In basketball, the offseason is the time for players to take their game to the next level. If a player puts in more time to improve his jump shot, and his killer-crossover, then this player will dominate on the court when the season rolls around.
I know what goes through your mind when the final buzzer sounds in the last game of the year; "I can't wait to get back on the court and start working on my game! I'm going to play more games, and put in more time on court than anybody that I play against next season." Like many of you, I've been there. And I applaud your dedication, I really do. But what if there is a better way? What if there is more to reaching your potential than just playing the game? I'm here to tell that there is more--much more. And I'm here to show you the way. If you are someone that is willing to do whatever it takes to dominate the competition, then this is for you.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most important areas that need to be addressed in the offseason:
This is an area that many, many basketball players just don't take seriously enough. And those that do definitely get a leg up on the competition. Think Michael Jordan and Karl Malone, to name just a few.
Improving strength for a basketball player provides so many benefits! Getting stronger will lead to increased vertical jump, increased quickness and speed, increased range of your shot, reduced chances of injury; and it will help you finish around the rim with contact more effectively.
Here is a staggering stat that I read from "The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual" by Eric Cressey: In the 2003 NFL combine, there were 12 quarterbacks that jumped over 35 inches in the vertical jump test. In the 2003 NBA combine, only one of 76 prospects had a vertical over 35 inches, and the average was actually less than 30 inches!
These quarterbacks that are among the "least athletic" on the football field had a bigger vertical than virtually every basketball player at the combine! Hmm, do you think that maybe these football guys are onto something? Putting a BIG emphasis on the weights in the offseason works for them, and if you put in the hard work, it will work for you!
Mobility is a class of drills that are designed to take your joints through a full range motion. In order to have good mobility, an athlete must be stable through that range of motion. If a player can squat down so deep that his/her butt just about touches the floor, but has very little control at that depth, then the athlete has poor stability. So one must be stable through that range of motion.
Stability can be improved through strength training. The bottom line is that some joints are designed for stability, some joints are designed for mobility, and basketball players need to take the time to improve both their mobility and stability. Mobility drills are to be done pre-training--either before a weight lifting session or before playing basketball. They can also be done on "off-days" to enhance recovery.
Soft Tissue Work
Improving the quality of our soft tissues (muscles, ligament, tendons, fascia) is of utmost importance. The more we train, the more knots, adhesions and scar tissue that will build up in our body. This will limit our range of motion, slow recovery, decrease our performance and just down-right make us feel bad.
A cheap and very effective way to reduce these knots all over our body, is weekly (and hopefully daily) use of the foam roller and lacrosse ball. These two pieces have changed my life, as well as many of the people that I work with. Sound a little dramatic? Believe me, I am not exaggerating.
When I hit my upper 20s I basically stopped playing basketball because I was so sick of always hurting. Then I discovered the foam roller/lacrosse ball. I can now play, jump on the roller after playing (sometimes I use it before and after playing) and recover to play and/or lift the next day with much less aches and pain. Moving and playing pain-free is so much more enjoyable than always feeling banged-up and in pain.
Walking onto the court with focus and bringing the intensity is very important here. A ton can get done in a short period of time. Hour after hour of full court basketball will just lead to more muscular imbalances, knots, pain, and make it very difficult to increase strength.
You can still play basketball, but it doesn't ALWAYS have to be full-court pick-up games and/or summer league games. Shooting 100 jump shots or working on creating space off the dribble is a great way to save time, and save your joints the additional pounding (as opposed to more pick-up games) while still helping to develop your skills.
Another important thing to remember: no player (or team) has ever received a trophy for being the best conditioned in the offseason. So please stop all the long distance running in the summer. It is too time-consuming, pounds the joints more, and if done too often, can actually make the fast-twitch muscle fibers take on the properties of your slow-twitch muscle fibers. (not a good thing in a sport that requires explosive strength!)
Unfortunately, many athletes, (and people in any walk of life) succeed in spite of what they do, not because of what they do. Yeah, many, many basketball players have had great careers while playing hour after hour of basketball in the summer. However, if I took that same player, and had this athlete put a bigger emphasis on increasing strength, mobility, and soft tissue work in the off-season, he/she would perform at a higher level, while greatly reducing the chances of injury.
The time has come for basketball players and coaches to adopt an offseason training model that addresses all of their needs. If you are interested in taking your game to the next level, this is the path that will take you there!