By Sakshi Arora
(The author is a national level basketball player, coach and a sports enthusiast. She is currently completing a course in Bachelors of Management Studies).
Basketball is a very strenuous sport and requires a lot of endurance on court. Correct basketball conditioning and strength training is required at the elite level to get ahead of the opponent. With proper conditioning comes endurance and stamina which enables the players to go strong even during the last minutes of the game. Certain effective conditioning drills are added in training to improve endurance and strength as basketball is a sport where games are often decided in the final 2 minutes.
Let’s start with strength training. There are many myths that go around like “will lifting weights stunt your growth?” and “kids should not lift weights before teenage!”. It’s time we bring these myths to an end. Strength training does not stunt growth in fact it helps a player be more versatile on court. And for the age to start lifting weights, according to a recent scientific research, a kid can start strength training at the age of 8 or 9. So to all the almost teens and already teens out there who have not yet started working on strength training, our advice is start today! The main rule is that there shouldn’t be any modifications without professional help because a players muscular and Central Nervous System maturity (coordination, body awareness, attention span, ability to process and follow instructions) vary and some may pick it up fast and some may require help but the common mistake people make is combining two different concepts in one sentence “lifting weights is strength training” when they have the complete different meaning. Strength training itself does not require weights its just the form and technique and overall the functional movement that plays a vital role. If a kid learns how to squat correctly or do a push up properly without the use of weights and just by doing functional movements the way they are supposed to, it will help develop stronger players since the goal here is to not develop “weight lifters”.
Strength training will actually help strengthen the skeletal and muscular system as well as the connective tissue and will also help facilitate an improvement in the coordination and body awareness. It will make the kids fitter and healthier off the court because the main purpose is to target their motor skills and develop an athletic player. A proper youth training program should involve dynamic flexibility, movement preparation, footwork, strength training, and agility drills. The program should be done two times per week, for 30-45 minutes per workout, and focus on multi-joint movements such as skipping, hopping, jumping, lunging, squatting, pushing, pulling, throwing, and twisting. The workouts should be more solid, fun and challenging.
Conditioning is equally important as strength training. Great athletes are strong and their cardiovascular base help the other energy systems recover in certain situations when they are pushed to the point of fatigue. Players should train themselves not to play for 40 minutes but rather aim for 60 minutes and this process should begin in the off-season. Since basketball is fast paced, intense sport and provides very few rest breaks – the team’s conditioning workouts should reflect this. Conditioning helps a player be fast and agile with the benefit of being strong. Players that are unaware of what to do should work on their flexibility 20 minutes before practice and add aerobic and anaerobic conditioning drills in their warm ups so that it benefits them in offensive, defensive, and transition movements.
There are four rules that should be followed for strength training & conditioning:
- SAFETY: There should always be supervision of a professional.
- PROPER FORM AND TECHNIQUE: The correct fundamentals should be learned and followed with a variety of general motor skills like skipping, hopping, jumping, lunging, squatting, pushing, pulling, throwing, and twisting before trying to master basketball skills like ball handling, shooting and passing.
- CHALLENGE & FUN: The players should find the training difficult and challenging but at the same time fun. And also try to beat their own record for time or the amount of reps.
- KEEPING A WORKOUT LOG: A workout log will help the player and the coach to track their improvement and to know if the workout is benefiting them or not.