Now that the regular season has ended the age old question arises on what to do next? Is the school of thought to take sufficient rest, or is it to hit the ground running increase strength and endurance since the athlete’s body is still ready from the end of the season Regardless of the school of thought, off season to pre-season training regimens have evolved over the years. No longer is it the norm to perform the old school regimen of just running long distances on the treadmill in the off season in order to increase cardiovascular conditioning for game play, but sometimes players fall into this way of training because it’s all they know.
Athletes need to make sure that not only do they try to work on cardiovascular training, but also get their bodies ready for the myriad of movements and skills of the entire game. Skills such as jumping, landing, making quick starts and stops are aspects of preseason training that should be worked on. A player’s body has to be ready to perform these movements not only efficiently, but on a repetitive basis as well so as to not make the them prone to injury during the long grind of the season. Remember that the goal of a basketball player is not to be able to run a 26 mile marathon, but to play a game that involves constant acceleration and deceleration movements (sprinting, back pedaling, defensive sliding) along with explosive plyometrics as well. Overall musculature, ligaments, and tendons have to be ready for these activities and a proper pre-season/off season training regimen can help do this. This is why a good strength and conditioning program is critical during this time frame. The absence of a tedious travel schedule can allow for a more structured and consistent program
Training should be divided into two broad categories, specific training, and general training. General training involves aspects of training such as strengthening, energy systems development, and speed and power training. Specific training involves sport skill, practice, and sport specific movements. Both aspects of training are important throughout the year, but in different volumes. The chart below was developed by Derek Hansen, a renound strength and conditioning coach for a variety of professional athletes. It depicts the amount of each training that should be focused on throughout the year. For this particular article we will focus on the off season and preseason aspects of the graph. We can see that general training takes up a majority of the graph in the pre-season/off season, so what is a good example of an off-season training program?
When to start: At least 12 weeks before start of training camp
How much: 3-4 days a week, weekends off (I’ll explain this concept as well)
What: combination of aerobic conditioning, strength and plyometrics
Cardiovascular conditioning/Energy systems development (ESD)
As mentioned before basketball is a high intensity game played at a very fast pace. Simply running won’t develop your cardiovascular system for this task. You need to make sure that the activities you do provide the proper amount of stress to the system that you would get during your sport
Anaerobic system specific- high intensity and short duration. Examples of this can be TABATA efforts on the treadmill, assault bike or row machine. This kind of training mimics the fast bouts of sprinting for a short amount of time like in a game play situation
Movement Specific- incorporating training with quick changes of direction (lateral shuffling, back pedaling, defensive shuffling)
Progressive intensity- Whether this be in the same session or progressive throughout the week. Progressing the overall intensity of the training and decreasing rest time to further develop the anaerobic system with decreased overall rest.
A good way to progress conditioning is during individual basketball workouts or actual game play situations as well (pickup 5v5). Having an open conversation with the skills coach can help determine that week if individual skill work can be a time to help develop aerobic capacity or if it can be incorporated into 5v5 game play. Regardless of the method used it should be noted that ESD should be based on the sport being played and try to mimic it as best as possible.
Strength and Plyometric Training
Improving overall total body strength is imperative during the off season/pre-season. A lack of lower body and core strength along with a decreased ability to attenuate repetitive jumping and landing can lead to overuse injuries and an overall long and tough upcoming season. Using this time to properly gain strength and muscular control can help decrease the likelihood of this happening. A gradual build-up of strength should be implemented from the beginning to the end of the pre-season, along with a gradual building of plyometric training as well. Players have already put a tremendous stress on their body from the regular season, so as preseason training starts plyometric training and intensity can start off low, and then progress to more intense as the preseason training progresses. Similarly, during strength training reps can start higher with lower weight at the beginning of the pre-season and then progress to higher weight and lower reps by the end of the training cycle. An example of a quad set is below for strength training (lower body strength, lower body plyo, upper body/core, agility)
Lower body strength
Trap Bar DL
Goblet reverse Lunge
Lower body plyometrics
Lateral out/in hops
CC dead bug
DB bench press
Fit light touch and go
Fast feet to cone drill
Performing 2-3 of these quad sets per session with a day of rest in between can help the player gain sufficient strength over the pre-season so that they are ready when camp begins. Having sufficient strength gains when camp starts can ensure that they are ready for increased overall game play and practice that will ensue as the season starts.
At anytime during the year, whether it be in-season or pre-season, mobility is a must! Joint mobility, flexibility and overall muscle tone are all aspects that need to be addressed in order to optimally position and move through full range of motion for strengthening, and at the end of the day move athletically.
Foam rolling on a daily basis can help improve overall mobility. A foam rolling routine of the entire lower body including the gastroc/soleus complex, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors can help athletes get into the optimal position to perform proper lifts (especially Olympic lifts). This will in turn improve their ability to gain an optimal amount of strength. Talking very simply, if you don’t have proper mobility to get into an optimal position your body will find a way to do the movement, but it will likely cause stress to another structure, resulting in pain, or even worse an injury.
Having a good dynamic warmup before workouts and court work will help mobility and decrease joint stress as well. Dynamic warmups can be simple but very effective in not only getting the body warm for subsequent activity, but also improve overall mobility during workouts. Traveling lunges with an upper extremity reach, high knees, leg kicks, A-skips, B-skips, are just a few of the many exercises that can be incorporated into a dynamic warmup to help with dynamic mobility.
Also remember that mobility is just not about stretching and flexibility. It’s not only about getting into the proper position but being able to control the joint in that position as well. Trading a high intensity cardio session with a yoga flow or mat pilates class to increase mobility can have profound increases in overall mobility and stability but can also help to reduce further injuries as well.
Rest and Mental Acuity
Proper rest is optimal for overall recovery. An athlete can only put in a maximal effort if they are properly rested. During the grind of the season this can be tough at times. Travel schedules, media commitments, and game schedules can interrupt this at many times during the season. Getting a full 8 hours of sleep daily during this down time can help with overall recovery and optimal performance during workouts as well. As I mentioned before taking weekends off can be very helpful to these players as well. During the season they are rarely able to spend a prolonged amount of time at home with friends and family. As pre-season progresses, and the regular season looms this personal time gets even less. Although it is optimal for a player to be in one place to train, and that traveling back home during the weekends can also have a negative effect for rest (possible jet lag), the mental improvements for a player can out weight these possible negative effects. Resting at home with family can get them ready for the upcoming week of training as well.
The success of any pre-season strength and conditioning program is dependent on how much the player puts into it. Start too late and you are going to play catch-up by the time that camp starts. If you don’t put the effort and time into a complete training protocol, then you may not be ready for the long grind of the season and a playoff push late into the season. The decisions you make are all your own choices, but these decisions will ultimately determine what kind of player you want to be in the upcoming season