Jan 29, 2015A Higher Level
The University of Kansas’ basketball training program is developed around ground-based strength and explosive exercises that mimic players’ movements on the court.
By Andrea Hudy
Andrea Hudy, MA, CSCS, USAW, LMT, is Assistant Athletics Director for Sport Performance at the University of Kansas, where she is responsible for training the men’s and women’s basketball teams. She can be reached at: [email protected].
Basketball players come to the University of Kansas to follow in the footsteps of legends. Greats such as Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce, and Lynette Woodard have laid a foundation of hard work and dedication for today’s players.
As the teams’ strength coach, it is imperative that I further these attributes in our players through a comprehensive and well-planned training program. Fortunately, I have great assistance in doing so.
With support from the University, the Kansas basketball teams have one of the finest training facilities in the country. The Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center provides us with state-of-the-art weight training equipment that helps us build athletes who uphold Kansas’ rich traditions.
The 42,000 square-foot facility allows our basketball players to have variety in their training program because of the abundance of equipment and space, including an area specifically for basketball training. It contains six platforms, eight selectorized pulleys, pull-up bars at varying heights, and individual areas for dumbbells, plyo-agility drills, medicine balls, circuit training, and cardio.
The mission of the Kansas Strength and Conditioning Department is to physically and mentally prepare our student-athletes for the rigors of intercollegiate athletics and to compete with integrity and excellence. For each team, the two primary goals of our programming are to enhance sport performance and aid in injury prevention using various training and recovery techniques. How we approach this primary goal differs from sport to sport.
Basketball requires fundamental movements such as running and jumping and demands high power, high velocity movements across diverse planes of movement from a wide variety of positions. Therefore, our basketball-specific weight training philosophy begins with a foundation of functional ground-based strength and explosive exercises that mimic the coordinated movements occurring during competition.
Triple extension–the coordinated extension of the hip, knee, and ankle joints during running and jumping–is an integral part of our training program because it is in such high demand on the basketball court. Triple extension can occur vertically (jumping), linearly (running), and laterally (shuffling/skating). If we can increase the amount of ground reaction forces a player generates in the weightroom while performing triple extension, that will transfer to the court in the form of better mechanical efficiency when the athlete is no longer under resistance.
Mechanical efficiency is the ratio of work output to work input. In other words, it is the ratio of external work performed to total energy expenditure. If we can increase the amount of work a player performs while keeping his energy expenditure the same, then we are creating a better conditioned athlete who can stay more powerful for longer periods of time.
Any type of pulling lift involves the athlete performing vertical triple extension. Examples include the high pull, clean, snatch, jerk, and box jumps–resisted or un-resisted. Linear triple extension drills we use include sled pushes and running or jumping uphill. And shuffling movements, slide board drills, and lateral jumping drills are all exercises that train lateral triple extension.
To build a successful basketball player, we also concentrate on improving their lateral and rotational movement efficiency. So in addition to training triple extension, we focus on working the external rotators of the hip and the musculature of the groin and hamstrings. The guidelines we use for training these areas are based on Paul Chek’s definition of the outer unit of the core. Many of these exercises are supplements to our strength training movements. Some examples include the Romanian deadlift, lateral squats, and reverse crossover lunges. We superset these exercises, as well as basketball-specific coordination drills, with our primary lifts.
Our men’s basketball team year-round training follows a non-linear periodization model that includes traditional periodization trends. This type of programming is valuable because of the flexibility it offers for exercise prescription, load, volume, and intensity. It also provides us with the opportunity to perform muscle endurance, strength, and power workouts at least once every week. The ability to adapt the team’s training is important because, as coaches, we often train athletes with different levels of experience, time constraints, injuries, individual needs, and/or specific goals.
There are two types of non-linear periodization: planned and unplanned. During the postseason, summer, and preseason we follow planned non-linear periodization. During these times of year, we resistance train and condition four days per week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday).
When designing our daily programs, we emphasize high power output activities. We describe these exercises as synchronous, which means that they require high muscle recruitment in order to produce high power output. They also require technical skill. After a proper warmup, our athletes begin each workout with the synchronous exercises prescribed for that day. Some of these synchronous exercises may include plyometric drills, high intensity acceleration and agility drills, or high intensity weightlifting or strength exercises.
Our off-season lifting workouts generally include an explosive exercise, a squat variation, a bench variation, a shoulder variation, and a back variation. The lifting portion of the workouts are efficiently structured by super-setting a major movement like an Olympic weightlifting movement with one or two functional or torso exercises.
Each of the core lifts is superset with a torso exercise specific to basketball. We set it up this way so that there is always something for the athletes to do between core lifts, which helps them to not lose focus while in the weightroom.
Percentages are used for most core lifts and each day has a specific goal. For example, Monday is a high volume work capacity day intended to induce a large hormonal response. Tuesday is a high load, low volume strength/speed training day where neuromuscular recruitment is the primary goal. Thursday is a typical strength day designed for protein synthesis and neuromuscular recruitment. And Friday is a speed/strength day mainly consisting of low to moderate loads with an emphasis on speed of movement.
Each day’s workout includes a lifting and conditioning portion. Here’s a closer look at how the four days are organized.
Mondays: During the summer, we begin with an active warmup that is specific to the lateral plyometrics and agilities that will be performed in that day’s conditioning session. The linear plyometric activities, accelerations, and agility drills are similar to the lateral drills in terms of length, focus, and progression. We condition first because it provides a synchronous foundation for the workout. Early in the off-season, we teach 15-foot lateral acceleration drills that have no change of direction, then later in the summer and into the team’s preseason, progress to advanced 60-foot change of direction with rotation drills that have a reaction component.
After the conditioning session, we resistance train asynchronously. Asynchronous activities have a muscle endurance/submaximal effort training foundation over time. An example would be a total-body work capacity circuit.
Tuesdays: We begin with a warmup that is specific to the day’s high load, high intensity, low volume lifting session. We train aggressively using relatively heavy loads, then transition to an asynchronous conditioning session, such as having players run multiple basketball court line sprints.
Thursdays: We begin with a warmup that is specific to linear plyometrics and agilities similar to what we performed on Monday. After the conditioning session, we perform a total-body strength training workout.
Fridays: To end our week, we complete a speed/strength lift and then perform an endurance-based conditioning workout. The conditioning workout is usually performed on the track and consists of multiple sprints lasting between 25 and 80 seconds.
For examples of typical lifting portions of the team’s summer workouts, see “Summer Lifting” below. For a glimpse into the conditioning portion of the team’s summer workouts, see “Summer Conditioning” below.
Once the competitive season begins, we change from a planned to an unplanned non-linear periodization model. Weight training sessions are based on weekly goals instead of the long-term goals that guide us during the off-season.
This reactive model takes into account many factors, including the team’s practice schedule, intensity and length of practices, number of minutes played during games, number of training sessions in the week, and number of players injured. There is a lot of variability in the team’s playing and travel schedules, which greatly impacts what we schedule and when. Games per week can range from zero during a bye week, to three once the conference season begins.
To quantify decisions regarding exercise prescription, we lean on subjective feedback gathered by tools such as heart rate monitors and pedometers. These tools allow us to measure volume, intensity, and each athlete’s time on the court and adjust our strength training workouts accordingly. If an on-court practice consists of powerful high intensity synchronous running and jumping activities, then the weight training session after practice is less intense and would likely include asynchronous qualities such as a circuit. If the on-court practice is not intense–a shoot-around or walk-through, for example–then the weight training session is structured to be more intense, with an emphasis on building power using synchronous activities in a strength/speed session or a speed/strength session.
One major difference between the off-season and in-season workouts is that while the team’s core lifts are assigned specific percentages in the off-season, once games begin we look at a percentage range. Also, each player monitors his own loads and athletes who don’t play a lot of minutes either complete a higher volume of work or an extra training session per week.
Every in-season workout session begins with static stretching for the low back, hips, hamstrings, quads, and calves. The players then complete mobility exercises like the overhead drop squat, and other exercises that increase their heart rate, like jumping rope, before heading into the more intense part of the lifting session.
The lifting portion of each workout includes a series of Olympic weightlifting movements and strength movements that are paired with a flexibility, mobility, and/or torso exercise. As we progress further into the conference season, recovery modalities such as foam rolling and other self-myofascial release techniques are implemented into the workouts. (For examples of in-season workouts, see “Competitive Season Workouts” below.)
DOES IT WORK?
Another important training resource at our disposal is the university’s Research and Coaching Performance Team. Led by Andrew Fry, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences department at Kansas, and myself, the Performance Team is comprised of coaches, sport scientists, and students who are studying new training methods and modalities. In turn, our players are able to adhere to the best training philosophies that research provides.
The Performance Team helps with the squad’s training through various measurements used to validate the effectiveness of our program. For example, before the season begins each year, the Performance Team monitors our players as they perform a squat test using Tendo units.
Bar speed is measured at 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90 percent of the athletes’ one-rep max squat. The collected data allows us to determine the range at which each athlete is able to produce maximal power. Power is defined as force x velocity, which shares an inverse relationship (i.e. high force movements generally lack high velocity and vice versa). The velocities recorded at each percentage of weight load are then plotted on a standard force-velocity curve chart.
Over the course of an athlete’s career, we can monitor the shape of their force/velocity curve to ensure that the curve is shifting up and to the right, representing an increase in both load and bar speed at the assigned percentages. If an athlete’s curve is not shifting in the desired direction over the course of a training cycle, we can examine the data to see whether the individual needs more speed or specific strength work.
Over the years I’ve been working with the players, our use of planned and unplanned non-linear periodization models has resulted in much success with our athletes–not only because of the variability in the program, but also because of the ability to adapt our workouts to the team’s practice schedule. The team’s on-court performance consistently lasts late into the postseason, which for me, validates our program’s effectiveness.