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In two posts (see and ) we covered some of the background behind developing a strength and conditioning program for basketball. This post will cover some general thoughts about program design and basketball.

First, some principles:
• Strength is going to be essential to the basketball player. There are a number of reasons for this. First, basketball has contact. Second, strength has an impact on power (power is the ability to express strength quickly). Third, strength may be a prerequisite for making plyometrics effective.
• Attention needs to be paid on injury prevention. This is especially true of the ankle and the knee. This can be achieved in the warm-up (ankle) and during strength training and plyometrics (knee, by emphasizing the role of the hamstrings in squatting and landing from jumps).
• Until elite levels, there probably isn’t a need to distinguish between the positions in terms of strength training. However, at the elite level the positions should be viewed differently in terms of strength training.
• Everyone has an opinion on this, but basketball doesn’t appear to be a largely aerobic sport – there is a lot of walking and standing. This means the players have to be conditioned to be able to execute high-intensity sprints repeatedly.
• Plyometrics will be important, but the strength and technique base needs to be there first.
• Basketball players aren’t weightlifters, powerlifters, or bodybuilders. The weightroom is only a tool to better basketball.
• Agility is going to be very important. As the athlete becomes more advanced the ball and opponents need to be incorporated into drills.

With the above in mind, this post will look at high school level basketball players. In Texas, the high school basketball season runs from November through February. At the high school level, there isn’t a need (or a benefit) behind a lot of specialized training. The athletes need to develop a foundation in terms of exercise technique, muscle size (which is important for strength), strength, mobility, speed, game endurance, and agility techniques.

Strength and conditioning during the off-season could be organized around the following:
• Variations of the power clean, push jerk, and pull to help develop explosiveness and to teach the techniques associated with these exercises.
• Squats, Romanian deadlifts, and good mornings to develop lower body strength and hypertrophy.
• Presses and pulls to develop upper body strength and hypertrophy.
• Core training as needed/desired.
• Ankle injury prevention exercises (these were addressed in previous posts and ) done as part of the warm-up.
• Ten to twenty yard sprints focusing on acceleration and starting mechanics.
• Starting, stopping, shuffling, and backpedaling to focus on fundamental agility skills.
• Sprints as conditioning (i.e. limited rest periods combined with a greater volume) to simulate the metabolic requirements of a game.
• Beyond fundamental skills, an emphasis on plyometrics won’t be productive at this level.
• Classical periodization is more than appropriate for this level of athlete. This means initially focusing on higher volume/lower intensity and gradually decreasing the volume/increasing the intensity as the athlete gets closer to the season.

With the above in mind, a sample week of off-season workouts might look like the following:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Strength Power Clean, h, AK, 3×4-6×60-70%

Back Squats, 3×12-15×60-70%

Romanian Deadlifts, 3×12-15

Bench Press, 3×12-15×60-70%

Bent Over Rows, 3×12-15

Military Press, 3×12-15

N/A Push Jerk, 3×4-6×60-70%

Lunges, 3×12-15

Good Mornings, 3×12-15

Dips, 3xMax

Pull-Ups, 3xMax

Plyometrics Counter-Movement Jumps (emphasize landing), 3×10 N/A Standing Long Jumps, 3×10
Speed N/A 3-5×20 Yard Sprints, Standing Start


1×20 yard, 1×40 yard, 1×60 yard, 1×100 yard, 1×60 yard, 1×40 yard, 1×20 yard

Agility N/A Shuffle right/left, 3-5×5 yards

Backpedal, 3-5×5 yards

Other Dynamic Flexibility



Dynamic Flexibility Dynamic Flexibility





  Thursday Friday
Strength N/A Clean Pulls, h, AK, 3×4-6×60-70%

Front Squats, 3×6-8×60-70%

Reverse Hyperextensions, 3×12-15

Dumbbell Bench Press, 3×12-15

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows, 3×12-15

Biceps/Triceps, 3×12-15

Plyometrics N/A BB Medicine Ball Throw, 3×10
Speed 3-5x Stick Drills

3-5×20 Yard Sprints, Standing Start


Agility Start/stopping drills, 3-5x

Shuffle + turn and sprint (3-5×5+5 yards)

Other Dynamic Flexibility Dynamic Flexibility



Power Clean, h, AK = power clean from the hang, barbell begins at above-the-knee height
3×4-6×60-70%= three sets of four to six repetitions at 60-70% of 1-RM
3×12-15= three sets of twelve to fifteen repetitions, last 2-3 reps should be hard
Conditioning is a series of sprints. Ideally the athlete has a specific amount of time to perform each sprint, after that time has elapsed the next sprint starts. For example, the athlete has 20 seconds from the command “Go!” to perform a sprint and rest before the second sprint starts. Athletes should never be told how much time they have so that they give 100% effort throughout.

In-season workouts will be condensed due to travel and time restrictions. If I were writing this up, I’d drop the middle strength training workout and the second speed/agility day and fight hard to maintain the other three workouts each week.

For more information:

Standing starts: and .

Shuffling: ,,  and .

Stopping:  and .

In the last post (see here: ), a general overview of the game of basketball was provided. From a strength and conditioning standpoint, it’s important to understand that basketball has a number of different positions and different kinds of athletes are going to be successful in each position.

A number of studies have looked at male basketball players from a variety of settings and playing levels (Division I, national team members, Euroleague, etc.). The results of these studies appear in the table below. I recognize that there are shooting guards, point guards, small forwards, and power forwards and that these are all lumped together below. Some studies distinguish between these positions, but others don’t. In the interest of comparing apples to apples, they have been lumped together in the table below.

Characteristic Guards Forwards Centers
Age 23 22 22
Height (cm) 191 196 203
Weight (kg) 87 90 99
% Body Fat 9.7 9.8 13
Vertical Jump (cm) 61 59 52
Bench Press/Body Weight 1.05 .98 .98
Power Clean/ Body Weight 1.14 1.11 .98
Squat/Body Weight 2.01 1.91 1.7
T Test (sec) 9.3 9.7 9.9
5 meter sprint .99 1.14 1.17
10 meter sprint 1.86 1.97 2
30 meter sprint 4.14 4.16 4.32

(adapted from Abdelkrim et al 2009, Abdelkrim et al 2010, Latin et al 1994, Ostojic et al 2006, Sallet et al 2005).

A few things to keep in mind about the above table. First, this table shows averages of an amalgamation of male basketball player data. Second, note the average ages of the players. Third, much of this is from European/North African national-level basketball players. The combination of all these things shows extremely interesting trends, but you should be cautious about using the above information as standards for player evaluation.

The table does provide some interesting information. Guards tend to be lighter and more athletic than the other positions. Their relative strength is greater, vertical jump is higher, and they are faster and more agile than the other positions. Centers tend to be the tallest and heaviest athletes with the highest body fat and the lowest relative strength (though their absolute strength is greater than the other positions). They also tend to be slower and have a lower vertical jump than the other positions. Forwards fall in between.

The specifics of this information (i.e. what values are ideal for each characteristic?) is going to vary depending upon age, level of ability, setting, etc. However, the trends are extremely important for an athlete and for a coach. An athlete that is taller, heavier, and slower may not make a good guard but may make a good forward or center. A smaller, faster, more agile athlete with a greater vertical jump may be more effective as a guard. Etc.

These same trends hold true of female athletes. The table below shows an amalgamation of research articles looking at primarily collegiate female basketball players. Notice that the same trends hold true:

Characteristic Guards Forwards Centers
Age 25 26 26
Height (cm) 170 177 184
Weight (kg) 62 70 78
Body Fat (%) 17 19 23
Vertical Jump (cm) 47 46 42
20 meter sprint (seconds) 3.37 3.53 3.59
T-Test (seconds) 10.05 10.5 10.7
Suicide Run (seconds) 30 32 32

(adapted from Delextrat and Cohen 2009, LaMonte et al 1999).

Abdelkrim, N.B., Castagna, C., Fazaa, S.E., Tabka, Z., and Ati, J.E. Blood metabolites during basketball competitions. J Strength Cond Re 23(3): 765-773, 2009.

Abdelkrim, N.B., Chaouachi, A., Chamari, K., Chtara, M., and Castagna, C. Positional role and competitive-level differences in elite-level men’s basketball players. J Strength Cond Re 24(5): 1346-1355, 2010.

Delextrat, A. and Cohen, D. Strength, power, speed, and agility of women’s basketball players according to playing position. J Strength Cond Re 23(7): 1974-1981, 2009.

LaMonte, M.J., McKinney, J.T., Quinn, S.M., Bainbridge, C.N., and Eisenman, P.A. Comparison of physical and physiological variables for female college basketball players. J Strength Cond Re 13(3): 264-270, 1999.

Latin, R.W., Berg, K., and Baechle, T. Physical and performance characteristics of NCAA Division I male basketball players. J Strength Cond Re 8(4): 214-218, 1994.

Ostojic, S.M., Mazic, S., and Dikic, N. Profiling in basketball: Physical and physiological characteristics of elite players. J Strength Cond Re 20(4): 740-744, 2006.

Sallet, P., Perrier, D., Ferret, J.M., Vitelli, V., and Baverel, G. Physiological differences in professional basketball players as a function of playing position and level of play. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 45(3): 291-294, 2005.

Hartwig et al published a really smart study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examining how adolescents play rugby and comparing that with how they train. This study is an example of how sophisticated we can be with regards to determining the speed and conditioning needs of team sport athletes.

The authors examined the games and training sessions for ten adolescent rugby teams at three levels; school boy, national representative, and high performance talent squats. They analyzed over 84 training sessions (approximately 188 hours) and 20 games (approximately 33 hours). To perform this analysis, they divided the movement patterns into the following:
• Stationary (0-1 km/h)
• Walking (1-7 km/h)
• Jogging (7-12 km/h)
• Striding (12-21 km/h)
• Sprinting (21+ km/h)

Basically the authors found that the way the athletes move in training is very different from how they move in games. Highlights of the results:
• An equivalent amount of time is spent being stationary and walking between training and competition.
• More time is spent in the higher intensity movements during competition:
o Jogging: 14% of game vs. 8% of training

o Striding: ~3% of game vs. ~1% of training
o Sprinting: ~1% of game vs. .1% of training

This information is also broken down in terms of sprints per hour of play, sprint duration, maximum sprint duration, sprint distance, etc. All of this information is provided for the aggregate as well as breaking it down for forwards and backs.

The data from the article suggest a need to really address the conditioning of the athletes for better transfer over to the game. Articles like this have been written for basketball and for soccer, but this is the first one I’ve seen on rugby like this. In those articles, the movement patterns are defined and the sport/positions are analyzed over a series of games.

One has to be cautious with articles like this. The results only apply to the population studied. Older athletes, at a more advanced level of competition, will experience the games differently. So, while this information is very interesting it needs to be kept in mind that one will have to do this kind of analysis for your unique situation.

Hartwig, T.B., Naughton, G., and J. Searl. (2011). Motion analyses of adolescent rugby union players: A comparison of training and game demands. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(4), 966-972.