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Alternative Programs for a Basketball Player

16 y/o ,6’1" , 185lbs

Been on Layne Norton’s PH3 for awhile now. Today was Day 64, in the intense phase.

Had to squat 305lbs for 4 sets of 7 and while I was doing it I realized that this slow weightlifting is not really improving my athleticism besides my potential to BECOME explosive, so I need to devote more time to actually jumping maximally and recovering.


Squat: ~405lbsx1
Bench: 215lbsx1
Deadlift: ~415lbs x1 (muscular imbalances)

I’m starting to get weary of the amount of energy it saps from me though, and it’s also high volume, and it makes life hell when practicing jumping and my own independent basketball training. Basketball first.

Summer school basketball training is also starting VERY soon and I need to give my all in it. The shit is intense too and I’ll need the recovery for those practices. The practices also DON’T improve my athleticism whatsoever since they are endurance based.

So my goals are to
-Improve skills
-Increase athleticism with high frequency low volume jumping
-Get through team practices

  • Drive up maximal strength

So for the strength part I’m thinking that maybe dialing down the volume is a good idea, like 3x6 squats and bench press for 3 to 4 days a week, and 2x5 Deadlifts twice a week? My hamstrings don’t handle deadlifts all that well and like to tighten up often, even after stretching.

Edit: Also keeping bodyweight <190lbs

First off, those are some great strength numbers, especially for your age, and you seem to have a good idea of what you’re doing in the weight room, so great job.

Do you perform the olympic lifts often/at all? Do you have a strength and conditioning coach or team weight room workouts during the summer? Consider implementing dumbbell olympic lifting into your program.

You’re definitely making the correct assessment that you can’t sustain the volume now that you need to shift your focus to basketball.

Here might be a helpful article/program just to get a sense of exercises/set/rep schemes. The type of split you perform will be dependent on you. Since basketball is going to be your main focus, my personal opinion would be to make your own program that you can implement as it fits your schedule/how your body feels.

As you acknowledge, your posterior seems to be a weakness, which certainly means you have a lot of explosive potential left on the table. One exercise that comes to mind to implement would be kettlebell swings, perhaps as a conditioning finisher.

I also think adding in unilateral exercises would be of great benefit for you. To be honest, you already have a great foundation of strength. Hitting the big 3 lifts still once a week will be important to maintain that skill set and base strength, but including unilateral lifts will better translate over to athletic development, mobility, etc.

That’s my input for now. Could keep rambling, but just wanted to give this thread a bump. I know @Frank_C still balls out, so maybe he might have some input from his experience of balancing weight room work with hitting the court.


At your age it’s tough to periodize your year correctly because it’s not a college program where the coach has you year round.

You should be in the off season now so you’re focus should be general prep. Get bigger, faster, and stronger. About 6-8 weeks out from the start of in-season practice you should shift to a conditioning focus. That’s also when you reduce lifting volume and focus more on strength and power (probably more power).

In-season training shifts to strength maintenance and skill work. You should do skill work in the off-season but it becomes the bulk of your focus in-season. Practice and playing get you plenty of jumping and conditioning so there’s no need to add any more to the program.

That being said, you’re in a tough spot (potentially). What’s the summer basketball training program going to include?

Without knowing that it’s tough to say what you need to modify. I’ve thing in certain of is that your strength is just fine. It doesn’t need to be a priority right now.

Have you implemented any speed movements and plyos lately? I remember you posting before about your vertical or explosiveness.

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Thank the both of you for the advice.

The summer basketball training program for my school emphasizes conditioning over everything else a lot of times and has you practicing in game a lot, like 3 man weave, defense, some offense, but not a lot. It’s not really beneficial to athleticism, but I do it because I care about the team. I go to varsity and JV practice.

On my own time I have been implementing maximal jumping more and I want to do it low volume high frequency, because often times frequency= improvement. Jump more to jump higher. In the past 3 weeks I have gotten like an inch on my vert and that’s just from a few sessions.

My own basketball work (which would take place after team practice) is much more skill based.

I’ve also gotten stronger.

Here’s what I’ve gathered from your posts:

  1. Your strength is phenomenal for your size and age.
  2. Basketball is a priority.
  3. You’d like to continue increasing your vertical.

There’s only so much energy to go around so if you add something to your life then you’ll more than likely have to remove something or take time/energy away from something else. You’re going to have to decrease some of your training volume in the weight room to account for this. I just recently started running 5/3/1 Training Maximally from the Beyond 5/3/1 book. I think it’s a great approach for maintenance. You basically work up to 85% of your max and if you feel like it you can keep increasing the weight by 5-10% til you hit a top set.

That would be great for maintaining strength while keeping volume low. After doing that for your main exercise of the day then you could do whatever assistance/supplemental work you want for balance or aesthetics. Keep the sessions short and to the point. Like it or not, you’ll have to take on a maintenance approach while basketball is taking up most of your energy for the day.

CT has mentioned that he only programs plyometrics for about 6 weeks leading up to the start of actual practice. Once you start doing a bunch of jumping at practice you don’t really need to keep up the plyo’s. It could actually be too much volume or you might just end up wasting your time since more is not always better. I think it’d be a good idea to run your jumping program for 4-6 weeks and then stop for awhile (as long as you’re still playing/practicing basketball). Run the program again about 6 weeks out from the official start of practice so you’re “peaking” when the season officially starts.

You can still train for speed and power in the weight room by using lighter weights and moving faster. If you’re not familiar with Olympic lifts then get familiar. You don’t have to do cleans and snatches, but you can do clean pulls from the floor and hang and still get the explosive part of the movement (without the technical part of the catch phase).

My vertical always goes down when I don’t play; however, in the past year I’ve managed to keep it pretty close to my max by keeping power cleans and clean pulls in my programming. After taking months off I was able to return to playing and still dunk from a flat footed position. I attribute that to my power clean programming.

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What unilateral exercises do you recommend. Thanks.

The weird thing is is that the team practices use Tim Grover’s Jump Attack for weight room workouts. The workout is intense and very fatiguing but doesn’t improve athleticism all that much because the coach emphasize hard work over smart work. You should work smart and hard but imo it’s useless to work hard in the wrong things. But I do it because I care for the team. The coaches know what they’re doing in terms of the basketball but not really athleticism.

Will look into 5/3/1.

Do you have any exercises to work on acceleration and speed? That’s also lacking on my part.

I have high maximal strength and relative strength, but a lot of my explosion is lacking. So for me it’s like, I may be stronger than a person who’s heavier than me, but a lot of times they are more athletic.

I had to look that book up and found a review of it. The review says it’s probably OK for a conditioning program but not the best training for jumping. Too bad for you. Also, if the program is lacking anything in terms of balance (such as pulling movements) then make sure you add that on your own time so you stay symmetrical and don’t get hurt from imbalances.

I don’t know your exact program but from the review it sounds like you might be spending a lot of time on jumping exercises so I hesitate to add to that. Here’s what I recommend:

  1. if you don’t already have great landing mechanics, then perfect that first. It starts from standing on a small box and stepping off. The focus is to land softly (quietly), balanced, and in the proper position to jump or sprint after landing.

  2. you also need to learn the proper deceleration mechanics when running. Proper mechanics saved my life when I decided to walk on to a Division II program after graduating from WSU. I was 22 going on 23. Being able to slow down and change directions properly makes you faster because you’re efficient. Found this video on changing direction. I recommend looking at Parts 1-5 of that series as well.

After you’ve learned the techniques for proper landing, stopping, and changing direction then you can build upon that.

12" depth jumps, multiple tuck jumps, broad jumps, etc would all be good exercises. I don’t recommend doing a high volume (15-30 reps) since you’re already doing stuff at practice.

20m sprints: Accelerate and stop with proper mechanics. Moving fast is how you get fast. If top end speed is your concern then there are sprint programs that will help with that. Speed is the combination of stride length and stride frequency. To improve stride length you can run uphill or up stairs. To increase stride frequency you can run downhill. This should be a very small slope, like 3-5% incline. The idea is to force your body to speed up your legs to keep from falling. If you end up “braking” to slow yourself down then the slope is too steep. I’ve done these and it’s a fun experience. You feel out of control but they’re doable at distances of 30-70 meters. But before you do these you need to be in good enough shape to run all out sprints with good mechanics (no flailing arms or legs).

From my experience training athletes I’d guess that you haven’t had any special coaching in running mechanics or the things I’ve listed above. If you can master running mechanics (arm action and leg action), landing from a jump, deceleration, and changing direction then you will be quicker and faster without changing anything else. The speed comes from moving efficiently. Only when you’ve mastered those things will implementing advanced techniques be necessary.

That’s mostly concerning speed. For jumping, you still need to master the mechanics, but you can see improvement from smart plyometric training. I say keep it simple.

Before starting any plyo program, check out ThibArmy’s video series on Jump Training (video 1 is on page 9 today). I’m sure I recommended it in your other thread about jumping, but I can’t stress this enough! Proper technique is crucial for improvement. And the technique for landing can also help you understand how to slow down and change directions.

Here are a few exercises that I do when I add plyo’s. A typical session would look like this:

Lateral double leg hops over cone (or dumbbell): 2 x 10
Jump Squats: 3 x 5 jumps in succession, no pause between jumps
Tuck Jumps focusing on spending as little time as possible on the ground 2 x 5-10

That’d be 45-55 total jumps. I usually get up to 80 total in a session but that’d be plenty for you if you’re other stuff. You could probably stop at 30 jumps per day, three days per week.

I like these. Very simple but effective. Notice how he absorbs the force when he lands and it takes him into perfect position for the next jump.

Not a fan of this arm action but the jumps are OK. Don’t let your knees cave in like his on multiple jumps. Don’t jump as high as you can when you first start. Hold back a bit and build up to all out effort when you feel comfortable with the technique.

I probably shouldn’t even share this but I love these. These are advanced even though they look simple. First you have to be able to land properly, so practice that. Once you can land properly, then you can progress to a jump like in the video.

Thanks for all this great advice. How much vertical/ speed do you think I can gain from this. My vertical no is about 26". Just enough to grab the rim two handed.

I have a lot of potential that has yet to be utilized though.

It’s tough to say because there are so many variables. You’ll see some improvement from improving technique. You’ll see improvement from just getting into “jumping shape”. I couldn’t tell you how much I’ve improved because I’ve never really controlled any of the variables to determine which one was helping.

For example, if I haven’t played basketball in months and haven’t done any explosive movements like cleans or plyo’s then I can see a 6+ inch improvement by simply adding those things back to my program. It’s not that I’m “improving” but I’m getting back into jumping shape. I kind of think of it as training my body to be explosive or to contract the muscles faster. Without plyo’s or explosive training the body seems to get used to moving slow through weight lifting. It can’t just flip a switch and move fast again so it takes some time to learn to fire the muscles properly.

I think that’s why CT says to only do it for 6 weeks leading up to the season–you’re training your muscles to fire quickly and actually utilize the strength you have. But once everything is up to speed you won’t necessarily see continued improvement. You should also be “in season” so there’s a need to reduce training volume.

If you’ve been jumping consistently then I’d guess that you could see an improvement of an inch or two by mastering mechanics. If you’re not in “jumping shape” then you’ll improve even more.

Assuming you’re in “jumping shape” and your mechanics are good and you add a smart plyo program I’d think you could squeeze out another one to three inches in a couple months.

Unfortunately we all have a ceiling. Mine is about 30 inches. I seem to lose it and then work to get it back and then lose it again when I stop playing or training explosively. On the plus side, my vertical kept increasing after I graduated high school because I continued to get stronger.

I know you’re plenty strong, but you need to figure out how to use that strength quickly. When you squat, think of accelerating the bar on the way up. Obviously you have to stay under control, but try not to grind. Lower the weight so you can move faster. I think CT’s videos gives you recommendations for loading up a jump squat too. I don’t like to go any heavier than 95 lbs because you have to land with that on your back once you come down.

I guess in summary I’d like to think you could hit 30". I’m not sure if it’ll be by the end of this summer or not but I think it’s there just based on the fact that you’re still in high school. Your profile says you’re 15. If that’s still accurate then you have plenty of room for growth.

When I was 15 I could dunk on the run off of one foot. At 16 I could grab the rim two handed off both feet. At 17 it was pretty much the same but I could jump higher off one leg and possibly dunk off two feet if I was fresh. By 18 I could dunk from a drop step off of two feet and we began to run alley oop plays. I’d catch them off two feet and finish two handed. I wasn’t anywhere close to your strength on squats. I didn’t follow much of a program other than the stuff we did in our weight lifting class which wasn’t great. Most of that was from growing and playing. I was 6’2" at 15 and 6’5" at 18 so I didn’t grow a whole lot.

Do you think flexibility can also be an issue? I know vertical jump is force x speed of force application but do you think flexibility can be an issue?

Also lol yea I’m a terrible grinder, especially at 80%+ of my max in squats. The concentric portion can take a while.

This was taken on Snapchat which explains the clips. Also my sets take a while to complete.

I squatted an easy 320lbs for 3 sets of 6 today.

I’m planning on doing some jumps today, after that ball handling and scoring drills.

With the oly lifts though is that they seem highly technical. And although I’ve been “taught” how to clean, my form still needs a lot of work. I also don’t have a coach to teach me. None of the coaches at my school really teach technique.

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Poor flexibility is never a good thing but I wouldn’t blame that for your vertical. Your squats have plenty of depth so I don’t think mobility is an issue.

I’d focus on plyometrics mostly.
Heavy weighted box jumps, hill sprints, burpees, burpees to back board taps helped me become more explosive and increase my vert when I was in high school.
I also I think squats, trap bar deadlifts, and push presses would have more carry over to basketball.

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