foot Hop
- Hot Feet
- Speed Squats
- Knee Tucks
- Butt Kicks
- Lateral Hops
High Level Jump Circuit (HLJC) — 15-30-second sets
Focus: Power, driving the body up as high as possible rep after rep. Maintaining quality when fatigue sets in. Takes 8 to 12 minutes to complete, and recovery is 24 to 48 hours. Because of its increased demand on the body, I do this one with a recovery day to follow.
- Box Jump
- Box Split Jump
- Bench Jumps
- Lateral Jumps
- Band Jumps
- Lunge Hops
- 180 Jumps
- Tuesday: LLJC – 2x
- Friday: HLJC – 1x
- Monday: LLJC – 3x
- Tuesday: HLJC – 1x
- Friday; HLJC – 1x
- Monday: LL JC – 3x
- Tuesday: HLJC – 2x
- Thursday: LLJC – 2x
- Friday: HLJC – 2x
- Monday: LLJC – 3x
- Tuesday: HLJC – 2x
- Thursday: LLJC – 3x
- Friday: HLJC – 2x
Note: Every player jumps differently and with a different rate, so it’s hard to know exactly how many jumps each player is getting in for each set. This gradual increase in the volume of sets and days jumping, I’ve found, is a safe progression.
- Dynamic Warm-up – 2 minutes
- Dynamic Stretching – 5 minutes
- Movement Prep – 2 minutes
- Jump Circuit – 5 minutes
- Lifting – 50 minutes
- Foam Rolling – 5 minutes
- Static or Band Stretch Circuit – 5 minutes
- Break and a Shake!
Method to the Madness
There’s a reason I like using two different jump circuits—one low-level and one high-level. I believe it is easier to mirror those workouts to my lifts for the week, ensuring built-in recovery. How do I do this? Easy: If the lift is quick and explosive, the jump circuit will be the same.
Mirroring the workouts helps train specific energy systems and helps players with their mental prep, because they know what the focus of each day will be—grind it out, or go fast. In my opinion, this improves recovery.
Side note: I always start a Jump Circuit after we finish the warm-up, stretch and movement prep. I do this because I feel it wakes up the players and gets their central nervous systems firing on all cylinders. It also greatly reinforces the mindset that it’s “winning” time.” If you have a player who’s noticeably disengaged and not ready to go, drop the hammer. I often start the workout over or just tell the player to leave and come back when he or she wants to be part of the beautiful journey to Getting Better-ville.
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