A Blueprint for Positive Weight Gain

Gaining "positive weight" (lean muscle tissue) is not easy for most basketball players given their taller frames and high metabolisms. But it is doable! It requires a high level of focus, consistency, and effort. Many high school age players are coming towards the end of their season now...and will then transition directly to AAU. That means they are practicing or playing as much as six or seven days per week, and in some cases, working out twice a day. The result of this type of schedule, over the course of a year, makes it very difficult to put on the pounds. But it can be done!

I explain to our players at Gonzaga how important it is to focus on quality nutrition and to strength train consistently the entire year—both in an out of season. Consistency is crucial to gaining weight!

Players...

  • How many of you have been able to maintain or improve your strength gains during the season?
  • How many of you have been able to maintain or increase your bodyweight during the season?

How many of you even know the answers to those two questions?

I'd like to share an example of a Gonzaga freshman who has had the primary focus of getting stronger and gaining weight (muscle of course) during the season.

Like many freshman, he was on the "light" side when we started—he weighed in at 120 lbs soaking wet. He had to hold a cinder block to keep the seat down at the movies!

He is a very skilled player and has the goal of playing college basketball, so he knows how important it is to get his body bigger and stronger. Like all of our players, he practices or plays almost every day of the week. In order to make significant gains with such a strenuous schedule, he had to be fully committed! And he was...

Here is an overview of our strategy:

The first thing we did was determine the total amount of calories he would need every day in order to put on the pounds and gain muscle. I used the Harris-Benedict equation from Wikipedia to calculate.

We agreed that his No. 1 priority was to meet these caloric requirements every day.

Next, we set him up on a program called My Fitness Pal. I highly recommend this program. It helped us track calories and set specific goals. The best part was that I, as his coach, could keep an eye on his caloric intake every day and hold him accountable.

He then went through a basic strength/movement assessment to evaluate his strengths and weaknesses. From there, we set a weekly schedule to strengthen his strengths and improve his weaknesses. Our focus was on building strength in the big compound movements of pressing, pulling, squatting (mostly single leg), deadlifting, and various core exercises. We kept his workouts brief, intense, and purposeful.

From a nutrition standpoint, I continued to stress the importance of quality food choices and having prepared snacks available all day long (especially between breakfast and lunch, after school, immediately after workouts and practices, and before bed). I wanted the focus on sound nutritional habits for both health and performance reasons.

Did his commitment pay off? Was he able to put on the pounds and improve his strength?

YES!

I am proud to say he gained an impressive 13 pounds over the course of 10 weeks! Here is a brief look at his strength progress:

Pull-ups

  • Started with 1 1/2 reps (bodyweight)
  • 10 weeks later he did 10 reps (bodyweight)

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (back foot on bench)

  • Started by holding a 30-pound dumbbell for six reps
  • 10 weeks later he held a 50-pound dumbbell and wore a 25-pound weight vest for 5 reps

Elevated Foot Push-ups (feet on bench)

  • Started with 12 reps (bodyweight)
  • 10 weeks later he wore a 25 lb weight vest for 15 reps

In addition to getting bigger, stronger, and more explosive, he now plays with more confidence. And he's not done... he plans to continue to focus on gaining weight and improving his strength and power over the offseason.

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