Lower Body Strength Training: Basketball

Believe the hype: Strength training for basketball can take your game to the next level. Exercising and lifting weights can build stamina, increase power, and improve speed. However, there is a catch: Lifting heavy weights over your head a bunch of times won’t get you in elite basketball form. With the proper exercises and guidance, your time in the weight room will carry over to the basketball court. Here’s how to get the most out of your strength training workouts:

Principle of Specificity

The principle of specificity states than an individual needs to train in a manner that is most like the way in which they want to perform. If you were training for a marathon you wouldn’t spend hours in the gym shooting baskets and expect your running technique to drastically improve, right? Of course not, because it doesn’t make sense to try to improve at one thing by practicing a different skill. Yet, many athletes commit this exact mistake when it comes to implementing weights into their training regimen.

Below are a few examples of strength exercises that mimic basketball movements.

Standard Squat

The squat is one of the most effective lower-body exercises, because it works every major muscle group. It is great for basketball because the squat position is very similar to defensive posture. To execute a squat, follow the steps below:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart with your toes, knees, and hips in a straight line.
  2. Pull your belly button towards your spine and contract your abdominal muscles.
  3. Slowly lower your body, as though you are sitting in a chair.
  4. If you can, go down until your butt is in line with your knees (knees at 90-degree angles). If you can’t go down that low, go as low as you can.
  5. Take a moment and look down to make sure your knees are behind your toes.
  6. Keeping the weight in your heels, slowly push your body back to starting position.
  7. At the top of the movement, do not lock your knees. Keep a slight bend in them.
  8. Repeat these steps.

Squat Jump

The squat jump is a dynamic move that is designed to mimic the motion of jumping. If performed correctly and consistently, the squat jump can help add inches to your vertical leap. So if you’re ready to fly, follow the steps below:

  1. Start by standing, with hands cupped and both arms folded, one on top of the other, in front of the chest area.
  2. Widen the distance between your legs so that your feet are shoulder-width apart for a stable base of support. Make sure that your toes are pointed forward.
  3. Carefully lower yourself to a full squat. Contract your leg muscles to support your weight as you lower your body down.
  4. Keep your back straight and lift your chest up and out to help support your balance.
  5. Wit your feet, push against the floor for an exploding jump. Contract the muscles of your lower extremities as you push off to jump as high as you can.
  6. Straighten your legs as you jump. You can leave your arms the way they are or you can open and extend them upwards, as if you’re reaching for the ceiling.
  7. Position yourself in a squat (starting position) once you land back on the floor. Fold your arms back to a starting position if you chose to extend them while jumping.

Fun Fact

A medical study done by the University of Michigan found that participants who included jump squats in their workout routine increased their vertical jump by an average of three to five inches over a 12-week span.

Static Forward Lunges

The forward lunge helps strengthen the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus. Because the forward lunge is similar to the movements you make on the court, it is an exercise that every baller should incorporate in their routine. Follow the steps below to perform a forward lunge:

  1. Stand in a split stance with the right foot forward and the left leg back.
  2. The feet should be about two to three feet apart, depending on your leg length.
  3. Before you lunge, make sure your torso is straight and that you’re up on the back toe.
  4. Bend the knees and lower the body down until the back knee is a few inches from the floor.
  5. At the bottom of the movement, the front thigh should be parallel to the floor and the back knee should point toward the floor.
  6. Keep the weight evenly distributed between both legs and push back up, keeping the weight in the heel of the front foot.
  7. Repeat for all reps before switching sides.

Cool Down

A majority of weight lifting programs are designed with the body builder in mind. While this type of workout increases overall strength, it is not designed to train your muscles to become more efficient at basketball movements. The exercises listed above are basketball-specific strength exercises. Add these moves to your workout routine and you’ll be dominating the competition in no time.

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