dunk shot, everything basketball, high school basketball 





Alan Stein

Generally speaking, what is your philosophy for training a basketball player? How does it differ from other sport athletes?

Basketball players are not Olympic lifters, Powerlifters, bodybuilders, cross country runners, or track athletes... so they shouldn't train as such!  A basketball player's strength & conditioning program needs to reflect the specific demands of the sport (use all planes of motion and a variety of angles when strength training and use basketball specific movements and work/rest ratios when conditioning).  The goal is to produce better basketball players, not better "weight lifters." Everything done in training should be geared toward the end result of reducing the occurrence and severity of injury and improving performance on the court. In addition to making players stronger, more agile, quicker, and getting them in tremendous basketball shape, the training program should also focus on making players tougher, better communicators, and intense competitors. A basketball player's training program is the foundation of their entire game.  A solid strength & conditioning base gives them the ability to take their skills to a whole new level.  Shooting, ball handling, passing, rebounding, and defending are all enhanced when a player improves their strength, quickness, explosiveness, and conditioning.  That is why THE BEST PLAYERS ARE IN THE BEST SHAPE!

For interns, volunteer coaches, graduate assistances, etc. inspiring to be basketball strength coaches, what advice would you give?

The first thing you need to decide is whether you aspire to work at the collegiate or pro level or if you would prefer to run your own business.  While the methodology and physiology wouldn't necessarily change; the path you would want to take certainly would.

Here is what I recommend regardless of what you decide:

  • Read/watch everything you can regarding productive strength & conditioning. Read as many books and watch as many DVDs as you can on productive training, basketball, etc. But don't limit yourself to just reading strength & conditioning books, to be a solid coach you need to study the art of motivation, coaching, success, and leadership. Also try to attend strength & conditioning clinics/seminars whenever possible.

• Network and build relationships with every strength & conditioning coach you can.  Send them emails and try to learn as much as you can about their program, philosophy, etc.  Find out about their journey and how they got where they are.  Any opportunity you get; see if you can make arrangements to watch one of their workouts.  Learn as much as you can from the people doing what you want to do.


  • Form your own training style, philosophy, and methodology. Make it your program. Stick strong to your convictions, but learn about every philosophy out there. Know why you do what you do. Hone your philosophy. All the while, you need to practice by trying stuff in your own workouts and with the athletes you work with. Being a good strength coach is a commitment to daily development.


What are the three (3) biggest mistakes a basketball player makes when it comes to strength and conditioning?

  • Players blindly follow a workout program not designed for a basketball player (geared for football, Olympic/Powerlifting, bodybuilding, etc.).
  • Players over-train and do way too much! Today's high school age players don't have an actual off-season because of AAU, summer leagues/camps, etc. It is hard to give your body the rest/recovery it needs for an intense strength/conditioning program when you play basketball several hours a day and numerous games every weekend.

• Players don't address the areas that are crucial for injury deterrence and proper movement function (ankles/feet, hips/core, etc.).  Most players neglect the posterior side of their body all together!


What is your philosophy on basketball conditioning?  Some sport coaches believe in long distance training to improve basketball specific endurance?  What is your opinion?
The primary goal of a conditioning program should be to get players in peak basketball shape.  Being able to run three miles is great for cross-country, but not necessarily for basketball. Basketball is a game involving varying bouts of very high-intensity activity.  As such, the conditioning workouts should reflect this, and each workout should incorporate drills that include sprinting, cutting, back pedaling, defensive sliding, and jumping; The more game-like the drill, the better.  The goal should be for maximum effort every rep of every drill of every workout in order to truly reach a conditioning potential.
A player should participate in a comprehensive conditioning program; the first is for injury prevention.  It is important acclimate the body's muscles and joint structures by practicing the specific motions used in basketball.  If a conditioning program only incorporates straight sprinting (a typical track workout), you will not sufficiently prepare the hip, groin, and ankle areas - all of which are high-risk areas for basketball players.  The second reason your players need to condition is for performance enhancement.  A proper conditioning program establishes a solid fitness foundation and will reduce mental and physical fatigue toward the end of every game.
A good portion of each game is played in a defensive stance, and thus a well-designed conditioning workout should include this.  A player must be trained to stay in, and move from, a solid defensive position for several minutes at a time.  Sprints are important for conditioning, but only part of the overall program; to get into great basketball shape, a conditioning program must be:
Energy system specific: Conditioning drills need to be short to medium in duration (15 seconds to 2 minutes) and very intense with limited rest.
Movement specific: Utilize basketball movement patterns: sprinting, back pedaling, and defensive sliding.  Stress changing direction (agility) and the importance of being able to plant and pivot off of either foot.  Emphasize being in a low and athletic stance at all times with hands up.
Progressive: Intensity and volume should increase, while rest should decrease.  In other words, workouts should get progressively harder!
Competitive: Players will work harder when they are challenged with competition.  They can compete against each other or against the clock (i.e. themselves and their own ability).   Remember, everything needs to be done at game speed.
Fun: Players will work harder if they are having fun.  Thus, it is good to use a variety of different drills to keep them from getting bored.  Don't just have players run "suicides." Use imagination.