For 99 percent of basketball players, their main focus in the initial part (first 4-6 weeks) of the offseason should be to get stronger. There is no such thing as being too strong. When players ask me why strength is so important, I say, "What do you want to be, the bug or the windshield?"
Quickness, agility and getting in great basketball shape are certainly important, but for the first part of the offseason I recommend players focus on increasing the overall strength in their legs/hips, core, and upper body, address strength imbalances, and develop proper movement patterns/footwork.
There are numerous weekly training schedules you can utilize. You need to decide how many days a week you can train and how long you have to train each session. Just make sure you balance all of the components of your individual player development (don't forget skill work!) and prioritize working on the weaknesses you established from your self evaluation.
Here is an overview of eight common mistakes players make with their offseason training:
- Players who get caught up in the latest fads. While there are a ton of valuable tools you can use to get stronger and more powerful, you don't need any goofy shoes or gizmos and gadgets to get better. You need to intensely and progressively work the muscles of your entire body through every plane of movement and angle of motion. This can be done with a combination of "old school" exercises (bench press, pull-ups, deadlifts, etc.) as well as some "new wave" concepts (medicine balls, bands, TRX trainer, etc.). However, if you spend your entire workout standing on one foot on a BOSU ball, you are missing the boat!
- Players who pay little attention to proper footwork and technique. Your footwork is critical in shooting as well as in your agility training. Proper landing, planting and cutting is important for injury prevention as well as maximum athletic efficiency on the court. Don't reinforce bad habits when you are training.
- Players who follow a strength and conditioning program because it comes from a famous player, coach or team. Following their program does not guarantee your success. Just because you are following last year's NCAA championship team's program doesn't mean you will automatically get results. It's not what you do; it's how you do it! Effort, consistency and progression are the key to success for any training program.
- Players who follow a program not specific to their needs. Strength and conditioning for basketball players is a means to an end, not an end itself. You are not a bodybuilder, football player, marathon runner, Powerlifter or Olympic lifter; so don't train like one! Certainly there are valuable exercises and concepts from each of those sports, but you need to follow a program specific to you as a basketball player. Are the weights you are lifting appropriate? Are you working the right movement patterns (defensive slides, jumping, back pedaling, etc.)? Are you working within appropriate work/rest ratios?
- Players who train too much. This is a very common mistake, especially with plyometrics. Basketball is already very plyometric in nature. There's no need to over do it, especially if you are playing AAU. If you played in five games over the weekend, you don't need to do box jumps on Monday. Not getting enough rest in between workouts is another problem. You don't need to lift every day of the week to make progress.
- Players who have poor nutritional habits. This is a very common theme for a lot of players; from high school to the NBA. I will make this simple. Eat like a bird, look like a bird. Eat like crap, play like crap.
- Players who just lift weights and don't work on their skills enough. No matter how fit or strong you are if you can't shoot, pass, or handle the ball you will never be a good player! Ball handling and shooting are only improved through task-specific repetition. Thousands and thousands of repetitions at game speed!
- Players who make workouts too long. Short, intense workouts will get the job done. And don't allow yourself to have a bad workout because you "feel tired" or just "don't feel like working out." If you only work hard on the days you feel like it, nothing will ever get done! Commit yourself to excellence every workout. One day at a time. Over the entire offseason your progress will be amazing.
Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the head strength and conditioning coach for the Montrose Christian boys basketball program. Stein has trained NBA stars like Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley and is the head conditioning coach for the McDonald's All-America Game, the Jordan All-American Classic and the Nike Summer Skills Academies. Visit his websites at StrongerTeam.com and Vertical-Jump-Program.com for more information.