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Basketball Strength Training Program Phases

A previous article about the basics of strength training for basketball featured several types including absolute strength, muscular power and muscular endurance. It also highlighted several tips on how to go about a strength training program if you are just starting out.

Today’s feature will focus more on the phases of basketball strength training. A professional basketball season’s phases includes the offseason,  early preseason, late preseason, and the in-season (if the team is good enough to make a run for the championship). 

Note that you do not have to be a professional to adhere to these phases. Recreational basketball players also must involve themselves in strength training if they are to become better players. 

According to Phil Davies, a sports fitness advisor from the United Kingdom,  the types of strength training that must be done during each phase of the basketball season are as follows:

1. Offseason—even when the tournament date has ended, basketball players cannot afford to slack off. They still need to be in peak condition if they are to excel during the regular season and postseason grind. An offseason lasts for a minimum of two months. It can be as long as six months for professional leagues such as the NBA. 

During this phase, player must perform functional exercises that focus on stabilizing muscles and the core. Since the wear and tear of uneven strains after a rough season are felt during this phase, players are advised to do low-intensity functional strength training exercises.  Intensity shouldn’t be as high because players must also rest and recover after a strenuous season. Players are also advised to do cross-training.  

The goals for this phase include:

To prepare joints, ligaments and tendons for more intense work in subsequent training phases

To strengthen neglected stabilizer muscles

To balance the right and left sides of the body

To correct any imbalance between flexors and extensors

Davies emphasises that this is the most important phase in strength training for basketball. He even goes on to say that this is more important for younger players. 

To sum it all up, the ideal strength training frequency for this phase is two to three times per week. Resistance is 50-60% of what players normally lift. Each strength training exercise should consist of two to three sets with 15-20 repetitions each. 

2. Early preseason—the goal for this phase is to achieve peak strength. This is converted to muscular power through plyometric training. The aim is to complete this phase around a month before the in-season or regular season commences. 

This is the phase where basketball players need to allocate sufficient training resources so that they achieve muscular power in all body areas. This would include opposing muscles and left and right sides of all major muscle group areas—the back, buttocks, legs, arms, shoulders, chest and abdominals. 

Recommended exercises are as follows: barbell and dumbbell squats (or sled hack squats), dumbbell inclined presses, Romanian deadlifts, dumbbell triceps extensions (or machine pushdowns) and seated cable rows.   

Davies recommends strength training thrice a week. This will suffice to build maximal strength. It would be best to space each workout session by 48 hours. Resistance would be 80-90% of what players normally lift. To maximise strength, only four to eight reps per set is ideal. The set number would be three to five. 

3. Late preseason—the transition from the offseason to the late preseason phase must emphasise strength-building.  Once the transition has been made, Davies advises to focus more on plyometrics. This is where the amassed strength is converted to basketball-specific power. Players must be particular with their form in doing plyometric exercises. Davies says to focus on the lower body with rebounding exercises like depth jumps. Exercises using medicine balls are excellent for working the upper body.

4. In-season-now that the season has begun, the goal is to maintain muscular power. The best formula for in-season basketball strength training is to spend one to two sessions in the weight room and one or two sessions for plyometric training.   

For both the late preseason and in-season phases, here are the ideal strength training exercises: barbell or dumbbell hang clean, seated calf raises, cable push pulls, one-arm cable raises, barbell or dumbbell push presses, standing twists on a medicine ball with a partner, box jump marches and vertical jumps. 


Each phase of a basketball strength training program has a goal. The idea is to build up the intensity as the march toward the in-season intensifies. However, as intense as a sport basketball is, you also have to place emphasis on rest, nutrition and proper supplementation in order for you to be the best player you can be. Remember, by putting in the necessary work in the weights room, you are sure to increae your strength and sharpen your mental game at the same time. 

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