The front squat will be the basis for everything relating to explosiveness and strength. This movement hyper focuses both the core, psoas, and quads to build an incredible athletic foundation. This video will demonstrate how to do a front squat properly. One more thing I would add that the video does not touch on is depth, you want to go lower than 90 degrees. If you cannot go lower than 90 degrees, the video below will touch on that. You might be wondering, why not back squat? Well, back squat puts too much stress on your back, not your core. So, 1. you are more likely to put on more weight to injure yourself, and 2. it will neglect the strength of the core.
If you find yourself unable to go beyond the 90 degree threshold, I would recommend this video. This will help, not only to allow you to get lower on squats, but unlock the power and strength in the ankle. When you increase mobility of a joint, its power output increases. The ankle is very important when jumping, moving laterally, and when stopping and going. All those things relate to the game of basketball. So if you find yourself not able to put your knee over your toe and squat below 90, you need to work on these ankle exercises. Lounges also do a great job working these ankle joints, when doing one, focus on putting your knee as far out as you can while also getting as low as you can.
Nordic Hamstring Curl
Now that we have targeted the quad, the glutes, the psoas, and the core, the hamstrings are one of the most important muscles for movement. The best way to isolate them, and make sure they are injury proof and explosive is the ‘Nordic Hamstring Curl’. This exercise is similar to a pull up in the sense that you might not be able to do one at first. Using your hands as assistance when first learning the movement is recommended. It may take weeks or months before you can do the exercise without your hands, but you will know you are strong when you can do 5 with no hands. (Note: I would suggest having some level of padding for the knees, as most your body weight will be pressed on it).
As I mentioned earlier, core with quad strength are the 2 most important factors to a high vertical jump and foundational basketball strength. These exercises will make sure you solidify and isolate the core. It is important that you are slow and controlled, as you can hurt your back and not work the core out. Hypertrophy and progressive overload are key, make sure you are pushing to the limit of what you are capable of.
Most people think this exercise is the most important for jumping. I will tell you right now its not, its actually the least important out of all the exercises I have mentioned. However, working on your calves strength, and its durability is very important for basketball. Doing this exercise correctly will also strengthen the balls your feet and your ankles. This exercise will make sure you do not get tight, fatigued calves during games, lower your risk of an ankle injury, and increase overall balance.
Penultimate Step and Jumping Mechanics
The most important thing relating to jumping is how to jump correctly to maximize your force output. You can be an extremely strong individual and very explosive, but knowing how to utilize those tools is key. Footwork in jumping is everything, just working on this alone can get you 5-6 inches of vertical if you have really bad form. Also, jumping regularly with a goal in mind (ex: touching the rim, or for more advanced, a specific dunk) will allow you to progressively overload to that goal and jump higher. Body and your mind needs to get used to the movement, so continue practicing firsthand. (This video long but extremely detailed and useful)
Do not neglect or underestimate stretching. Not only is it vital to preventing injuries, but its also vital to how you move, the efficiency in which you move, and the power in which you move. This is directly related to the most important mobility needed, the hips, which contribute to your ability to use both your core and legs in tandem. Psoas is a muscle that is very important to your athletic journey. In a world where everyone sits for long periods of time, hips are weaker than ever. This was my weakness for the longest, and I still am working on improvement in this area. It will be a weakness for most men, so make it a strength. Outside of hips, do not forget to stretch hamstrings with toe touches, and working on mobility in general.
Cardio and Muscular Endurance/Stamina
What I am about to say is very important, once a basketball season is about to start you need to be conditioned. Your body needs to be an efficient blood oxygen cardiovascular machine. This is best to do in a controlled environment. Running around your neighborhood may be helpful, but hard pavement is hard on the joints. Laps around the track or pool, baseline to baseline, basically measure distance, set a goal, and push yourself within a given time limit. The best way, if possible, is to tackle basketball skill work and hit cardio at the same time. Getting shots up, working on your game will force you to get stronger cardio. Try to shoot 200 shots getting your own rebound as fast as you can. You will be going through it. The reality is, nothing can really simulate basketball shape like playing basketball. Just make sure your are playing with players who know how to play the game, so you do not risk injury. I do not like this video because he is going at a very slow pace, but structure a 200 shot workout going full game speed working on your game.
But perhaps most important, set a pace of basketball. Basketball is not just sprinting and fastbreaks, there is jogging and slow motions, even stopping in the game. Train yourself to speed up, go really hard, then slow down, then speed back up to intensity. The sport of basketball is intense, then calm, then intense. You need to train accordingly. Most importantly, you cannot train cardio and weight train at the same time, body needs rest, and you should be going hard enough that you are unable to properly do both. NEVER OVERTRAIN, KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Choose one depending on what your current goals are as a player and athlete.
None of your training will matter and you will bare little to no results if you do not prioritize nutrition. Calorie to protein intake is very important. If you are eating empty calorie foods with no nutritional value, you are wasting calories. Honestly, it does not take much effort to be food conscious. Ask yourself, is this thing I am eating providing some level of nutrition and proportionately caloric? Not too high or too low, depending on your goals to gain or lose weight. I personally preach in finding a middle ground of power to weight ratio for body composition and diet. This video will give you an idea of how nutrition works, and foods you can eat that follow a good diet. Remember, protein should be a strong part of an athletes diet, so eating meat, eggs, and other protein sources is essential.