Balling Out: How to Train for Basketball

If you are serious about improving as a basketball player, you have to give ample attention to strength and conditioning activities in addition to mastering fundamental and advanced skills by actually playing on the basketball court.

But, how exactly do you train for basketball?

Specificity of training

In just about any sport, when athletes of comparable skills meet, the one who is better trained almost always emerges as the victor.

Quite simply, training for basketball is different from training for another sport, say, beach volleyball, tennis, or cycling. Nor should you lift weights like someone who is preparing to become Mr. Olympia, or join a powerlifting contest.

To be great at playing hoops, you have to train like a basketball player. This is why specificity in training is important.Train for Basketball

In a nutshell, specificity in training means performing exercises and drills that are appropriate for your chosen sport. These specific exercises can have a direct impact on your performance once you set foot on the basketball court.

Whatever sport you are playing, it can always be broken down into smaller components that sport-specific training should mimic. For example, in basketball, there will be times where you will be jumping, sprinting, passing the ball, and shooting.

Weighing the pros and cons

The chief benefit of training specifically for the sport you play is that you develop muscle memory. Once you master the skill you are training for, it becomes second nature to you. In turn, this minimizes the need to think before performing a specific move.

Second, sport-specific training enables you to acquire new skills with the correct and most efficient form. This can apply to both fundamental and advanced skills.

Finally, sport-specific training aids in injury prevention that can sideline your career as a basketball player.

When engaging in sport-specific training, there is a higher likelihood of neglecting other areas of your body. In particular, your overall strength and conditioning may be compromised in one area or another if you do not pay attention to them.

Training progression

Before jumping into highly-specialized training for basketball, you will need to reach a particular level of fitness. Achieving that degree of fitness often entails the combination of cardio and resistance training.

Basketball specific training can be divided into four phases over the course of the year, following the training principle known as periodization. Periodization is a concept that maps out a clear training progression.

In each of these phases, you will need to tick off a few tasks to meet the overall goals set for every period.

Off-season training

Off-season training is all about preparing your body for the challenges it will face. Here, your main goal is to build functional strength that will protect your joints and tendons. Additionally, the muscles that act as stabilizers will be strengthened. This is also the right time to address muscle imbalances, especially in the muscle groups that you frequently use while playing hoops.

During off-season training, particular attention is given to the core, which includes the abs and lower back. The core is essential for practically every basketball move.

During this phase, training is conducted weekly for  two or three days, with exercises performed as 15 to 20 reps for two or three sets.

Early pre-season training

Basketball players usually transition to early pre-season training about a month before the start of the playing season.

Here, your primary goal is to develop maximal strength which will serve as the foundation for plyometric exercises.

Training is done three days a week, with reps ranging between four to eight at three to five sets. The load should be around 80 to 90 percent of your one-rep max.

Late pre-season

As the playing season moves closer, players need to transition to the late pre-season phase of training.

After building maximal strength, your next goal is to use that in performing plyometric exercises for both your upper and lower body.

For basketball, plyometric training should only be performed using bodyweight, two to three days a week. Reps hover between eight to 12 with varying numbers of sets.


While you are playing hoops during the season, it is natural to lose some of the strength that you gained during off-season training.

There’s no need to worry because that is natural. What is important is that you have built a solid base of strength and conditioning during the off-season period, which will help you become a better player.

During the playing season, you can divide your training between strength and plyometric training. One to two days for either will suffice, in addition to your regular practices.

Don’t forget to rest

Following this training protocol does not mean that you have to spend all of your days training. Even seasoned pros set aside time for recovery.

In fact, taking some much-needed rest is beneficial for progress. Ideally, you should set aside about six to eight weeks off from training to enable your muscles, joints, and ligaments to recover and become stronger. Otherwise, you risk overtraining, which can lead you vulnerable to injuries both on and off the court.


Possessing more than two decades of experience in the leisure and hospitality industry, Tony Kouris joined Zayed Sports City as General Manager in January 2018. With extensive career experience, a value on interpersonal relationships, and strong negotiating experience, he is positioned to support Zayed Sports City’s strategic growth and continue to innovate the site as an internationally recognised sport and entertainment destination.

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