Basketball Players & The Weight Room | The Beginners Guide

There always should be a certain "Why?" behind what you do in the weight room!

Basketball Players & The Weight Room | The Beginners Guide Lerbon James

Whether you want to increase your speed, agility, vertical jump, or maybe just put on some muscle mass, the weight room offers great solutions to all of that.

However, each goal requires a different approach. That's why it can get quite overwhelming for a basketball player when it comes to hitting the gym, especially with all of these different options available.

In this article, we will go over the reasons why you might want to consider lifting weights as an athlete and what you have to be aware of!


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The first thing you need to understand about training programming is that it's always a solution to a problem. There always should be a certain "Why?" behind what you do.

You might go to the gym just to get a quick pump and hang out with friends, and guess what, if you're playing basketball just for fun and like lifting weights occasionally, that's totally fine.

However, if you're not satisfied with where you are right now and want to take your game to the next level, we have to look beyond that.

What you (should) do in the weight room always depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

Some general reasons are:

  • You had an injury and are looking to do some rehab before you can get back to going 100% on the court.
  • You want to reduce a likelihood of an injury (prehab).
  • You are already in great shape and want to maintain it.
  • You want to get stronger and/or put on muscle mass.
  • You want to get more athletic (get faster/jump higher, etc.)

The list goes on and on.

Now, with all these different options available, how do we know which one to pick?

The answer is quite simple – address the one that's limiting your game the most. If you are not sure what it is, here's a great article that will show you how you can figure it out:

How to Analyze Your Game Like a Basketball PRO
When it comes to getting better, we have to have some thought process behind what we are working on and why.

When you figured out your goal, you can start to pick exercises and put together a training plan that will attack this goal most effectively.

But before you do that, let me quickly guide you through what types of exercises there actually are.


There are countless exercises you could do and if we'd try to go through every one of them, this article will go on forever.

Instead, I will show you a few categories (spoiler: there are 2 of them) into which you can divide most exercises that ultimately address certain goals we talked about earlier.

Isolation vs Compound

Most exercises you do in a weight room can be categorized in two ways:

  1. A compound movement
  2. An isolations exercise

To put it simply, an isolation exercise focuses on working a single muscle or muscle group, while a compound movement involves multiple muscle groups and joints working together.

An example of an isolation exercise would be a bicep curl, which is targeting only the bicep. On the other hand, a squat, which works the legs, hips, and lower back all at once, is an example of a compound movement.

Here are a few reasons why you would perform an isolation exercise:

  • Targeting specific muscle imbalances: If you have a muscle group that is weaker than the others (or its counterpart), performing isolation exercises can help bring it up to par.
  • Rehab: Isolation exercises can be useful in physical therapy or rehabilitation programs as they allow for isolated, controlled movement patterns that can help reduce stress on injured areas.
  • Increasing muscle size: If your goal is to build muscle size and definition, isolation exercises can be useful in helping you to isolate and focus on specific muscle groups.

Especially when it comes to training your upper body, you can do a lot of isolated work.

There is not much need for functional exercises here because most basketball players usually just want to get stronger and put on muscle mass in the upper body.

The only major exception to that would be core.

On the other hand, here are a few reasons why you would do a compound movement:

  • Improved functional movement: With compound movements, we try to mimic the way our muscles work in our sport, so they can help improve your overall functional movement patterns.
  • Improved athletic performance: This goes hand in hand with the first point. Compound movements can help to improve your explosiveness and power, which are important for your performance as an athlete.
  • Improved coordination: Compound movements require coordination and stability between multiple muscle groups, which can help to improve overall body control and coordination.
  • Injury Reduction (Prehab): With compound movements, we can prepare your body to perform in the unpredictable environment of the sport itself, which then reduces the risk of an injury itself.

As you see, both types of exercise have their own benefits.

However, compound movements are often favored when it comes to training your lower body and core as they tend to have the most impact on functional movement patterns, which ultimately helps you better your athletic performance.

And, keep in mind that it's always a combination of both. You shouldn't do just isolation exercises, nor only focus on compound movements. It's always a mix, while the percentage of each category depends on your WHY.

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Reps & Sets

When it comes to the rep and set ranges, it (again) depends on what your goal is. Here's a general guideline:

  1. Isolation exercises: Isolation exercises are typically performed for higher reps (8-12 reps per set) and with lighter weights, as the goal is to isolate and fatigue the targeted muscle group.
  2. Compound exercises: Compound exercises are typically performed for lower reps (4-6 reps per set) and with heavier weights, as they involve multiple muscle groups and require more effort.

That being said, this is just a general guideline and the specific rep and set ranges can vary depending on your goals and fitness level. For example, if your goal is to build muscle mass, you might perform compound exercises for higher reps with lighter weights, while if your goal is to increase strength, you might perform isolation exercises for lower reps with heavier weights.

It's also important to note that the number of sets you perform for each exercise will depend on your overall workout program and goals. A common approach is to perform 3-4 sets of each exercise, but this can vary based on factors such as your training experience, goals, and the ultimate focus of your training program.

If you are interested in learning how you can create your own training plan (be it for the weight room or your work on the court), we'll soon come out with a guide that will help you do just that.

Make sure you follow our IG @ballerscreation so that you don't miss it!

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Lifting Weights vs Training Movements | Performance Training

One thing I want you to understand about performance training is that the only reason we usually use the term "weight training" is because we use additional weight to overload your body (muscles, tendons, fascia, etc.).

Obviously, we also can train without weight OR use other methods to overload the exercise.

Especially if you are a youth athlete (around 12-14 years old) or just have little to no weight training experience at all, it can be more beneficial to perform certain exercises with just your body weight.

Not because it will stunt your growth or of other misconceptions, but because chances are, you don't need that added weight to make the most out of your training yet.

Yes, this way it's harder to overload and isolate certain muscle groups. However, I still want you to at least get into the rhythm of training frequently, and learn the proper techniques and how your body responds to them.

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Another example where we probably don't need any additional weight in the beginning stages is plyometric exercises (high-intensity, explosive movements) or any other athletic movement/exercise that focuses primarily on the skill of being explosive.

A few examples of such exercises are:

  1. Box jumps: Jumping onto a box or platform and landing softly with both feet, then immediately jumping back down.
  2. Single-leg hops: Hops forward, backward, or laterally on one foot, landing softly and immediately hopping again.
  3. Depth jumps: Jumping down from a box or platform and immediately jumping back up as high as possible.
  4. Skater hops: Leaping from one foot to the other laterally, landing softly, and immediately jumping to the opposite side.
  5. Squat jumps: Squatting down and then jumping as high as possible, landing softly and immediately jumping again.
  6. Lateral bounds: Leaping laterally as far as possible, landing softly on one foot, and immediately leaping again.
  7. Tuck jumps: Jumping as high as possible and bringing your knees towards your chest, landing softly, and immediately jumping again.
  8. One-leg maximum approach jump: The classical one-legged jump you would do when going for a dunk.
  9. Maximum Effort Sprints: Short sprints where you go for maximum speed.

These exercises can help to develop the fast-twitch muscle fibers needed for quick, explosive movements on the basketball court. They all target different areas and needs, so don't just copy-paste them into your workouts. Remember your goal!

Keep in mind that if your goal is explosiveness you might go for fewer reps, more sets, and more rest in between these sets (around 2-3 minutes)

When you're implementing exercises like this into a workout, make sure you perform them early in the session, before you go to lift the "big weights".

We want to focus on the skill of the movement as much as possible and perform it with maximum intensity. That's why we need your mind AND body to be fresh!

Nutrition & Recovery

When it comes to your nutrition and recovery, the same principles we have with basketball training apply here.

On our website, we even have dedicated sections with numerous articles regarding both of these topics, so feel free to check that out:

Nutrition - Baller’s Creation
Learn about high-level training methods, recovery, and mental toughness it takes to succeed in basketball
Recovery - Baller’s Creation
Learn about high-level training methods, recovery, and mental toughness it takes to succeed in basketball

Key Points

  • Always have a goal in mind. Don't try to aimlessly do a bunch of exercises but figure out what you need to work on!
  • Know the difference between isolation and compound exercises and what you can use them for!
  • Create a plan that will help you balance the team and skill sessions with performance training!
  • You don't always need additional weight to overload an exercise.
  • Do your plyometric movements before the heavy lifting in a session.
  • Pay attention to your nutrition and recovery! They are just as important as the training you do.

If you have any questions, are looking to give us advice, or just want to talk hoops, don't hesitate to reach out!

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Until next time!