T Nation

Help Me With Athleticism


I’ll give some background information first. I’ve always had a fantasy with being able to dunk. I squat raw, belles, and in socks, but I just got some shoes that will be coming in the mail.

More about me:

Today, I’m 15 years old, 6’1", and 170-180lbs. I’ve been trying to increase my athleticism and vertical jump for basketball for a very long time now. I started off with this routine years ago, when I was 13-14 years old.

Agility Dots One Legged- 3 sets of 10 reps
Depth Jumps- 2 x5
Jump Squats- 3x10
No Arms Hops- 8x5
Jumping Lunge- 5x5
Vertical Jump- 3x10
Crunches- 100 reps
Box Jump- 3x10
Pause Squat- 3 reps of 10 sec
ATG Squat- 3x5
45 degree Wall Run- 5 sets of 10 sec
Hip Flexor Isometric- 15 sec on each leg
Weighted Explosion- 2x10
Plyometric Pushups- 3x5
Arm Swing- 3 sets of 10 secs
Sprinting in Place HIIT- 10 sets of 20 seconds, 10 sec rest
Wind Sprints 100
Hamstring Stretch
Band Resisted Stair Climbing- 15 minutes
1 Leg Speed Hops- 50 per leg

I remember I’d stair climb with weights and run suicides in my yard with a Lifeline Power Jumper 24/7.

I’d purchase programs hoping that they would help me increase my vertical jump. I’d spend hours and hours researching, to no avail, and lack of understanding today.

I found this equation and the real work began: Power= Force/Time

Then I was introduced to strength training.

My chemistry teacher, who lifts, taught me how to squat ATG, because there was a weight room that he’d watch over after school. When I started, I was able to max-out at 185lbs, and I weighed about 160lbs. My teacher advised me to squat in socks, because I hadn’t any weightlifting shoes I then rapidly gained strength, and by the end of my 8th grade year, I could squat 300lbs below parallel. I was also able to touch the rim for the first time after this PR. Summer break came, and 9th grade year came, and I had lost about 15lbs of squat strength. I perfected my form slightly better, though.

I took my first shot at Smolov. On top of Smolov, I did a program called Vert Shock, which was bodyweight training, and intense basketball conditioning. Needless to say, my vertical did not increase. My strength went up however; after Smolov’s Intense Phase, I was at 345lbsx1 full depth. After Smolov, I went on 3x6 progression where I reached the peak of my strength, 325lbs x6 ATG (By then my squats were very deep, and I have long femurs). I was able to squat twice my bodyweight. After that though, I ended up injuring my hip flexor ( from improper warmup) and I developed anserine bursitis. I hadn’t known the problem (tight hamstrings) until I had taken a month off and lost a ton of strength. I had done heavy lunges during this squat hiatus, but needless to say, my squat decreased about 60lbs before I was able to squat again.

I was very disappointed. But this letdown fueled me to regrind through… guess what… my old friend Smolov. I did the base cycle and came back as about equal to my peak again.

With a ~2x bodyweight ATG squat obtained, I was feeling happy and slightly vengeful, because everyone used to make fun of how I could squat so much more than everyone (and they didn’t even squat to parallel) yet couldn’t dunk, while they couldn’t squat anything, but could jump out of the gym. I was ready to work on my rate of force development. I started squatting 315lbs for 1x7 ATG, and combining this with French Contrast in order to get faster and stronger at the same time. I saw little results though. I was very frustrated at this point.

As my free time got more and more restricted, I thought it best to maintain my max strength for the next few weeks. On October 1st, 2016, I squatted 315lbsx7 ATG, I sprained my back terribly, despite warming up properly, and my dad forced me to take a month off. My back was terrible, and I could barely play basketball. I couldn’t squat the bar either. I did glute bridges, eventually up to 455lbsx5 for sets. I also grinded through our extremely intense workouts with the back pain.

I ended up cut from the basketball team, despite BUSTING MY ASS ALL SUMMER WORKING ON SKILLS FOR MANY HOURS A DAY AND SMOLOV AND FRENCH CONTRAST, AND COMING TO PRACTICE, and people made fun of me, and my injury. People who didn’t even come to the super intense workouts over the summer or in the fall made the team. It was a pretty dark time, as I am also running out of money to support my gym membership, and no one will help me pay for it, even my brother, and I bought an expensive membership that allowed me to bring him and another person. My grades started falling too.

But hey, life owes you nothing.

I already knew I would have lost a stupid amount of strength. On November 1st, I immediately squatted. I worked on my mobility, and I squatted the bar for 2 sets of 10 ATG, then 135lbsx3x10, then 185x4, then 225x2x6. That was decently hard. My back felt great. I had lost about 60lbs again.

Facing a weaker version of yourself can be ridiculous sometimes, but by now, I’m damn near a pro at this. I immediately attacked with high volume Last Thursday, I squatted 225lbs for 9 sets of 6. The next day (which was yesterday) I did 235lbs for 9 sets of 6. I played hours of basketball afterwards. It was pretty easy, and right now, I’m the sorest I’ve ever been in life. It hurts to walk down stairs, and move in general.

I love this feeling though, this pain will make me even more stronger. I’ve even ordered a pair of weightlifting shoes, VS Athletics Weightlifting Shoe II.

The question is, once I regain my strength, where do I go? What do I need to do to increase my athleticism.

When I was able to squat 325lbsx6 ATG, I could grab rim with both hands, with 2 steps. Now, I can only do it with one hand, but I’m not really primed right now. I can touch rim from a standstill right now as well.

I feel like I have a untapped potential.

I have tools at my use, including a lateral resistor, an agility ladder, some boxes (at the gym), about 10 meters of yard space, tennis balls, a squat rack at school and the gym, free weights for deadlifts and olympic lifts (I can only olympic lift at school because theres not a lot of space at LA Fitness). I also have a normal 100 lbs resistance band, and a Lifeline Power jumper that can be equipped with up to 110lbs resistance.

No more excuses. My basketball coach actually had the nerve to say I make excuses. I push through pain. When I got cut, a varsity member asked me “Did you really think you would make it?” My teammates laughed and the coaches smiled. I can’t get the fact that I’ve been cut and disrespected by so many people in terms of basketball skill, athleticism, everything. It seems like everything is my fault. Like, no more of this. I can’t rest peacefully knowing that this happened. I had to explain to my father, mother, grandma, my friends, why I got cut from the team. I had to explain to my little brother and sister, who look up to me, why I got cut from the team. That stung the most.

Actually, before I got cut I had went to a varsity meeting, and the varsity coach actually told me that I didn’t need to be there, and made a joke out of me in front of everyone, and said that I need to get worry about making the sophomore team.

I told my dad. He said, “well, beast out on the sophomore team.”

So, not only did I disappoint everyone and was made a joke out of, but also I disobeyed my dad by not making the sophomore team even.


Man, first off, PISS on everybody else for cutting you down! If the criticism you are receiving isn’t in any way positive, to hell with their opinions. The most important thing you can show your younger siblings is your determination not to be deterred and your conviction to stay the course. Are you a better version of yourself than the day before? You already have more will, ownership and determination than most adults these days. As far as your programming, it seems like alot! Even for someone your age. Look into Cal Dietz’s Triphasic Training. It’s based on increasing rate of force production.


Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team before making it the next year…

With that said you can continue to play ball and work on passing, dribbling, rebounding, defense etc… At the end of the day you have to be able to play the sport. I’ve seen super athletic guys who were fast “twitchy” could jump etc but had no basketball skills or ability. Don’t confuse the two!

I can’t help but wonder if you are spending too much time focusing on weights/weight room vs time in the actual sport

There’s two sides to every story we only got yours so be honest in your assessment of your abilities, we can be a legend in our own minds but in reality there’s someone who’s better

Good luck and keep fighting


As a guy who never had good sport skill and had to train much harder than everybody else to be able to hang, I understand your pain.

But I will say that the answer lies in your basketball skills and/or psychological mindset.

i coached high school football for 8 years. And while football and basketball are two different animals I will say that when you build a team, skills and how well someone fits in with the team trumps everything else because to win you need talented guys but especially a great team chemistry.

You also need the right psychological mindset. In the eastern block back when they had a formidable sport system, their greatest strength was their recruiting. And while potential physical qualities and genetics were evaluated and important, to make champions the most important element was psychological mindset (they even had the athletes complete a personality trait test). Extroverted individuals, those who crave being in the spot light, who tend to be alpha males in their group, who like to be the center of attention, who make friends easily and were great under pressure made the best athletes.

While here we don’t do psychological profile tests, coaches are still good at seeing if an athlete has what it takes. Sometimes he (the coach) can’t even explain it, but he knows that someone will be great in game situation and others wont… that is because they saw the person’s psychological profile and instinctively knew if he was a right fit or not. When that happens the coach will not be able to tell exactly what is wrong so he might give some inaccurate or made up reason… in reality his instincts just knows (it’s not unlike when you fall in love with someone… you can’t say why, you just do).

I do not know your situation. As it was pointed out we only know your side of the story. But I will say that:

  1. If you didn’t make the team there is a reason. There is no conspiracy against you. HS coaches will pick the athletes they believe will give them a better chance of winning. So there IS a reason; it’s just a matter of finding out what it is. Since you seem to be a hard worker, laziness is not the reason. So off the top of my head I would say that the reasons can be: a) lack of basketball skills b) lack of real game experience c) you didn’t fit in with the other players d) there was simply people better at your position e) didn’t have the right profile (introverted vs. extroverted).

  2. If the problem is lack of basketball skills then no amount of weight or even power training can help you. There is just no substitute for skills. Yes you can improve them by working on your skills, but the sad fact is that some people have it easier than others. I know because I was like you… studied everything, practices drills for hours, watched videos, film myself, etc. but I was never that great of an athlete despite also being stronger than most… and that’s why I became a good coach: all I did to try to get better made me learn how to help someone… but I just didn’t have the motor skills to be a great athlete. I’m not saying that it is you. But I’m saying that if your problem is that your sport skills are lower than other players, even if you get a lot stronger and powerful, they will still beat you. In other sports it might not be the case… but basketball is the sport where performance is less affected by training. It helps, but if you don’t have the skills it wont matter.

  3. You could lack game experience. It’s one thing to be good at 21 or horse. You can be great on a 1-on-1 or 3-on-3 halfcourt pick-up game with your friends, but it is just not the same as playing in a real game with structure. The later requires not only physical skills but vision. I often say “if you want to learn to sexually satisfy a woman don’t ask the virgin who watches porn all day, ask the guy who’s been with 100 women” … what I’m saying here is that if you want to be good at competitive basketball you must play competitive basketball… and if you lack that experience a coach might not be willing to take the risk with you especially since spots on a team are limited.

  4. Are you good friends with players on the team? I’m not saying being on speaking terms, but actual close friend with them. Because that plays a huge role. The fact that they mocked you (as you said) indicate that you aren’t friends with them. And YES that is important. Team chemistry is something that every coach wants. If you don’t have good chemistry or don’t fit well with the team during the tryouts, trust me, the coach will know. I’ve been there, I knew when guys didn’t fit well with others. In a team you want to be as close as possible, especially in basketball where you only have 12-15 or so players versus the 50+ in football. I HAVE cut players because they didn’t fit it. It happens, but the goal is to have the best team on the field, not the best athletes.

  5. If you play guard and there are 4 guards better than you are, especially is they have game experience, you will not make the team. it’s as simple as that. If you are equal to the other 4 but they have more experience, you will not make the team. Heck you could be slightly better than the 4 others but if they have more experience they will probably be the ones making the teams… it sucks but in a short season a coach wants to go with a sure thing, or what he feels is a sure thing.

  6. As I mentioned in competitive sports we want extroverted individuals. I am introverted and never fitted well in a team. I have trained athletes from 28 different sports including pros and olympic medalists. I was once asked what was the common thing among all these elite athletes. I said “cockiness”. Every elite athlete is somewhat cocky. Not always to the point of being arrogant, but enough that they have unlimited confidence in themselves. They are alpha males (or females). Just the way they walk and act in society you can tell them appart. A coach is a human being, it is part of human nature to surround yourself with alphas… because their confidence gives YOU confidence. Someone who is an introverted, who spend more time alone than with others, does his own thing, has self doubts or body image issues, who doesn’t make friends easily, who gets lost in a crowd is not someone I would want to make my team AND I’M INTROVERTED… I’M EXACTLY LIKE I JUST DESCRIBED. But I know that it’s not the type of personality you want to win games.

You are a hard worker, no doubt. But you cannot compensate any of the points above by just working harder. Sure there are cool stories like Jordan mentioned above. But it has to be taken into context… Jordan was 5’9" when he was cut, grew up to 6’5" in one year after that. Jordan is an extrovert and highly competitive. He likely had the natural skills but the just picked a taller guy the year he was cut.

Always remember that when a coach is making a team, he is selecting human beings, not athletes. The physical aspect is only one part of it.


That was a mistake. GAME EXPERIENCE is one of the key elements. A varsity coach will almost never pick a guy who he hasn’t seen play in real game situations.


These are some of the most helpful replies I’ve read. I AM exactly an
introvert. I can make friends and be cool but I never really fit in. My
games skills aren’t terrible but I do lack as much experience as everyone
else, but people that I know I was clearly better than made the team over
me. It was crazy.

But as long as I don’t give up, I’m still in the game. And like, life
happens, and goes on.

What can I do to improve my rate of force development?

November 6

So, not only did I disappoint everyone and was made a joke out of, but
also I disobeyed my dad by not making the sophomore team even.

That was a mistake. GAME EXPERIENCE is one of the key elements. A varsity
coach will almost never pick a guy who he hasn’t seen play in real game


Let me guess you go to huge high school where their are a lot of people going for team. The head coach sounds like a douchebag he is supposed use guys like you as examples of hard work can do, not belittle you
Keep doing what yoy are doing and maybe if it dont work in high school a smaller college might let you walk on.
Your dad may have went to smaller school, i had 64 kids in my class, we were one of smallest 3a schools in state. Anyway half of us on team played both ways football, i was nose guard and center.
You are tall for your age some time it takes a while for coordination to adapt.


Do you have a place were people play pick up basketball? Because to be good at basketball you need to play it every day. And playing against older better players, will do you the most good. As far as working on your jumping. I think you were over training. But it is impressive that you had the will to do it.

You are 15 years old. No it is not over yet and you are already 6’1". You are not going to be the same guy in 2 years. If you love the game do not quit. If you do not love the game. It is not worth your time


^Excellent answer.

^Wrong focus. You don’t need to be worrying about things like your “rate of force development” or any other gobbledygook term you can come up with.

Keep this simple. Play more basketball. Work on your skills. Lift (some) weights and do (some) plyometrics to develop your strength and speed. But for the most part, getting really good at basketball requires first and foremost playing basketball.

Your post got so long that I lost interest. I was a really successful HS athlete and a reasonably successful college athlete; at no point did I worry about my “rate of force development” or purchase programs that I thought would help my vertical jump. I did it the old-fashioned way:

I ran.
I squatted.
I bench pressed.
I power cleaned.
I worked on my stance.
I worked on my footwork.

Do yourself a favor, chill out a little bit with the overthinking and fancy methods, pick a good basic template (CT has plenty of athlete-oriented programs) and most importantly work on your basketball skills. Both individual skills (dribbling, shooting) and team skills (passing, defense).


That is an excellent post. It would be my exact suggestion as well.


Weightlifting doesn’t get you stronger in the sport you play it simply gives you more tools to work with. In order to get stronger at your sport you have to play your sport.

It’s also extremely weird you don’t have some sort of year round weightlifting at your school. Atleast here in Phoenix I’ve never seen a successful program not have a year round plan. So you running smolov seems a massively excessive if they do. If you want to workout more than what they recommend then work on what they don’t. Pre hab, rehab, agility, making your body as fresh as possible.


If you can find a way to direct your efforts and tenacity at the right things then you will achieve great things. It might not be basketball but it will be something if you allow yourself to find it.

In regards to your training, calm down. Slow, heavy lifting is… SLOW! Train fast to move fast. Combine heavy squats with a set of bodyweight jump squats and you will recruit most of your muscle fibers during the squat and then make all of them fire as fast as possible to do the jumps.

Plyometrics have volume protocols to follow. 80-120 reps (contacts) per week is plenty. Each time your foot hits the ground it’s a ‘contact’.

Lastly from me, an article published in the NSCA Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research recently found that 1/2 squats increase vertical more than full squats. It makes sense if you think about it. How often does a basketball player squat to even 1/2 squat depth during the loading phase of a jump? I think you should still squat regularly for overall development but you might throw in some partial squats.

Caleb Bazyler, et. al., “The Efficacy of Incorporating Partial Squats in Maximal Strength Training,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000465.

As far as all the other stuff it’s been well covered by CT and the others.


Everything everyone said about training plus this:
Individual sports! Forget the team. I hated team sports. I sucked at them. I was a terrible team athlete. My personality didn’t fit. Then I found out that you don’t have to be on a team do sports. Find your niche and train for it.

We get it, it’s high school, you want to kill it on the field. But in life, you have to kill it alone, even when you have a personal team that really loves you. Maybe you are made for individual sports… Go fight, speed skate, ski, do Highland games or strongman, power lift, fence, high jump, long jump, sprint, throw, Olympic lift, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…
Sometimes your dreams are just ego turds floating in the stream of consciousness, not life rafts. Let it go, you might never dunk, but you might win at something else