All athletes understand the need for proper conditioning in order to excel in their particular sport. If their body is not in top shape they will not be able to compete at the level needed or expected. The purpose of training is to improve the performance and conditioning of the athlete in their particular sport. In the case of the basketball athlete, their integrated movement of agility, strength, explosiveness and cardio conditioning should be the major focus of their training.

Many times coaches and team trainers have an in season program already established in which the athletes train as a team and prep for individual games so we are going to talk about off season and pre-season training. In-season training is specifically geared to improving the skill level of the team rather than focusing a lot of attention on individual training.

Before we design a training program, whether it is pre-season or off season, we have to take into account what position the athlete plays. Although we are training basketball players, each player has different skills, abilities and physical demands. Even though watching a 6′-11″ center pass a guard with a great crossover would be entertaining; it isn’t likely to happen in a game situation. So, by analyzing each position we can create a position specific program. Later in the article I will give some sample workouts for pre-season and off season. The workouts will be position specific in order to give your athlete the ability to raise the level of their game. To ensure a high level of intensity is maintained during the training session, try to make the drills and exercises competitive. One way to do this is to make many of the exercises timed. Timing the exercises gives the athlete an obstacle to overcome; the clock. This immediately brings out the competitive nature in all athletes. Continue to reduce the amount of time given as the athlete progresses to continually push them to their limits.

Allow the athlete 2 to 3 weeks of complete rest at the end of the season before you begin off season training. This gives the body time to heal and recover after the grueling season. The off season will range anywhere from 4 to 7 months depending on what level your athlete is at. It is during this time that the majority of training can be placed upon improving overall strength. The importance of incorporating strength training into your off season routine is immeasurable. As Ken Sprague, author of Sport’s Strength and similar books states, “basketball is a real contact sport, so the stronger the player – especially inside players, forwards and centers – the better.”

In the initial stage of off season training, limit skill movements and drills to no more than once a week and when performed use a weighted medicine ball. Instead of thinking about skill level, focus solely on making your athlete stronger. While off season training is geared toward making the athlete stronger we still want to keep in mind the ultimate goal of training; make the athlete better. The strength training portion of the off season should continue for 3 to 4 months before adding skill movements and drills. In the last 2 months continue with the strength training but begin adding days to include more drills. This will help the athlete transit from the off season training routine into the pre-season routine. The athlete should train 3 to 4 times a week breaking the body into sections. On day 1, legs and core; day 2, chest and back and; day 3, arms and shoulders. If a day 4 is desired, added work with medicine balls and different types of throws is a great choice. Throws with a medicine ball activate all the muscle fibers in the body to complete the throw. This will teach the body to work as one unit to generate the necessary power. It is a great way to teach the muscles power. Developing power within the muscles improves their explosive ability. This will equate into quicker and more precise movements on the court.

When designing a pre-season training routine you have to take into account the amount of time you have before the start of the season. If you are training high school or college athletes that is usually around 5 weeks. Remember that the athlete has just come off of a break in training or just finished up with their off season training. For the first couple of days we want to focus on general conditioning and drills. The purpose of this is to see how conditioned the athlete is and if any skills have diminished from the intense off season training. I would recommend no more than 3 days of this type of training. By the third day you have a good understanding of where the athlete stands. At this point you want to start with a full routine, which includes strength training, stability training, and position drills. The athlete should be training no less than five days a week alternating strength and stability training with skill movement and drills. The strength training now must change from the isolated movements we performed in the off season to multi joint movements. Multi-joint movements are just that, movements that involve more than one joint. A good example would be Squats with Overhead Press. As the athlete begins the descending phase of the squat they should begin to press up a set of dumbbells or a medicine ball. This will work multiple muscle groups at one time intensifying the exercise and the workout as a whole. This will also teach the muscles to work together as one efficient unit.

During weeks 1 – 2 of the pre-season, the athlete should spend 3 days working on strength and stability and 2 days working on drills. For weeks 3 – 5, 3 days a week should be spent working on drills and 2 days on strength and stability. As stated earlier strength training will consist of many different multi joint exercises. In addition to strength training you want to include several different stability exercises. Stability training not only increases the strength in the prime movers, it also strengthens the stabilizing muscles in all the joints involved. This will improve the body’s proprioceptive response. Improving the body’s proprioceptive response will decrease the amount of time it takes the body to sense its positions. This will lead to better overall balance, stability and improved agility.

Alan Tyson and Ben Cook, authors of Jumpmetrics, state that “athletes who manage some type of object (e.g., ball, stick, or racket) during play should use that object during advanced training.” This means that when designing the skills and drills portion of the program make sure to include the use of a basketball and/or a medicine ball. This will help the athlete develop their skills and agility in a real life setting. The biggest difference between athletes and the general public is, an athlete needs specific training while the general public wants overall better health. With the knowledge that you have on the way the body functions and with all the resources available, training an athlete should be a “game” you want to compete in.

Stay Fit. Stay Healthy.

Sample Routines

Off Season – Center/Power Forward





Lunges 4 x 12

SB Bench Press 4 x 6

1 Leg Shoulder Press 4 x 6

Rim Touches w/ MB

Jump Squats 4 x 20

Standing Chest Press 3 x 6

Upright Rows 4 x 6

Overhead Throw w/ MB

Split Jumps 3 x 20

Explosive Push Ups 4 x 12

Rotation Press 3 x 12

Baseball Throw w/ MB

SB Bridges 3 x 15

Wide Grip Pulldown 4 x 6

1 Leg DB Bicep Curl 3 x 6

Carioca w/ MB Chest Pass

SB Crunches 4 x 15

1 Arm Standing Row 4 x 6

1 Leg Overhead Extension 4 x 6


SB Rotation Hypers 4 x 15

SB Roll Out 4 x 12



Wood Chops 4 x 12




SB=Stability Ball


MB=Medicine Ball



Pre-Season – Guards






Carioca w/ Chest Pass

Walking Lunges 4 x 20

Agility Ladder

1 Leg Bicep Curl 4 x 15

Dot Drill

Agility Ladder

SB Squats w/ Shoulder Press 4 x 15

Split Jumps w/ Dribble

1 Leg Overhead Extensnion 4 x 15

Carioca w/ Chest Pass

Dot Drill

Standing Rotational Chest Press 4 x 15

Dribbling Drills

SB Crunch w/ MB Toss 4 x 20

Crossover w/ Lay up

Slides w/ Chest Pass

Standing Rotational Rows 4 x 15

3/4 Court Baseball Pass

Wood Chops 4 x 20

Defensive Slides


Stationary Bike


Stationary Bike




These resources are for the purpose of personal trainer growth and development through Continuing Education which advances the knowledge of fitness professionals. This article is written for NFPT Certified Personal Trainers to receive Continuing Education Credit (CEC). Please contact NFPT at 800.729.6378 or with questions or for more information.