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by Glenn Harris
It’s PLAN and Simple. (The Off Season)
Most strength and conditioning coaches have a plan when it comes to designing programs for their sport. Basketball is one of those sports different from the “non-traditional” sports in the sense that the competitive season will go from straight from November to March, whereas the non-traditional sports will have a fall and spring season with a break during the winter.
I look at training for basketball as a twelve month commitment. Four months are set aside for the off-season period. Five months are dedicated to the in-season portion of your training. And finally, about 1 ½ months are set for pre and post season phases. When looking at each training phase, there are certain areas of emphasis that need to be addressed in the program. Therefore it is important for the objectives of the program to be identified prior to the start of the phase in order for the program to run smoothly.
For the purpose of this article, I will discuss the plan that I had in place for this past off-season.
The first thing that needs to be done is determine the objectives of the program. If the objectives and goals are not clearly defined, then there will be some difficulty in designing an effective program.
Our objectives are clear:
o Improve strength and power.
o Improve basketball specific conditioning.
o Reduce the chance of injury.
If you have read my pre-season article you may have noticed that the objectives may be similar to the off-season but their order of importance is different during the off season. The off season has the number one objective of getting stronger and more powerful. Knowing the objectives will make designing the off season plan much easier.
Using the concept of periodization when designing your strength and conditioning program can help you obtain the objectives of the program. The benefits of following a periodized program are that the volume and intensity of training will adjust during different phases of your training and will complement what the players are doing on and off the court. Obviously, communication is a key component to program success. Poor communication could lead to high volume in multiple areas and that could result in overtraining.
During the off season we follow a four day program that will include workout prep, strength training and conditioning. I will describe in detail how we incorporate each component into our daily routine.
Before we begin our workout for the day we will go through some prep work to get the body ready for the workout. This is also called movement prep but I started calling it workout prep so the team can have an easier understanding as to why we are doing it. We are getting prepped to workout.
The first thing that we start with is the foam roller. Each guy will go and grab a foam roller and we will go through a 10 minute routine. The routine is intended for the team to spend some time on some much needed self massage. The routine can be seen in Table 1. Each movement is done for 10-15 repetitions. One of the coaching points here is that I always stress to the team that I want them to take their time while going through the routine. We want to be prepared to workout.
Table 1. The Foam Roller Routine.
o Gluteus Maximus
o Gluteus Medius
o Back / Shoulders
o Hip Flexor
o Tibialis Anterior
Following the foam roller routine the team then begins with daily warm-up. The goal of the warm-up is to elevate core temperature through movement. These drills are basic and easy in technique but serve the purpose of warming up the team for their workout. Check out my pre-season training article for a complete list of warm-ups.
After the warm-up we will move on to band work. For such a simple tool, the team typically does not like to do band work. I will use the bands, mini bands and monster bands, to help the team work on their hip area. We will use supine mountain climbers to help with hip flexors. We will use an exercise named the “triangle of terror” to assist the team in sitting in a defensive position. We will also use the mini bands and lateral resistors when doing some lateral slides. I have found that the light resistance of the bands will help the team understand how to get in the proper position through “physical cueing.”
After the prep portion of the workout, we then move on to our speed development for the day. Depending on the day, our speed development will have a primary focus of either linear or lateral movements. Some examples of linear and lateral drills can be seen in Table 2 and 3 respectively.
Table 2. Linear Speed Drills.
o Lean Fall Runs
o Push-up Starts
o 3 point Acceleration
Table 3. Lateral Speed Drills
o Kneeling side start
o Standing Side start
o 5-10-5 shuttle
Following our speed development portion of the workout, we then begin with our strength training. As I had mentioned earlier, we will follow a 4 day routine during the off season. Days 1 and 3 are similar and Days 2 and 4 are similar.
Each day we will have an explosive movement as the first exercise in the workout. Whether that is a “true” weightlifting movement, such as a clean or a snatch, or if it is a hybrid weightlifting movement such as a dumbbell snatch or dumbbell push jerk, depends on the particular day. If the exercise is a clean or snatch, I have the guys perform them from the hang position. In my opinion, basketball players were not intended to weight lift from the floor. If they were then the weights would have a bigger radius.
Following the first exercise or the day, we will then proceed to perform three paired sequences of exercises. As I had mentioned previously, our routine has days 1 and 3 similar. On these days we will pair lower body pressing with upper body pulling movements. For example, one of our paired exercises may be Hexbar deadlift pair with Chin-ups. Another example would be Inverted rows paired with one leg squat. I think that you get the idea. As for days 2 and 4 we will pair the opposite set-up. For example, we will pair bench press with glute ham. We can also pair shoulder press with slideboard leg curl.
For the third and final pair of the day I like to have them focus on core training. Chopping, lifting, medicine ball work, Pallof presses, and planks will be performed here. We will incorporate core exercises into the program every day that we workout.
After the strength training is completed, we then move on to our conditioning portion of the workout. Similar to how I set up linear and lateral speed drills, I will also have linear and lateral emphasis on our conditioning work. Our linear day will involve more straight ahead running as seen in our tempo runs or our long shuttles. The lateral day will involve more change of direction which occurs during short shuttles and slideboard work. Keeping the conditioning competitive and challenging also helps motivate the guys to work hard. After the conditioning workout is completed we then will have a team stretching routine that will focus on all of the major muscle groups.
My goal in writing this was to give you a general overview of what goes into the planning process in order to make your program. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of making a plan prior to starting your workouts. Similar to a flight plan that I pilot will make to know his destination, a solid plan for your workouts will make the journey smoother than flying by the seat of your pants. Now it’s time to get ready for the pre season.
How and why did you get into the field of strength and conditioning?
I originally went to Springfield College for physical therapy. It was during my junior year that I had made the decision to focus entirely on strength and conditioning athletes. After graduating from Springfield, I went on to Appalachian State for my master’s degree in Exercise Science.
Who in the field has influenced or helped you the most? Influence your training philosophy? What have you learned from them that you can you share?
I would have to start with Michael Boyle. It was Michael who actually gave me my first opportunity in strength and conditioning as his first intern. And it was during that time that I had realized that I made the correct decision to switch my major. It was during that internship experience that I learned never to be afraid to ask questions. In fact, one thing that I always continue to tell my interns today…Never be afraid to ask why?
I have been working in this field for a while so there have been many people who have influenced my training philosophy to what it is today. I would have to mention Mike Kent, director of strength and conditioning at Appalachian State, who helped me during graduate school. Also, from the academic side, I had the opportunity to learn directly from Mike Stone, now at East Tennessee State, Harold O’Bryant, Alan Utter, and others who were faculty during my time at ASU.
Name 3-5 books every basketball strength and conditioning coach should have in their library and why?
Weight Training: A Scientific Approach by Stone and O’Bryant
High-Performance Sports Conditioning by Foran
Power Eating by Kleiner
What is the last book you read and why?
Crush It! By Gary Vaynerchuk. One of my former athletes noticed the passion that I have when I work to make athletes better. He had read the book while he was here and gave me a copy to read as well. It gets you fired up when you read it and makes you want to work even harder.
Generally speaking, what is your philosophy for training a basketball player? How does it differ from other sport athletes?
My philosophy for basketball, and all sports, is to improve the athletes’ strength and power through training in order to improve performance in competition. Although the programs will change from sport to sport, my philosophy will always be the same.
What has been the biggest mistake you made as a coach when training a player?
The biggest mistake that I made was not taking into account total volume of training. In the weight room, on the court, pick-up games; when I first started coaching, I often thought that I had to get through everything on the program in order to be successful. After sitting down and looking at the “big picture” and all of the volume that I had these guys doing, it became obvious why I wasn’t seeing the results that I had intended on seeing.
For interns, volunteer coaches, graduate assistances, etc. inspiring to be basketball strength coaches, what advice would you give?
Intern, network, attend clinics and conferences, watch and observe, take notes, and ask questions. Now don’t get me wrong, if you pepper me with questions during the workout then I might tell you to sit down and watch. But there is a proper time to sit down and talk with the coach about philosophy.
Also, as the saying goes, there is a reason why you have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. As a young up-and-comer in the field, try to listen and watch more than speaking and telling me who much you know.
What is your training philosophy regarding in-season training? Off-season training? Pre-season training?
I have a year round training philosophy that is divided into: In-season, Off-Season, and Pre-Season. When looking at the different phases of training, I always look at the total volume of work being done by the players. From practice, games, strength training, etc., I have now focused on looking at the total volume of work in order to try and prevent overtraining.
When I talk to people about training, I use the pie chart analogy. You only have one pie and you can break up the training into any number of pieces of pie but you can’t have another pie.
My in-season philosophy has a pie with a big piece dedicated to the court. Obviously, games and practices take up a big chunk of the in-season pie, therefore the strength training workouts are shorter. Depending on the number of days we can get into the weight room will dictate what type of weight training we will do; total body or split.
The off-season workout has more of the pie dedicated to off-court training. Strength training and Conditioning workouts can have more volume because the volume on the court from games and practices have decreased.
The pre-season workout really is an important time. The court workouts begin to pick up in volume and frequency so it is important to monitor that with a possible decrease in weight room volume.
What areas do you address for those players that don't play significant minutes during the in-season?
We have a 10 minute rule the next time that they come in to the weight room for a lift. I print out the previous games box score. If you are 10 minutes or less on minutes played, then a bike workout has to be done after the lift.
What is your philosophy on basketball conditioning? Some sport coaches believe in long distance training to improve basketball specific endurance? What is your opinion?
Intervals. The game of college basketball is a set of intervals. Sprint…whistle…sprint…whistle. Even if there were no whistles at all, you still would get a break every four minutes for the media. My point is, I will have our guys do conditioning with an interval foundation. The intervals can be set up into any time segments, but I have typically set my times up for :20, :30, or :60 sprints. Then I will set the rest intervals accordingly.