Like many Boston kids growing up in the 80s, I idolized Larry Bird. This is a great interview with Larry that underscores three particular reasons strength training makes sense for your middle or high-school basketball player. (Although it was a bit of a bummer to see Larry mention he could have played longer if he’d trained differently!!!)
1. Appropriate strength training is great for the joints. Larry talks about the miles he logged as a runner before games and the toll that took on him structurally. Basketball is a game of constant pounding and cutting, up and down the floor; doing ground-based resistance training using compound, multi-joint movement like squats, presses, deadlifts, and cleans is an excellent way to strengthen the musculature around the big joints like the knees and the hips while providing an adaptive stimulus for the bones themselves. Yep, your bones get stronger when you train with weights–and it doesn’t take a ton of weight to do it either.
2. Strength training slows time down. Basketball is an incredibly fast-paced sport. Notice Larry mentioned yoga–learning how to train with weights teaches the athlete to slow things down, to breathe, brace, and then attack their movements. Getting ready for your set of 5 squats isn’t all that different emotionally from standing at the free throw line in a close game. Breathe and make it happen!
3. The Core. In his list of regrets, Larry included a desire for more core training. Your midline is quite important in athletics, and most often it acts in a stabilizing fashion during sport. Situps and crunches are great, but learning how to brace your abdominal muscles while your extremities shoot, pass, or pull down a rebound is something far more important that can be learned, strengthened, and perfected under external resistance. (And again, it doesn’t have to be very much at all–just as much as the athlete is able to handle with pristine form.)
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