September 10, 2018 • Strength & ConditioningWinning Hoops

5 training concepts missing from preseason programs

by Adam Menner, contributing writer

Preseason is almost here, which means it’s time to dial in your training. Preseason is the most important time of the year for a basketball player at any level. It’s the time to fine-tune and build upon the hard work you put in during the offseason.

Here are the five most common training concepts that are neglected in most programs.

1. A program that’s flexible and customizable to all athletes.

When I look at a training program, I’m not looking for structure — I’m more focused on purpose. Do you have a complete understanding of the human body? Can you look at your athletes and understand their movement patterns and deficiencies?

Your programs are a reflection of your knowledge and the value that you bring to your organization. It’s convenient to put together a generic preseason template and fill it with random exercises. However, you separate yourself with the knowledge and understanding of training athletes, which is reflected in your programming.

Before you begin writing any training program for you athletes, ask yourself these five questions:

  • What’s the goal? Do your players need to improve holistically? Do they have specific weak-points? Do they need to come into the season in better shape than last? Establish a goal, create a deadline and work backward from there.
  • What are the demands of the sport? Basketball is a contact sport that requires strength, power, speed, agility and conditioning. Yet, I see a lot of fancy “corrective exercises” as the basis of programs. Remember, movement and strength should be the foundation of your program. You want to create productive stress that will contribute to the development of your athletes.
  • How much time is dedicated to training? This is an overlooked component of creating a training program. Time frames dictate your progressions, regressions, exercise selection and testing parameters. The circumstances will not always be perfect. However, if you have a clear plan, small deviations will not take away from the goal. No structure leads to no results.
  • Do athletes have any past or current injuries? Coaches must be in constant communication with athletes. They must know what’s going on with their bodies. If athletes cannot do what’s prescribed for that training session, have them do something to address those issues. Don’t just throw random exercises at them to “keep them busy.” Show your knowledge and value by spending quality time investing in every player on the team.
  • What’s the players’ mentality? Coaches must create a training environment that fosters great athletes. Do you demand that athletes arrive early? Do you monitor body language and how they respond to tasks? Do you force them to take ownership and communicate? These are all skills that can be developed. Lead by example and demand excellence, and the players will follow suit.

During the preseason, emphasis should be placed less on resistance training and more on plyometrics, agility and metabolic conditioning. Training should utilize an intermediate periodization strategy characterized by increasing levels of variations within, as well as between, respective cycles. The volume and intensity of both plyometric and resistance training is relatively high with moderate volume to maximize outputs.

A single training session should be carried out in the following order:

  1. Aerobic warmup
  2. Technical work (sprinting, running, jumping and basketball movements)
  3. Plyometrics/power development/speed
  4. Resistance training
  5. Metabolic conditioning
  6. Flexibility/mobility/cool down/recovery

This is a basic outline, and how you structure the training is entirely up to you. Just make sure to provide some form of organization.

2. Standard prework completed before every training session.

You should know by now a proper specific warmup should be done at the beginning of every training session. However, you only have a certain amount of time dedicated to training your team. It should not be wasted on “warming up.”

Are specific warmups imperative for long term health? Of course. However, in the hierarchy of training, I would not put them above the meat and potatoes of your program. Get the warm up out of the way before the training session. Therefore, you can dedicate your time to the stuff that matters.

Establishing a winning culture begins by making athletes accountable for their own personal development. Have a warmup on the board that every player must complete before they train. See who comes early and gets it done. Watch who comes in late and barely completes it. This simple change reveals a lot about your athletes.

3. Training economy.

Designing a training program for a group of high level athletes can be a tall ask. Whether you’re a coach in a collegiate/professional setting or in a private sector, you must ensure results. Do players, head coaches and parents trust you? They want to see that you’re making athletes better every time that they step foot into your facility.

Results are dependent on numerous factors, but in the world of strength and conditioning, some things work better than others. For example, if it’s a lower body-focused day and you have athletes perform the leg press, leg extensions and glute ham raises, you’re wasting precious time. Choose one main exercise such as a box squat, a hex dead, or a heavy lunge variation and progress on this exercises week after week. Instead of spending 45 minutes trying to fit all of those exercises into a training session, spend 15 minutes progressing on this one movement.

This should be the same for all of your training. Pick exercises that are going to give you the biggest return on investment. You should have one main strength movement, two supplemental movements, and one to two accessory movements.

4. More posterior chain work.

Power and speed are primarily generated from the posterior chain, which consists of the spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, calves and Achilles. I see a lot of time dedicated to single-leg work and hamstrings. However, I don’t see enough time dedicated to low back health and extensor work of the heel and ankle.

Most athletes I work with are good jumpers. The caveat is a lot of them have weaker hips and ankles. As a result, they get residual aching knee pain coupled with high ankle sprains. Dedicating time to training the ankle and hamstrings helps mitigate this issue. I recommend on your non-lower body days or less taxing accessory days to include exercises such as banded ankle flexion. Two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps have done wonders for my players. Top loaded banded back extensions work well too.

5. Competitive drills/exercises within the training session.

I want a culture that fosters athletes who are hungry, humble and committed to excellence. Coaches must be the foundation for which everything is built. Hold yourself accountable everyday by living the code, caring about your athletes, and creating new ways to improve programming for your athletes.

One of these ways is including competitive drills and exercises into every training program. I call these “off the cuff” finishers. These drills allow you to separate winners from the pretenders. Examples of these can include team competitions at the end of every training session.

The last training session of our week is called “Jailhouse Friday.” This day is dedicated to accessory work we didn’t get to throughout the week and a team competition. I only include them during preseason training, as we’re trying to get them into that competitive mindset heading into the season. Be creative — conditioning drills, bodyweight finishers, cardiovascular equipment. Set the rules and parameters, and watch players get to work. John Wooden once said, “Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.” I believe this to be true as I see it happening in my gym every day.

If you consider these strategies for your preseason training program, it can have a profound effect on the training, coaching and culture of your team.

Adam Menner is the head of basketball performance and operations manager for Varsity House Gym. Find him at