Should Basketball Players Lift Weights

There’s there awful rumor going around that basketball players don’t need to lift weights.  Even worse, they think that lifting weights will make them big and bulky and destroy their Ray-Allen-esque jumpshot.

Boo hoo.

Believe it or not I’ve heard that excuse multiple times from various athletes, coaches, and parents:

“Jimmy/Suzy doesn’t need to lift heavy weights because they don’t need to get big.  I just want them to work on their core, quickness, and jumping.”

Gotcha.  The good news…I can do all of the above.  In fact, I can do all of the above, while making your child stronger, more resilient to injury, and improve their athleticism.  The bad news, I can do all of that but the fastest, most efficient way to get there is by lifting weights.  And believe it or not, heavy weights.

Don’t Believe Everything That You Read (or hear)

I know you’ve probably heard that lifting heavy weights makes you big and bulky, and you don’t want to be big and bulky (or built like a football player).  That’s ok.  Lifting heavy weights doesn’t mean that you will directly get bigger.  Lifting heavy weights only means that you’ll get stronger (ie create more force).

I’ve actually found that the number one weaknesss most basketball players have is, well, weakness.  They simply aren’t strong enough.  Don’t expect to get huge if you’re squatting with 25lb plates on the bar.  Oh yeah, and that bench, don’t plan on your arms, chest, or shoulders growing to big with a couple dimes tossed on each side.  Oh, you only care about improving your quickness and vert?  Great, the only problem is that in order to jump higher or move faster you need to create more force – and in order to create more force you need to get stronger (ie lift weights).

What About Bodyweight?

Sure you can use bodyweight to improve strength.  In fact, bodyweight works great in some instances.  My only problem with it?  It works better for athletes who don’t have the luxury of having access to big weights.  If you have access to steel why not use it?

Some of my favorite strength movements are bodyweight movements.  But, just because I like bodyweight movements, that doesn’t mean that avoid lifting heavy things.  Bodyweight training is great for multiple things: getting the body warmed-up and loose; improving coordination; adding less stressful volume to a training program; developing movement patterns; and bridging the gap between the weight room and the court.

The list could be virtually endless, but here is a brief list of bodyweight movements that I have my athletes complete nearly everyday:

Lower Body – bodyweight squats, split squats, pistol squats, counter squats, SL elevated squats, glute-ham raises, and leg curl variations.

Upper Body – push-ups; handstand push-up variations; inverted row (horizontal pull-up); pull-ups/chin-up variations; I,Y,T,L variations for shoulder warm-up and function.

Lifting Heavy, Things.

The biggest difference I see in athletes who lift heavy weights versus those who believe that bodyweight only training is the answer is this: developing athletic strength in the weight room is and will carry over to bodyweight training more than bodyweight training will carry over to strength in the weight room.  In addition, the most important carry over happens on the court.  With a proper balance and blend of movements and weight, the carry over to the court is immense.

Here are a list of my favorite strength movements for basketball players: cleans, snatches, weighted jumps, squatting varitions (single and double leg), rowing varitions (barbell and DB), bench press, OH pressing, and arm/shoulder movements.  

In order to help maximize the carryover and have a transfer of athleticism my recommendation is to continue to play basketball on a regular basis.  It’s been my experience that players who continue to dribble, pass, and shoot don’t have any negative association with moving big weight.


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