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Strength Training For Basketball Players

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

A basketball player dunking
Basketball Strength Training

As a basketball player, you often hear conflicting opinions about strength training and its impact on your performance on the court. But let me set the record straight - incorporating strength training into your routine can transform you into an unstoppable force on the basketball court - if you do it consistently, and IF you're doing it right.

In this comprehensive guide, we will dive into the science behind strength training for basketball players and provide you with all the detailed information you need to help you reach your full athletic potential.


The power of strength training in basketball

Let's kick things off by discussing the undeniable benefits of strength training for basketball players. Contrary to what some coaches and players believe, engaging in a well-designed strength training program will not hinder your game or ruin your jump shot. In fact, it will do quite the opposite. To prove this point, let's take a journey back to the '90s and examine the dominant Chicago Bulls team, winners of six NBA titles.

Under the guidance of legendary strength coaches Al Vermeil and Mike Gattone, the Bulls integrated Olympic lifts and explosive movements into their training regimen. The result? Unmatched explosiveness, agility, and consistency on the court...allowing them to dominate.

But why does strength training have such a profound impact on basketball performance?

The answer lies in the ability to generate force rapidly and consistently throughout the game. Those who are the most explosive, the most consistently, will often dominate on the court. We also have to realize that many basketball players are explosive, but because of their length, often struggle with coordination at high rates. Something that we've found easier to develop in a controlled environment like the weight room, rather than by playing the sport.

By following a well-structured strength training program, you will enhance your explosiveness, protect your joints, and help to prevent injuries. Additionally, developing muscular strength and joint stability promotes longevity, ensuring you can maintain peak performance for years to come.

prioritize Mobility Over maximal strength training for basketball players

Hey coach, I thought this article was all about the importance of strength training!?

Ok you got me...but...for almost all the basketball players I've trained, mobility has ultimately proven to be the cornerstone of success. As athletes blessed with height, you face unique challenges when it comes to maintaining optimal joint stability. Tight ankles, hips, and lower back can hinder your performance and limit your range of motion. However, by prioritizing mobility in your strength training routine, you can overcome these obstacles and unlock your true potential.

While we do train to increase maximal strength in our basketball players, we incorporate a lot of mobility work in the early stages of training which set the athlete up for success as they progress. And for us, the focus of efforts are hip strength and mobility (in all 4 planes), and a strong ankle rocker.

Focus on exercises that improve ankle and hip mobility, as well as lower back, upper back, and shoulder flexibility. Incorporate dynamic stretching, muscle activation and mobility drills into your warm-up routine to prepare your body for the demands of the game.

Over time, as your mobility improves, you can incorporate more aggressive strength training exercises, such as deeper squats and explosive movements, leading to even greater gains in muscle mass and explosiveness on the court.

train for unilateral and bilateral explosiveness

To truly excel as a basketball player, you must train for strength and explosiveness in both unilateral (one-leg) and bilateral (two-leg) movements. By targeting specific strength movements, you can enhance your explosive power and coordination, giving you a competitive edge on the court.

Focus on strengthening your unilateral movements through exercises like safety bar split squats single-leg squats, lunges, and step-ups. These exercises improve stability and balance while developing strength and explosive power in each leg individually. Adding resistance, such as dumbbells or a barbell, challenges your muscles even further, leading to increased strength gains.

Bilateral movements like goblet squats and front squats play a crucial role in developing overall lower body strength. These exercises target multiple muscle groups, allowing you to generate significant force and power during jumps and explosive movements. For basketball players struggling with achieving full range of motion, using a box during squats can help improve ankle and hip mobility, enabling you to get deeper into the squat position.

Tip: To maximize the effectiveness of your training, consider incorporating complex or contrast training. For example, perform a set of heavy safety bar split squats with a barbell, then immediately follow it with continuous hurdle hops or Alternating Split Squat Jumps. This approach combines strength-building exercises with dynamic movements, further enhancing your explosiveness.

hip Strength is a key factor to obtaining elite basketball agility

Controlling your hips at high speeds is a critical skill for basketball players, enabling you to make explosive movements while maintaining stability. Dynamic trunk control allows you to swiftly change direction, destabilize defenders, and take advantage of scoring opportunities. By including exercises that target your core and trunk muscles (hips), you'll unlock your agility and improve your overall performance.

The key to remember is Hip Strength! When I say core and trunk work, I don't mean sit-ups, crunches or any of that stuff that "targets" the core. Our athletes strengthen their core while using specific exercises designed to strengthen their hips in multiple planes.

Incorporate exercises such as Medicine Ball Sprints, Anti-rotation Walkouts, and Body Saw Iso Holds to challenge your core muscles and improve your trunk control. These movements enhance the ability to move your hips and shoulders independently, leading to sharper cuts and improved body control on the court.

The art of reactiveness

Reactiveness can be defined as the ability to quickly respond to opponents' actions during a game or match. It is a skill that can make a significant difference in an athlete's performance and can even ultimately determine the outcome of a game.

Reactiveness can involve making split-second decisions, adjusting one's movements, or adapting to unexpected changes during gameplay. For example, in basketball, reactiveness may involve swiftly changing direction to guard an opponent or quickly jumping to block a shot.

To enhance reactiveness, specific training strategies can be used. One effective strategy is the implementation of unilateral jumps and combinations of unilateral jumps to bilateral landings and vie-versa. Unilateral jumps help improve reaction time and explosive power, allowing athletes to quickly respond and change direction. Using reflexive exercises and incorporating decision making at game speeds emphasize reactionary movements and reflex responses, enhancing an athlete's ability to make quick decisions and react instantly during gameplay.


Strength training is a game-changer for basketball players. The benefits are undeniable, including improved explosiveness, joint protection, injury prevention, and increased longevity in the game. While prioritizing mobility, incorporating unilateral and bilateral exercises, and focusing on hip strength are essential components of a successful training program. Additionally, training reactiveness through specific strategies can elevate a player's performance on the court. By implementing these principles consistently and correctly, you can unlock your true potential and become a force in the game!

Ready to see how we can help take your game to the next level?

Book a free Assessment with us today!

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