It’s that time of year again, basketball season is coming to an end and March Madness is just around the corner. It’s been a long season and many players are beat up and stricken with nagging injuries. This is a problem, because the post season is when players need to perform at their best. This means coaches want everything to be right and their players to be in the best shape possible. Many coaches, athletic trainers and strength coaches struggle with keeping their athletes healthy and in game shape as the season dwindles down.
So what is the best course of action for end of season/ post season basketball strength and conditioning: reduce volume, time under tension, and impact. Conditioning without the mileage. There a few ways to go about this, one would be your traditional interval cardio with a separate strength training session and the other would be to combine the two and perform metabolic conditioning or energy system development, with circuits, combos, and complexes. I, as a professional, like both options and it all comes down to what fits better for each team.
High Intensity Interval Cardio
The most common complaints of basketball players throughout the season are knee pain, lower leg and foot pain, and hip strains. Many symptoms are made worse by sprinting, change of direction (acceleration/ deceleration), and jumping (improper landing or take off technique). All of those actions occur in every single play on a basketball court. It would be impractical and impossible to tell a coach and athlete to avoid these actions at the end of season. So how do we resolve this? Practice the technical skills like shooting, set plays and defenses, but attack cardiovascular training in other ways. Using different modalities to complete interval training is a great way to get cardio in without impact. Some of my favorite methods are listed below:
*Basic rules for interval training apply. Athletes will most likely not be wearing heart monitors in a team setting so rest times will be determined by the intensity of the work. A short, very intense work period will have a rest time 3x the time it took to complete the interval (ex. 15 secs work: 45secs rest). A moderate length but intense work period would call for double the time it took to complete (ex. 30 secs work: 1 min rest). And a longer, not as intense work period would call for a 1:1 work to rest ratio (1 min work: 1 min rest.)
1.) The Pool. Get your athletes in the water. The best low impact, intense cardiovascular exercises are pool workouts. Athletes hate them and coaches love them.
2.) Slide boards. Many teams don’t have access to pools, which is very understandable. The next best thing in my eyes is the slide board. A rather inexpensive and versatile piece of equipment. One slide board for every 2 to 3 athletes is rather pocket friendly and can provide an excellent cardiovascular workout without having to worry about that wear and tear on the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Work periods should not exceed 30 secs on the slide board, because of anaerobic demands.
3.) Bike. Preferably, an airdyne or any bike in which you’re able to work both your arms and legs. If you don’t have access to that kind of bike any upright stationary bike will do. Bike intervals, will allow your athletes to get their cardio in a shorter amount of time and less impact. Work periods can be longer than pool or the slide board to elicit an aerobic effect.
4.) Jump rope. This is only for those without lower leg, ankle or foot pain. Keep those athletes on a bike or in the pool. For all other athletes, the jump rope is a very inexpensive but efficient cardiovascular exercise. If athletes are coordinated enough this can be a very fun exercise modality for them, because there are so many to utilize a jump rope and it is a completely self limiting exercise.
Let me be clear here, I am not advocating that every coach give up sprints completely at the end of the season. What I am conveying is that there are other training options to maintain game shape and the health of the athletes. It would be extremely beneficial for coaches, strength coaches, and athletic trainers to implement low impact cardio training towards the end of the season.
Being in game shape is the usually the biggest concern for most coaches, but it also important to continue some form of strength training. The safest and cheapest way to do that is to keep it simple with bodyweight and maybe some external resistance with bands and medicine balls. We are not looking to make any gains, just simply maintain the muscle, without added stress.
Body-weight exercises: There are so many body weight exercise coaches and athletic trainers can use. The list below is no way inclusive and the amount of exercise are limited to the coaches imagination. Exercise can include: Pushups, chin-ups, inverted rows, squats, split squats, lateral squats, rotational squats. Single leg squats (modified for knee pain). Lunges can be incorporated if there is no knee or hip pain. Single leg SLDL, Glute bridges, SL glute bridges, foot elevated glute bridges. Front planks, side planks, deadbugs, quadruped series, breathing exercise, etc.
Band exercises: When using bands like superband, theratubing, or therabands, make sure to expect the band for rips or tears before giving them to athletes. Bands are just like any other piece of strength training equipment and their maintenance should not be overlooked. Bands are great and can be utilized for both upper and lower body exercises. You can perform almost any upper body press or pull movement. Lower body, gets a little tricky, but with some creativity most exercises can be performed safely. Many, core exercises can be completed as well (i.e. paloff press variations, chop and lift variations, ASLR variations, advanced quadriped movements). Bands are an excellent piece of equipment to travel with. Many college teams will be traveling across the country, which means hours sitting and waiting. Use the bands to get 10 to 15 minutes of movement in to combat the hours of sitting.
Medicine ball: Medicine balls can be utilized for both power and strength exercises. Power exercises can include stationary type throws and movement based throws with no recoil( training concentrically, not eccentrically). Strength exercises would include any exercise that can have added resistance (squats, splits squats, single leg anterior reaches). Medicine balls can also used to change the surface area of an exercise to incorporate proprioception (balance) training, like medicine ball pushups, glute bridges, and Single leg glute bridges.
There are numerous possibilities and programs a strength coach, or athletic trainer can design for their playoff bound teams, but the important thing to remember is to keep the strength and power training concentric in nature because eccentric training will cause increased soreness, which is the opposite goal of the program. Of course there are other modalities coaches and athletic trainers can use, like kettlebells, sandbags, weighted vests etc., many schools and programs don’t have access to that equipment or are not trained in using that equipment. So I kept it simple to the equipment that most readily available.
*Any injured athlete should obviously continue their rehabilitation and corrective exercise programs.
Energy System Development(ESD)
The purpose of this article is to give coaches and athletic trainers some new ideas for conditioning their athletes at the end of the season, so I don’t want to go into great detail about the energy systems. Basically, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is our body’s energy source and our body has systems in place to deliver energy to our muscles during certain types of exercise. These systems include the aerobic system and the anaerobic system. The aerobic system utilizes oxygen to deliver ATP and is used for exercises lasting longer than 3 minutes. The anaerobic system does not use oxygen to deliver ATP and can be broken down into the phoshagen (ATP-CP) system which is used for exercises lasting up to 30 seconds and glycolosis, which is for exercises between 30 seconds to 3 mins.
When we talk about Energy Systems Development (ESD) we are talking about training each system in accordance to its function. It is important to train each system individually however, our energy systems in fact overlap during certain types of training, especially in sports like basketball. We must be able to effectively train our systems individually and congruently. While interval training, and metabolic conditioning may feel anaerobic in nature they have a tremendous effect on the aerobic system. Below are three days worth of circuit training including a push, pull, and unilateral day. The sets, reps, and rounds are at your digression, but make sure the rest is relative to the intensity of the work. A good rule of thumb is to time each round and rest as long as it took to complete. The free throws can be your rest, which could be considered your active rest. Complete each round as fast as you can with good form. Do not compromise good form for speed, or volume. Try it out with your teams and good luck in your post season journey.
Jump rope/Slide board
Med Ball Pushups
Med Ball Slams
Med Ball squats
Med Ball Chest Pass
Slow Mountain Climbers
Down and back
Jump Rope/slide board
Band Pull Aparts
X band Walks
Band Bentover Rows
Side Plank Reach
Down and Back
Jump rope (Single Leg)
SA Band OH Press
Partner SA Band Row
Med Ball SL Anterior Reach
Med Ball Split Squat
Down and Back
Questions, comments, suggestions, and ideas are welcomed below…