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The Right Exercises for Your Basketball Strength Training

  • Author:
    By Danny McLarty, CSCS
  • Date:
    Jun 15, 2011

In the field of strength and conditioning, everyone wants to know what the best exercise is for X, Y, and Z.

I've had people ask me, "what is the best exercise to improve power?" I've had people ask me, "what is the best exercise for strong shoulders?" I've had people ask me, "what exercise is better, back squats or bulgarian split squats?" And the list goes on and on.

My answer is always the same--it depends. As much as I'd like to give these enthusiastic and inquisitive individuals a one-size-fits-all answer, I just can't do it. There are too many factors to consider before I can even come close to giving them my opinion. For example, I'd need to know...

  • What is the training age of the athlete (how many years has he or she been training with weights)?
  • What kind of mobility/flexibility restrictions does the athlete have?
  • What are the goals of the athlete?
  • What is the injury history of the athlete?

Etc, etc.

So, below are a couple examples of movements that may or may not be great exercises for you. I'll also give you my rationale for why I say, "good" or "bad." I wouldn't tell you not to do an exercise without giving you an explanation as to why... come one now, did you really think I'd leave you hanging?

The Deadlift

As you heard in the above video, deadlifts (and their variations) are a big-band-for-your-buck movement. In other words, you got A TON accomplished with just this one lift! But if you don't have adequate hip mobility, it is best to perform rack pulls (aka -- elevated deadlifts) until you improve your hip mobility. Perform hip mobility drills prior to your weight lifting sessions and also on "off" training days. The video below will give you a few options.

While there are many, many drills that you can use to improve hip mobility, the above drills are a great place to start. Just remember to get as much range of motion as possible, WHILE keeping your lower back stable (brace your abs as if you were about to take a punch). Do NOT go into a range of motion that has your rounding your lumbar spine (lower back). With consistency, in time you'll be able to get more and more range of motion with perfect form.

Overhead Pressing

Do you want cannon ball shoulders? Did you answer yes? Of course you did! Well then, you better start doing some overhead pressing. Or should you? ...

Try the test from the video above. If you need to move (hyperextend) at your lumbar spine (lower back) in order to get your arms overhead, then you are not ready to safely overhead press. For now, get your pressing done in the horizontal plane (push-ups, bench press, etc). If you lack adequate thoracic (upper back) mobility, perform thoracic extensions on the foam roller:

Make sure to set the roller up at about the line of your lower pecs. Perform five extensions at this position, then move the roller down an inch or so and perform 5 more extensions. Finally, move the roller about an inch above the first point you had the roller, and perform 5 more extension. Do NOT set the roller under your lower back and perform extensions. We're trying to increase range of motion at the thoracic spine, NOT the lumbar spine.

I should also mention that all the sitting we do in today's society can reduce thoracic mobility (due to rounded shoulders while sitting) and hip mobility (due to flexed hips while sitting). So make sure you are not spending hours on end playing NBA 2K11 and/or on YouTube.

You now see why my answer to many of the questions I get on a daily basis is, "it depends." If you are currently lacking adequate thoracic mobility and hip mobility, use the drills I showed you in this article. Before you know it, you'll be safely and effectively deadlifting from the floor, and pushing some serious weight overhead. This improved mobility will help keep you healthy all year round, and indirectly help you become a stronger, more explosive basketball player!

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