Nov 4, 2016
Ready for Basketball
Timothy DiFrancesco

Preseason training for basketball players should involve strength, plyometric, and conditioning work. While the specifics of the programming need to be tailored to the individual players, this framework can be applied to any team, at any level, during the preseason.

One part of that training that can be confusing to construct is conditioning. How much should be done on the court vs. in the weightroom? Most coaches do more than enough mental toughening punishment-based sprint work during a practice, and I am a firm believer in not beating a dead horse. Instead, this is where I use work capacity enhancement (WCE) circuits, or interval circuit training.

WCE circuits are a simple way to address explosiveness, power, agility, and anaerobic capacity, all while avoiding repetitive movements in the same plane, which can lead to overuse injury. The key to designing a WCE circuit is to keep it short and simple while putting a premium on quality of movement. The authors of Supertraining, Yuri Verkhoshansky and Mel Siff, remind us that the larger the circuit, the more its ability to develop sport specific, strength-related qualities is compromised.

When I am developing a WCE circuit for a team, I keep the following in mind:

  • Only the players who pass a movement screen are ready for WCE circuits.
  • Keep the number of exercises between four and six. This will avoid compromising the quality of form and work.
  • The order of the exercises can make or break the circuit’s effectiveness. Complex and total-body exercises can exhaust an athlete, so these types of exercises should not be placed too close together in the circuit order.
  • Keep the amount of upper-body and lower-body work comparable. If too many upper-body or lower-body exercises are sequenced together, quality will diminish.
  • Grip dominance should be considered when choosing or organizing exercises for the circuit. Too many grip-dominant exercises will compromise quality of movement.
  • Duration of the circuit varies and should be examined each day. It’s best to base it on workload in the days leading up to the circuit, workload on the day of the circuit, and planned workload in the days after the circuit. A linear increase in duration is not necessarily an effective approach. I prefer to take these variables into account and alternate the length of each workout from short (30 to 90 seconds), to medium (90 seconds to three minutes), to long (three to five minutes).

Here is an example of a WCE circuit I commonly use during the preseason. Athletes would take a one-minute break after their first time through, then repeat the circuit a second time.

Station 1: Med ball footwork throws x12 each arm

Station 2: Elevated alternating single-leg jumps x30

Station 3: Half-kneeling med ball slams x12 each side

Station 4: Various ladder footwork drills x4 laps

Timothy DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He has also worked in the NBA Developmental League as a Head Athletic Trainer and co-founded TD Athletes Edge, a performance training facility in Massachusetts.

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