Gym Sessions for Basketball. Are they important? How should they be done?

Gym Sessions for Basketball. Are they important? How should they be done?

In my last article, where we analysed the physiological demands of high-performance basketball players, I highlighted the importance of good muscle mass development, and therefore strength. If you’ve not read it, I encourage you to do so by clicking here. Today we’re going to look at Gym Sessions for Basketball, and why they’re important.

Gym workout basketball

Both muscle mass and strength can be worked on the court itself, but when we are looking for a deeper improvement, usually from a certain level of performance where these details already make a significant difference, it becomes important to pay attention to gym training sessions.

I want to explain myself so as not to be misunderstood. The development of muscle strength and power is always a relevant factor, it always conditions sports performance to some degree. There are models proposed where the rest of the basic physical capacities emerge from strength, because at the end of the day, without the contractile capacity of the muscle, what could we do? Nothing.

Hierarchy basic physical capacities

Figure I. Proposed model of hierarchy of basic physical capacities and facilitating physical capacities (Tous, 2007).

However, it makes little sense to spend a significant proportion of training time on this with a junior who has been playing for three years. In principle, he will not know how to bounce without looking at the ball, will not be able to react to defensive stimuli in an attacking situation, or will simply not understand the principles of the game in depth, likely making technical and tactical mistakes.

So we need to realise that there are priorities.

Is strength training work important for basketball players?

Yes, without a doubt. And its benefits and both direct and indirect.

Let’s not deceive ourselves, there is a correlation. Basketball players undergo drastic physical transformations after the start of their NBA career, perhaps the world’s highest performing example..

When the comparative photo of Giannins Antetokounmpo’s physique was published after four years, it broke the internet: had he given up basketball and devoted himself to bodybuilding?

Antetokounmpo growth

Figure II. Antetokounmpo physique transformation.

Well, no. And his performance improved exponentially.

But it’s not an isolated case. Lebron James and James Harden transformed their physique just a few years after joining the NBA. The reason? Simple demands to reach their maximum potential.

Lebron james physique transformation

Figure III. Lebron James physique transformation.

James harden physique transformation

Figure IV. James Harden physique transformation.

One thing we need to realise is that basketball is not a sport where muscle mass has a direct impact on the performance base, and nor does muscle strength.

You can be as strong as you want, but if you are not able to keep the ball in play, perform changes in speed, have a good vision of team play and take up space, or perceive changes in position; you will not be a good player.

Strength is a determinant of performance in basketball once the basics that determine an acceptable level of performance are established (say, an EBA league). And it’s necessary to develop each and every movement you make in a training session and a game.

General concepts

Training planning is a multi-level process.

Coaches are trained for years to be able to plan the physical preparation of a season with precision, so to believe that in one article I will be able to transmit all the variables to control to be able to plan the physical preparation of a season is a little out of reach.

I simply want to focus on the need to understand the general development concepts and specific strength development concepts.

  • General development: We can define this approach to training as the performance of exercises intended to subject muscle tissue to tension. These exercises do not have to be directly related to the activity to be developed. Let’s take an example.

I’m a basketball player and I want to jump -> I do a knee extension on equipment.

Many coaches will tell you that it’s no use. But they’re wrong, as muscle mass shows a positive correlation with muscle strength, and this is more relevant in trained subjects than untrained ones (Jones et al., 2016). It even shows a determination of 0.96 (almost perfect: the more lean mass, the more strength).

Correlation between body weight and kg lifted

Figure V. Correlation between body weight and kg lifted in the 3 competitive powerlifting movements (Jones et al., 2016)

  • Specific development: The approach to training that consists of subjecting the muscle tissue to tension, through the execution of exercises with conditions that can be transferred to those demanded in the sports action.

Body position

Figure VI. Comparison of a player’s body position in a scrum and in a sled push.

The clearest example is the push of the sled and its transfer to a scrum in rugby.

In the previous sentence, the key word is transfer.

To transfer is to be able to transform all the strength we have created in the general development period to specific exercises in the specific development phase; and in turn to the sport gesture itself.

For example, before pushing the sled, a rugby player can develop strength through a reverse hack, and before that, through an overhead squat; and before that through a front squat…

Technical progression

Figure VII. Visual representation of a simple technical progression for transference of a scrum push movement.

… And before that, through a back squat, a box squat, a press…

It can be simplified as much as we want, and the further we move away from the competitive gesture, the more general the exercise becomes, the less direct transfer it has to the gesture and the less we will take advantage of it.

However, the simplest exercises are easier to learn; they tend to be less harmful because they require less coordination, have strength-speed curves that are more displaced to the left and therefore less intense on the muscle tissue; they allow a greater workload to be accumulated… they have a number of advantages.

How should we set up the training?

From more general to more specific.

This is in fact the basis of almost all periodisation systems. From the more traditional periodisation models of Matveev, through Bompa, Verkhoshansky and Issurin; to more modern periodisation models such as those proposed by Nuckols or Badillo. Going from the general and little replicable to the specific and very transferable.

The ATR model is a way of periodising training. How is it done? By dividing a macrocycle (large structure) into 3 mesocycles (medium structures, A-T-R), and these in turn into a variable number of microcycles (small structures):

  • Accumulation:
    • General work.
    • High volume of work, increasing.
    • Low-moderate intensity, stable or decreasing.
  • Transformation:
    • Specific work.
    • Moderate work volume, increasing, stable or decreasing.
    • High-medium intensity, increasing.
  • Realisation:
    • Competitive movement, or very close replicas.
    • Low volume of work, similar to competition demand, stable or decreasing.
    • High-very high intensity, stable.

atr macrostructure

Figure VIII. Example of ATR model macrostructure.

Each periodisation has its unique characteristics, as capacity development can be carried out in series or in parallel. In turn, there are sequential orders for each physical capacity depending on the individual author and other factors. But that’s not relevant now.

Practical example

You may feel a little overwhelmed right now, it’s a lot of information, and that’s written without going into detail.

Just think that we Physical Activity and Sport Science Graduates study for 4 years to be able to learn, understand, relate and apply these concepts, hybridising knowledge and evidence. Don’t get frustrated, it’s a process that takes time!

Knowledge experience

Figure IX.

In order to give you an easier view of this phenomenon, I’ll give you a practical case. It’s not a closed model, nor is it individualised, so for you as a player it can work great or you’ll end up injured in the third week… You need adapt it to your level and needs.

What will help you is to look at the sequence of the training model, to understand the logic of the development system, and to be able to adapt it. Let’s get started.

Keys proffesional player

Questions everyone should ask themselves…

All answers are hypothetical, based on maximum commitment, regular availability of material, and time limited by the needs to manage the preparation of the rest of the team.

a. How are we going to assess where we stand?

Bosco Test + MyJump 2 Analysis.

b. What’s our objective?

Gain of 2cm of CMJ.

c. How much time do we have to reach it?

24 weeks.

d. Is this a realistic goal? (if not, go back to point b)


e. Where are we in the season?


f. What is the athlete’s strength development level? Have we trained strength with him previously? Does he have acquired basic motor patterns that allow him to do a squat safely?

Medium. Yes. Yes.

g. How are we going to structure the planning?

2 blocks (microcycles)

  • Macrocycle 1 – 10 weeks
    • Mesocycle1 – Accumulation -> 6 weeks
    • Second week – Transformation -> 3 weeks
    • Mesocycle 3 – Realisation -> 1 week (re-test)
  • Macrocycle 2 – 14 weeks
    • Mesocycle 1 – Accumulation -> 4 weeks
    • Second week – Transformation -> 7 weeks.
    • Mesocycle 3 – Realisation -> 3 weeks (peaking and post-test)

(This would be highly configurable depending on the time available, objectives, time of the season, development of other parallel capabilities, starting point of the player…).

h. What exercises will I use with my player at each stage?

  • Mesocycles of accumulation: Quadriceps extension, leg press, Nordic falls, hamstring curl, box squat (120º knee press-up), ATG frontal squat zancadas, Romanian dead lift, sumo dead lift…
  • Of transformation: Box squat touch’n’go, 90º press-up, hang power clean, double dumbbell Split snatch, Split snatch, box steps overloads, box jumps, multijumps, Drop-jumps…
  • Mesocycles of realisation: CMJ, SJ (monopodal and bipodal).

(This must be adapted to the player, to his particular needs after a detailed evaluation of the structural and functional limitations).

i. How will I set up the training variables?

By means of an undulating periodisation by blocks with an incremental protocol every 4 training sessions and 3 rest sessions (micro cycle).

j. How will I control the training load of my players?

  • Through the use of a linear encoder with a permissible fatigue of 10% intraseries, and 18% interseries in easily measured exercises.
  • With the use of self-regulation in exercises on guided machines.
  • Through the control of morning biometrics; mainly: HRV, FC, Basal Temperature and VAS Scale of nightly rest perception.

Practical example

Macrocycle 1-1


Each Roman numeral is a micro cycle, equivalent to one calendar week.

The exercises of the general preparation are divided into:

  • Gen A: The simplest, and with least coordination
    requirement (quadriceps extension, hamstring curl, box squat…)
  • Gen B: The most complex, and with the greatest coordination requirement (front squat ATG, Romanian dead weight, Nordic falls…)

The exercises of the specific preparation are divided into:

  • Sp A: The simplest and with leasttechnical complexity (box squat, box step, box jump, simple and medium plyometrics, dumbbell split snatch…)
  • Sp B: The most complex and with the greatesttechnical complexity (barbell hang power clean, drop jump, reactive raises, intense plyometrics…)

The volume and intensity describe two partially opposite curves (it’s not possible to maintain a high intensity and volume in the medium term without being injured or suffering from burnout), the frequency being dependent on the need to increase the volume and the athlete’s ability to recover.

Training variables

Figure X. Description of a possible configuration of training variables at different stages of competitive preparation and expressed performance.

Microcycle vii


  • The 3×10@8 code means = Sets x Repetitions x Subjective intensity (0-10).
  • Days of rest would not necessarily be breaks. They can be days of work of other CFBs, of technical, tactical, theoretical training…
  • The exercises selected are based on my personal preference and experience with athletes and do not have to be replicable in all players.
  • A more traditional approach could be used with pure weight training sessions. However, players prefer to be able to apply what they have trained to situations they’ve played (as is the case on Friday).
  • The training variables have been established on the basis of a theoretical model of off-season physical preparation, with the aim of developing only the power of vertical jumping (+ maintenance or slight improvement of the other basic physical capacities), in a player who lives from basketball, maintains life habits according to the level in which he plays, consumes an (at least) isocaloric diet, consumes food supplements aimed at improving recovery and regulating immunosuppression induced by physical exercise (L-glutamine/L-alanyl-glutamine; turmeric extract, n-acetyl cysteine, vitamins C and E, methylsulfonylmethane, creatine monohydrate…) and gets 7-9 hours of good quality sleep.

1 Medium Intensity Steady State (Jogging, for example)

Low Intensity Steady State (Walking uphill, for example)

Before finishing, hit play and enjoy an agility and strength training session for basketball players. Enjoy!

Bibliographic references

Review of Basketball Gym Sessions

Basketball player strength - 100%

General training concepts - 100%

What questions you should be asking yourself - 100%

Practical examples - 100%


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About Alfredo Valdés
Alfredo Valdés
He is a specialist in metabolic physiopathology training and in the biomolecular effects of food and physical exercise.
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