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Coach's Corner

Strength Training - Essential To Player Development


Seven days without strength training makes one weak. OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration.

However, strength is an attribute that is quickly diminished. In as little as three weeks, basketball players begin to see and feel a decrease in their overall strength. Given today's elite players don't really have a true off-season, it is imperative they continue to strength train on a year-round basis. After all, there is no substitute for strength and no excuse for a lack of it.

For your team to reach its true potential on the basketball court, they must maximize their physical potential. There are so many talented players and teams that even the smallest edge makes a huge difference in your team's success. As obvious as it sounds, strength training is a greatly underestimated aspect of preparation in almost all AAU programs. Just remember, your players are not Olympic lifters, power lifters or bodybuilders, so they need not train that way. A safe, time-efficient and productive program takes as little as 20 minutes twice a week and most of it can be done on the court.

Why Strength Train?

The primary purpose of a strength-training program is to reduce the occurrence and severity of injury. Basketball is very demanding physically, especially when players are participating in as many as 50 to 60 AAU games in the spring and summer, many times playing multiple games each day.

Making the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the body stronger lessens the occurrence and severity of an injury (such as a pulled groin or rolled ankle), and keeps your players on the court. Furthermore, you improve your players' performance on the court. The stronger your players are, the more force they can produce; the more force they can produce, the higher they can jump and the faster they can run.

There are as many different strength-training methodologies as there are ways to run a full-court press or a fast break. Regardless of what you choose, safety, time efficiency and intensity should be the backbone of your strength-training philosophy. Your main focus during the AAU season is to maintain (if not improve) each player's overall muscular size and strength.

Your program needs to address their major muscle groups (legs, hips, core and upper torso) and pay special attention to the most injury- prone areas: ankles, knees, groin, lower back and hands.

Your goal as a coach is to minimize risk within the training atmosphere. Only use the safest exercises available, and do your best to make sure that all workouts are properly supervised. Always have players perfect exercise technique and form prior to utilizing additional resistance or weight.

Additionally, have players perform every movement in a slow, controlled and deliberate fashion with special emphasis focused on the lower portion of each lift. Lastly, have your players work within an appropriate repetition range (eight to 15 reps for most high school and college athletes) and avoid maxing out (seeing how much weight can be lifted in one repetition), as these practices are potentially dangerous.

Developing Your Plan

Time is a precious commodity for both you and your players, especially during the busy AAU season. Therefore, the goal of your strength program is to get the best results possible in the shortest amount of time. Use a limited number of sets and exercises during each workout (one or two sets per exercise), while minimizing rest intervals (very little rest in between sets) to induce an overall conditioning effect. This makes each workout brief but intense.

Intensity is the most important controllable factor in determining the results for your players. Below a certain level of intensity, strength training has very little benefit. I define intensity as the level of effort exerted by the individual being trained. If a player is capable of lifting 100 pounds 15 times and that player stops at 10, the exercise clearly is not as intense as it should be. Therefore, it is recommended that each set is taken to the point of momentary muscular fatigue—the point at which no additional reps can be completed.

Given your players are practicing and playing almost every day (at high levels of intensity) and are in a constant state of fatigue all spring and summer, it is recommended you decrease the volume of each workout to reduce the overall wear and tear on their bodies. Do fewer sets and less total exercises, especially for the lower body.

Building The Core

While you certainly want your strength program to have balance and work all muscle groups, the core is extremely important to staying injury free and performing well on the court. The core consists of the abdominals, low back, obliques and hips, and is the center of all movement, which means core training is extremely important for basketball players. A strong core helps to prevent hip and lower- back injuries.

In addition to on-court core work, manual resistance exercises are a fantastic tool to use during the AAU season, as they require no equipment, can be done anywhere (which is great when your team is traveling to tournaments and events), encourage communication among players and are a very effective way to build and maintain strength. Manual resistance exercises are strength-training exercises in which a partner or coach applies the resistance instead of using weight, such as a traditional barbell, dumbbell or machine.

An effective strength-training program is essential for AAU basketball players and takes as little as 30 minutes twice a week

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