When I was younger I played basketball almost all the time and I mean I played a lot. I also tried every program to increase my vertical, 40 yard dash, agility and ball handling skills. Basically I was always doing something to improve my game. Does it sound familiar?

I also had coaches telling me I should run all the time to stay conditioned, take it easy with the weights so I don’t get bulky and become slow, and to top it all off we would have a 3 hour practice every day(later on in my professional career even 2 a days with 3 hours of basketball specific training). I wanted to improve my performance so much that even back then I started reading books, manuals, you name it, just to improve my game and my performance. A lof of the information I read was contadicting what some of the coaches were telling me, especially when it came to strength and conditioning! I did a lot of the strength training on my own but I also had to do the team training as there was no way of getting out of that and I also wanted to set an example of hard work for my team. Many times I ended up overtraining and had sub-par performance and nagging injuries, but I was still a lot better of than some of my team mates, as they had season ending and in some cases career ending injuries.

From all the knowledge that I have accumulated through the years of study and implementation of strength and conditioning and my experiences as a basketball player from the high school to the professional ranks, I am going to give 10 tips that are essential for basketball players to improve their game and their physical performance in the off-season. Learn from my mistakes and from the mistakes of others and take your game to the next level:

1. Playing competitive basketball all year round! This may sound crazy but one of the biggest mistakes I see players make, is playing basketball all year round. After the season is over, high school and many college athletes go and play AAU, summer tournaments, streetball, open gym, you name it. So you may ask what is the problem with that? If you are playing the whole year, then when are you taking the time to work on your game?! Just playing basketball is not working on your game because you are just reinforcing the weaknesses that you have in your game. Many times you will also tend to play with any type of competition and this will actually bring the quality of your play down. Quality over quantity, remember that!

Playing the whole off-season also prevents from working on the rehab,recovery and performance aspects of the basketball athlete (getting stronger, faster, more agile, correcting muscle imbalances,etc…). I can’t tell you how many players I know that had serious injury issues, drops in performance and a sub par season because they did not have the appropriate off-season training approach.

2. Playing isn’t training. Cut your time on the court in the off-season (as much as 90%) and get in the weight room. This relates to almost every basketball player would like to have ridicolous athleticism but the majority of basketball players have yet to embrace resistance training like some other sports (football,track and field,etc…). It seems that squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, chins, presses and depth jumps just aren’t as fun as shooting 3’s, crossovers, alley oops and dunks. If you think that lifting isn’t important then you are destined to keep spinning your wheels and letting the players that are surpass you an take your spot. Even though it may not be as much “fun”, if you are not embracing resistance training then you are stopping yourself from becoming a better athlete and basketball player!

3. Not paying attention to improving mobility/stability. This is extremely important in the basketball population as there are more knee injuries, high ankle sprains, low back pain, etc….than ever before. This relates to not taking the time and fixing your imbalances and other issues that come with being a full time athlete.

Some of the mobility/stability issues that are necessary to address are ankle mobility, hip mobility/stability and lumbar stability. As a basketball player you must improve ankle mobility because the truth is the majority of players have it real bad from wearing high top sneakers all the time, get their ankles taped for practice/games, and don’t do any extra work to improve it. With poor ankle mobility, there is a much greater chance of knee injuries because it has to compensate for the ankle’s lack of mobility. The problem is that the knee is a stable joint and the compensation will cause issues in the short and/or long term. Then there is hip mobility. Almost every basketball player I know has tight hips and it is causing poor performance and low back issues, among other things. Tight hips prevent you from jumping higher and running faster and are a “pre-requisite” to many injuries, especially low back problems. Then we have trunk stability, which is important because it is how we transfer force from the lower to the upper body, and it also prevents the lumbar spine from rotating, flexing/extending too much (this also causes lower back issues and creates a energy leak). Pay attention to me because you don’t want this to happen to you (you may want to look away if you have trouble with looking at injuries)……

If you’re not working on mobility/stability and getting in the weight room….maybe this will change your mind

4. Trying To Improve Vertical Jump With A Ton Of Plyometrics. It’s not that plyometrics aren’t useful, it’s how people use them and how much. Honestly, most basketball players are just not very strong and they would do much better increasing their vertical by training relative strength. This will add inches to their vertical before a crazy volume of plyometrics. For the players that do need to train RFD (rate of force development) and reactivity, quality over quantity is the key. More is not better in this situation as a ton of jumping with shorter breaks just becomes power endurance training and it can cause overuse injuries since you are doing a ton of hopping and jumping on the court. At Hocevar Performance we determine if an athlete is static or dynamic proficient to see what should be their focus to improve performance.

Vertical Jump

Ton’s of plyo’s probably won’t get you here…..

5. Doing A Lot Of Long Distance Running For Conditioning. This one is just plain crazy! I still see teams, coaches, players doing miles and miles of running to get conditioned. First of I want to remind you that once the season is over you should put “conditioning” to the side and focus on strength, speed, agility, correcting imbalances, etc.  

Here is a quick fact that might interest you, the energy system ratio’s in basketball are 80% ATP-PC, 10% glycolisis and 10% aerobic! Long distance running is aerobic, so why would we do so much conditioning in an energy system that we only spend 10% of the time in during games?! Conditioning for basketball should reflect the energy system needs of the game.

And please don’t let me hear the whole “you have to build an aerobic base” theory because it doesn’t have much merit and no real world application…..

Kobe Bryant

Is this your sport?


So why do you train like this?

Think about whether you are the player/coach that is making some of the above mistakes. Take a step back and take an honest look at your game and your physical preparation. Is it as good as it could be? Are you dominating or are you being dominated? Remember, things can change but you have to take action!

Let me know what is the thing that is holding you back in your game. Post a comment.

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