Lift before or after a basketball practice? (short read)

This is a common question for many coaches that need to fit their weight training session either before or after their basketball practice.

Usually, I like scheduling lifting in a separate session, for example in the morning, if practice is in the afternoon. This gives players the opportunity to train at a higher intensity and volume compared to training before practice. This is our preferred choice for in-season resistance training at CSKA Moscow when our dense schedule permits us to do so.

But many teams don’t have this choice, either due to time constraints and/or because of problem regrading accessibility to facilities. So, their only choice is to lift either before or after the basketball practice.

In this case, my recommendation is to do it before the basketball workout, for the following reasons:

  • Resistance training will “prime” the neuromuscular system for the upcoming activity.
  • Athletes will have more energy to lift with the appropriate intensity (i.e. weight, speed of movement). Remember that training intensity is the key to maintaining (and/or improving) strength throughout the season.
  • Being rested, lower body and compound lifts can be included in the workout without affecting athletes’ performance in the upcoming practice.
  • Players will have better focus and attention in the beginning of their training day.
  • It’s safer to lift when rested than after practice, when fatigue sets in.

After practice players are tired and usually they just want to go home and rest. If lifting is performed at that time, motivation will be low and intensity will be compromised. Important lifts, like for example heavy lower body or weightlifting exercises will be difficult (and sometimes not safe) to perform.

Besides the timing of the lifting session, there are two more points I would like to make in this post on running a team strength training program.

First, when selecting exercises, we must take under consideration the previous or upcoming activity of the team. Basketball practice requires that players perform many jumps, accelerations, deccelerations and changes of directions. These are high intensity activities that place and increased “stress” on the body. Doing more high-intensity plyometrics and jumps or agility drills as part of the in-season program can be detrimental to health and performance. The goal is not to make athletes more tired and sore, but to help them improve their strength and movement qualities and stay healthy.

Second, regardless of the weight session timing, consistency will largely determine long term results. Often, fatigue, travel schedule, logistics and other restraints get in the way of consistent lifting throughout the competitive season. The coach must make sure to plan even short (15 – 20 min) sessions when scheduling a full resistance training workout is not possible. Even these “micro-doses” can be enough to maintain previous gains and help build athleticism.

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