Apr 29, 2021
Basketball Strength Training: Make Your Next Season the Best Season
Micah Kurtz, MS, CSCS*D, RSCC*D

Any coach who has experienced any type of success will tell you how crucial the offseason is for a team’s improvement and a player’s development. The offseason is a time that makes average players good and good players great. The offseason is a time for teams to develop comradery, discipline, toughness, and cohesiveness.  

Even though we all know how important the offseason is, do we create a plan that maximizes the potential of every player in our program? The first thing that I do to start the offseason is hold open and honest conversations with all of our players on their strengths and weaknesses. This is an open dialogue on what we the coach and what the player feels they need to improve on. 

In this article, I will highlight five areas of emphasis I focus on to maximize the potential of my basketball players in the offseason.  

  1. Protect & Prepare
Photo: Wesley Sykes / Great American Media Services

Our first focus as coaches is to allow our players to heal any nagging injuries they may have from the previous season. We do not want our players to continue to fight through aches and pains in our offseason strength program, we want them to be pain-free so we can work to unlock their athletic potential. One of our main jobs as strength and conditioning professionals is to do everything in our power to ensure that the players are available and ready when the season starts. This begins with making sure they are healthy and allowing their body to fully recover from the previous season.

  1. Focus on Overall Strength

The stronger an athlete is the more durable that player will be. 

One of my favorite quotes comes from legendary Miami Heat strength coach Bill Foran. He said, “Proper strength training improves your speed, power, and agility, while also making your body more durable. When you are strong and powerful, your true ability comes out.” Our basketball players’ strength train year-round, however, it is difficult to make true strength gains during the season. The off-season is a huge window of opportunity to get stronger and unlock your true potential as an athlete.

In my opinion too many basketball players — especially young ones — place too much of an emphasis on trying to improve specific basketball skills in the weight room. They want to solely focus on improving their vertical jump or their first step or on improving their foot speed. If you focus on getting stronger, it will have a direct correlation to all of these basketball-specific attributes.

  1. Limit Jumping & Focus On The Ability To Absorb Force

“Limit jumping” — this sounds counterintuitive.

One of the goals as a strength and conditioning coach is to make our basketball players more explosive and jump higher. But I am supposed to limit jumping in my programming?

The simple answer to this is today’s basketball players play basketball year-round. Players jump around 60 times per game and sometimes even more than that in practices. Jumping and landing are very violent on the body. So if I know my athletes are performing 60 jumps and above every day in practices and games, do I want to have them perform another 20, 30, or 40 jumps in the weight room with me? My answer is no.

As the athlete gets more explosive, increases their vertical jump, and increases their force production we also need to teach them how to land properly. Many times, we, as strength coaches, become overly focused on teaching our athletes how to extend and explode but miss the mark on teaching them how to bend, absorb force, and land properly. This is a big component for keeping our athletes healthy. I have noticed, first hand, that many of my most explosive athletes do not know how to absorb all of the force (or land properly) that they are producing in their jumps. 

  1. Create an ‘Individualized” Program for Each Player

After meeting with, assessing, and discussing the past season’s performance and each athlete’s goal, the coaching staff collaborates to develop an individualized athletic development program to transform each player. These meetings are collaborative and include open and honest dialogue. The coaches, athletic development staff, and players all communicate what they feel the athlete most needs to improve on. The “individualized” programs are many times very similar from player-to-player, as the core values of our program are to:

  1. Protect
  2. Move Well
  3. Move Strong
  4. Move Fast
  5. Thrive

However, adding an “individualized” component goes a long way into helping our players buy into our off-season workout program as they understand that our goal is to collectively maximize each of their individual potentials.

  1. Incorporate Competitiveness

Working with Oak Hill Academy Basketball for the past 10 years, I’m often thought of as a basketball strength and conditioning coach. Oftentimes, one of the first questions I receive is: “Do you enjoy working with basketball players, they generally don’t work that hard in the weight room?”  

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Micah Kurtz

First of all, I would disagree with that sentiment. Many of the basketball players that I have worked with have been some of the hardest workers. However, I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned about working with basketball players is they are some of the most competitive athletes of any sport. Therefore, I want to feed into their competitiveness through my strength and conditioning programming. 

One of the ways we feed into the players’ competitiveness is by having the players pick their own workout teams. The players and teams can earn points throughout the offseason through hard work, being a great teammate, or winning competitions. At the beginning or end of each workout, we will have some type of competition. The competition could be individual or team-oriented and it could involve speed, strength, agility, or even a mental challenge. By including these competitions it breaks up some of the monotony of off-season workouts, but it also feeds into the competitiveness of our athletes, and our basketball players are some of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around.

Make this off-season your best yet!

Micah Kurtz, MS, CSCS*D, RSCC*D was named the NHSSCA Southeast Strength Coach of the Year in 2021, the NSCA National Strength Coach of the Year in 2016, a Top 40 Under 40 Sports Professional and has been named a state strength coach of the year three times.  He is active on social media and you can connect with him on Twitter and Instagram @KurtzM3 and visit his website www.TheAthleteMaker.com.

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