Basketball requires players to display high levels of speed, strength, power and flexibility and then repeat efforts time and time again during the game.

Players of the game at the highest levels train their body’s physical capacities to their highest levels. No longer is it good enough for the player to rely on their natural skill level as a player to excel in the sport.

This section is designed to help Basketball coaches to determine what physical qualities each of their players need to be developed. These qualities can cover both strength and fitness capacities and need to be planned for over the season.

To optimize the physical preparation of players, coaches must have an understanding of what the qualities are and when to prescribe them. Once past the base level, Basketball Coaches must consult a Strength & Conditioning coach to optimize this area of training and development for the player to attain the highest level.

Physical Qualities

The following physical qualities need to be factored into every player’s programme to enable them to excel in all physical facets of the game.

Strength – the ability of the body to create a force or overcome a resistance. This quality is a key component in injury prevention as well as being one of the building blocks to the player becoming more explosive or powerful.

Power – is the combination of speed and strength together. It is the ability of the body to exert a big force in a very short period of time.

Muscular Endurance – is the ability of the body to perform at a specific level of play or display a maximal effort for extended periods of time.

Range of Motion – is the ability of the body to move across the appropriate full range of movement to optimize the skill being performed. We usually consider this in the context of a particular joint (e.g. shoulder, hips). For example, a player may find it difficult to get their elbow under the ball when starting a shot due to limited range of motion in their shoulder. This includes flexibility for those players that cannot attain the required full range of motion to effect the optimal skill execution.

Coordination – is the body’s ability to perform efficiently with all muscles of the body working together for optimal performance within whole body movements to execute the required movements and skills of the game. An example of this is shooting – where the legs provide the power for the shot and must work in coordination with the upper body.

These physical qualities fit together to make the player move as efficiently as possible. Coaches must assess how a player performs the skills of the game so that they can identify the appropriate training methods and activities to accomplish the performance shifts needed for each player to perform at a higher level This chapter is general guide on how to undertake this at a beginner level.

Designing a programme for basketball involves planning both your team’s and the individual players training to produce the highest possible results in the required physical qualities at the appropriate times. Ideally, this means that a yearly plan must be produced to enable the appropriate training modalities to be assigned at the right time. In situations where the coach may work with the players for less than a year, the plan should also take into account work the athletes may be doing in other programs.

The plan will also enable you to split the year into training periods of time that will address the appropriate performance aspects. Each of the qualities that you identify to improve will take different periods of time to adapt. This must be catered for in the time allocated and the improvement levels expected.

Myths about Strength Training

Some players may question the appropriateness of undertaking this certain types of training and there are many myths as to what are appropriate training modalities exist.

Some common misconceptions are:

Strength Training will make me muscle bound and slow

This has no scientific basis as an element of improving speed is for the player to be able to produce more force. To increase the muscles ability to produce force, a player has to train with increased resistance in the activities they undertake.

Strength Training will affect my shot

As the player’s muscles develop and can create greater force, the muscles requires a lower percentage of its overall capacity to undertake the same activities that they have always done.

For example, if shooting a three point shot initially required all the force a young athlete has, then as they get stronger, it may only take 80% of what their muscles are now capable of. The player’s body will adapt to this quite quickly, although for a short time they may feel “different” when shooting. The benefit of having increased strength is that taking shots will now be less fatiguing, which will see an improvement in the player’s performance.

Strength training will make me lose flexibility

This is not the case provided that a suitable programme to maintain flexibility is followed at the same time. Strength training does require a player use “maximal” contractions of the muscles. Accordingly, it is also very important to let the muscle fibres return to a relaxed state and length. To ensure flexibility is not compromised, players should perform some stretching during cool-down in order to maintain their initial range of motion

I will lose speed if I undertake too much aerobic training

This can happen if the training plan involves too much aerobic work. It is therefore important that coaches plan to work on both speed and aerobic capacities.

I can undertake the same programme all year round.

The body adapts to different training stimuli at different rates. Once the body gets used to the type of training the adaptation rate decreases and can get to the point where the body stops any adaptation. Applying this principle means that for the best results from a training programme, it must be changed before the body stops adaptation. This requires the players training programme to be changed every four to six weeks to maximise the adaptation rate.

Movement Efficiency

This is the basis of any strength and conditioning programme and is defined as making the player as efficient as possible in performing the skills of the game. This is achieved by enhancing the physical capacities and ranges of motion that are required to undertake the skill.

These skills from a physical perspective can consist of activities such as running, jumping, shooting and passing. Each of these activities has a capacity and range of motion required for the player to be able to perform the efficiently.

To do this effectively, coaches need to have an idea of what is a good example of the right skills being performed and how these players are able to do this. Using video to gain a mental model of what is “best practice” is a good way to enhance your ability to assess if your players have good movement efficiency or not in the major skills of Basketball.

Designing a Periodised Plan

Coaches must outline a plan in which these qualities will be trained and at what time of the year. These periods of training can be put together so as to optimise the stimulus you can provide the player and limit the effect of fatigue. It will also enable you to prioritise certain types of training during the off, pre and post season. During competition it is advisable to plan to maintain the physical capacities of the player, as it is their performance in the game that is the priority.

Coaches may seek assistance from trained strength and conditioning coaches, however the basketball coach still needs to understand the physical capacities required for basketball and the importance of sequencing the training.

A major consideration in putting a periodised plan together is understanding that certain physical qualities take longer to adapt than others and that some qualities can hinder the adaptation rate of other qualities if they are performed out of sequence. It is also important to understand that when you stop training certain physical qualities they will start to detrain at different rates.

Splitting a training plan into different segments or periods to target particular physical qualities is known as periodising. Putting the periods together creates an overall periodised plan for the year. There are many ways to approach creating a periodised plan. The most common used by coaches with little strength and conditioning experience is a linear model. When you progress to a more complex periodised plan, the preferred method in high performance sport currently is a conjugated model.

The difference between a linear and a conjugated model is that the linear model moves from training one quality to the next in a sequential order as the player progresses to the competition. The conjugated model works on all of the qualities all of the time but the percentage of training time against each quality changes as the player progresses to the competition.

Linear Model Example

(English) The Linear Model assumes that the quality worked on first will remain whilst progressing to the next quality and this can be achieved by including appropriate activities as part of team practice sessions.

Conjugated Model

The alternative to the linear model is the conjugated model.

In the Conjugated Model qualities are worked on concurrently, such as:

(English) Whichever model is used, the continual prescription of training is needed to either maintain or improve the physical qualities of the player. If there is not enough training load to stimulate these qualities, a detraining effect will occur.

This means that the developed qualities will decrease – the player loses strength, or aerobic capacity or whatever has been worked on.

These qualities can start to decrease within as little as 5 days if no training is prescribed.

The below table outlines the general detraining timelines



Detraining Effect


Aerobic capability drops by 5%


Body’s ability to use oxygen drops by 10%


Body’s metabolic rate drops


Energy production in muscle cells begins to decrease rapidly. Loss of muscle mass, strength and tone


Body’s ability to use oxygen drops by 20%


10-15% loss of muscle mass


Muscle strength drops by as much as 30%

(English) The above timelines should be factored into the overall planning of a player’s training year. The table represents figures based on completely stopping training and the timelines will vary depending on the player.

Assessing Athletes (Movement Screen Information)

Athlete assessment is an important element to all periodised athlete preparation plans as it assists coaches to monitor the training programs and make adjustments when required. Important considerations when making an assessment of an athlete are to determine what elements of performance are being considered and which movement do you wish to assess?

Typically, movement screenings are used as part of an initial assessment of athletes. Movement screenings can be of great value to identify basketball players at risk of injury through use of poor movement patterns as a result of insufficient range of motion, strength or stability. Program design can then be tailored to improve fundamental movement patterns with individual player’s progress easily monitored and programme design validated.

Movement screenings are different from performance testing which might involve speed, strength or endurance testing. One of the most popular movement screens in the literature to date was developed by Cook termed The Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The FMS attempts to allow professionals to screen a range of fundamental movement patterns as listed below;

Sample of a basketball specific movement screening:

Movement Patterns Assessed:

  • Squats – Do they favour one leg more than another, are they not symmetrical
  • Overhead Squat – Do they use one arm more than another, is their balance incorrect
  • Lunges – Are they better on one leg over the other. Do they maintain balance
  • Landing Technique – do they absorb shock well? Do they land on locked joints
  • Single Leg Jumping and Landing – are there imbalances or biases
  • Repeat Effort Jumping and Landing – do they have good endurance or not

Coaches may then wish to assess the capacity of the athletes within specific movements: for instance, whether the athlete can complete the following exercises with good technique and achieve the desired repetitions:

  • Single leg hamstring bridges 12/leg
  • Pushups 12
  • Prone Hold 1min
  • SL Calf Raise (on floor) 20/leg

It is suggested that movement screenings be filmed to allow the coach to more easily assess the athletes. Athletes can then be graded and scored on each movement allowing for easy tracking of progress over time. An example of a simple scoring system is outlined below:

  1. Cannot complete exercise without major flaws
  2. Can complete exercise but with some minor flaws
  3. Can execute exercise with technical proficiency

Warm-Up for Training

A warm-up is a popular practice that is considered by the majority of basketball players and coaches to be an essential part of any training session. A warm-up is believed to improve the players ability in the subsequent exercise performance and reduce the incidence of sports-related musculoskeletal injuries. A warm-up not only prepares the athlete for the training session to follow but can also improve the athletes’ performance through mechanisms such as increased nerve conduction rate, improved force production and increased anaerobic energy provision.

The primary purpose of the warm-up is to elevate the core temperature but coaches can also use this time to reinforce movement patterns and complete injury prevention work. Warm ups will generally follow a pattern of general movement and mobilization followed by a more sport-specific intensive warm-up.

General movement involves the use of light exercise to increase heart rate, blood flow, respiration and core muscle temperature. This is usually followed by dynamic stretching to increase Range Of Movement and then introduce sport-specific movements. For example athletes begin with stationary shooting, progress to jump shots and finally player contact.

An example of warm-up for a basketball training session is outlined below incorporating the movement skills discussed in earlier chapters:

  • Single leg hamstring bridge 2 sets of 8/leg:
  • Walking lunges to half court:
    • Toe and knees point forward
    • Hips square, chest up
    • Gradually increase length of lunge with each step
  • Jog court and back x 2
    • Hips square
    • Full range of motion
  • Side lunge back to baseline
    • Increase range with each step
    • Feet to point forwards throughout
  • Knee to wall calf mobility 10/leg
    • Heel remains on ground and player bends leg to touch knee to the wall, try to increase distance between toe and wall.
  • Squats 10
    • Feet just wider than shoulder width
    • Chest up
    • Hips back, knees forward over toes
    • Depth
    • Heels down
  • Step to vertical Jump 3/leg
    • Soft landing, absorb
    • Strong position – can you move in any direction from your landing point?