10 Keys to Effective Basketball Training

by Dannie Evans

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You’re here because you want to get better as a basketball player.  What holds you back is knowing how to do it.

How do you train to become a better basketball player?

While having stock workouts and countless drills will help (and we will be providing many on this site as we grow), that alone isn’t enough.

What we really want to do is help you understand how to train and how to practice.  Essentially we want you to how to make the most of all drills, exercises and workout plans that exist out there.

10 Keys to Effective Basketball Training

1. Preparation

Preparing to train is just as important as the training itself.  Without this critical first step, you will go to the gym and haphazardly attempt to work on your game and athletic development with minimal results.  I can’t overemphasize how important it is to maximize your time by training efficiently.

Here is my simple four-step process for preparing to train for basketball that gets optimal results.

  • Evaluate your game. What are your strengths and weaknesses in terms of skill, athletic ability and basketball IQ?  What does your coach need you to improve upon to help the team?  Answering those questions are the foundation of your personal basketball development.
  • Study what works. You want to maximize your time and effort in your workouts. So you want to go in already knowing what drills and exercises will develop your ability the best.  Whether that means reading books, watching videos or stopping by this blog from time to time, don’t waste your sweat with ineffective training tactics.  Learn what works and get to work.
  • Schedule your gym time. While studying what works is important, you must not paralyze yourself in analysis.  You must schedule time on the court or in the weight room to apply what you’ve learned.
  • Plan your workouts. I see it all the time.  Players come to the gym with the intention of working out and randomly come up with drills on the fly.  Lack of a thought-out plan to improve your game with each workout minimizes the effectiveness of the session.  And don’t just think about it and grab your ball and go.  Write it down, type it up.  Just make sure you have today’s workout schedule on paper with you at the gym so you can maximize your time and effectiveness.  Don’t waste your sweat.

2. Repetition

You can’t avoid this.  You can hope the next guru’s gimmick will magically make you better with no work, but you’ll just be dreaming and wasting time.  You gotta put in the time and sweat to really improve your game.  Combine the right drills and exercises with a high quantity of quality reps, and that is your key to unlocking your full potential as a basketball player.

3. Attitude

You must attack your training with the same effort and competitiveness as you do games.  Michael Jordan sums it up perfectly:

I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come. I don’t do things half-heartedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect half-hearted results.

I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.

I approach practices the same way I approached games. You can’t turn it on and off like a faucet. I couldn’t dog it during practice and then, when I needed that extra push late in the game, expect it to be there. But that’s how a lot of people approach things. And that’s why a lot of people fail.

~ Michael Jordan

4. Concentration

Far too often players fool around or just shoot around when training their game.  Not you.  If you approach your training like a game, you will be laser-focused and zoned in.  That is a critical element for skill acquisition and development. Your mind tells your muscle what to do.  If you’re not concentrating at the highest level your results will suffer.

On top of that, practicing with heighten concentration directly translates to heighten concentration in games, making your game sharp and dominant.

5. Technique

If  you’re going to train and practice you might as well do it right – right?

I think Rick Torbett said it best:

Use the best techniques that will give you the most return on the time you put in. ~ Rick Torbett

Any practice is better than nothing, but the best practice, using the best training techniques builds the best habits that translate to in-game performance.

6. Intensity

Go hard!  You’ve heard the sayings “practice at game speed” or “game shots at game speed.”  That’s because it’s great advice.  You are training to play the game.  Understand that practice and training is just a means to an end, not a means unto itself.  You are working toward improved ability in games.  The best way to do that is to go harder in practice, pushing your limits helps to develop skill faster and makes the games easier.

I played hard every day in practice; so playing hard in the game was just a habit. ~ Michael Jordan

Tip:  If you get tired during a practice session, take a break.  Don’t take casual shots or go through the motions because of fatigue.  That leads to bad habits and is a time waster.  If  you need to, rest a bit, then get back to high-intensity practice.

7. Conditioning

You can’t practice hard enough or attack games with the kind of ferociousness necessary to succeed if you are out of shape.  Condition your ENTIRE body so you can handle all the demands of the game.

8. Expectations

You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.
~ Michael Jordan

9. Track your training

How will you know if you’re getting better if you don’t record what you do?  That means track what shots you take, how many and how many you make.  Create a simple shooting chart for your workouts.

The benefit of keeping a log of your shots is it allows you to see your strengths, weaknesses and even hot zones on the court.  How much better would you be if you knew that you shoot a higher percentage from the left elbow and right corner three than other spots on the court?

It’s the same when you are in the weight room.  You keep track of how many sets, reps and how much weight you are putting up, don’t you?  Take that approach to the court as well.

You probably noticed the first letter of those 8 keys spell out “PRACTICE.”  And that is the 10th and most important key to effective, skill-producing basketball training.

10. Train to play the game, don’t play to train.

Lack of dedicated practice focused on skill development is easily the biggest mistake players make in their quest to become better basketball players.  One that I didn’t fully learn until my freshman year of college.

We simply play too many games.  Pick-ups games, summer league games, AAU games, pro-am games you name it.  All those games leave little time for real skill acquisition and development.

Finding an empty gym or open court, whether it be alone, with a partner or a group of players and practicing different elements of your game is the fastest and most effective way to improve your in-game skills and ability.  It allows for the necessary touches (repetitions) and individual attention for real skill development to be achieved.

You can’t do that by playing countless games.

This point is so important I will be covering it in much more depth in a future post, so look for it.

Until then, sign up for EffectiveBasketballTraining.com updates for more game-changing basketball training tips.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Training Ted! March 8, 2010 at 5:56 am

This might be a weird query for a basketball blog, however I’m a vegetarian, and am looking for strength training supplements which don’t have any animal suffering. I understand that a lot of strength training pills contain perhaps ingredients which have been tried out with animals, or are manufactured from animal products. Does anyone know of some basketball strength training products that are completely artificial?

2 Pat The Basketball Drills Guy August 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Hi Dannie,
I enjoyed the post. A lot of my players ask questions about how to structure their workouts in the off-season. Say they have an hour a day to practice, how much of that time should be spent on shooting vs strength training vs agility vs other stuff. Thoughts?

3 Dannie August 29, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Pat – That’s a tough question to answer in a one size fits all fashion.

In general, I’d evaluate my season and my game to identify strengths and weaknesses. Then I’ll prioritize my weaknesses.

That will be the basis for how I build my workouts. Maybe I want to shore up two weaknesses or add a new go to move. Whatever my goal is will dictate how I structure my workout. And of course maintenance/improvement of my core strengths will be included as well.

Here’s the key: don’t try to do everyone in one workout. Each day your focus is either improving your game on the court or your body in the weight room or with SAQ work.

In order to get the most out of your training you need to be working at a high intensity and with as much energy as possible. Lifting after you go hard in the gym takes away from your weight training and vice versa.

Not that you can’t do both in the same day, just not in the same workout period. When I was in college I’d go to the gym in the morning before class and hit the weights in the afternoon or that evening after class. That why my body had time to recover from the first workout and I had enough energy to go hard in the second workout.

If I only had 1 hour to workout in the gym I’d break it down something like this:

  • 10-15 minute warm-up (not static stretching) where I get in some ball handling work in a progression from low intensity into high intensity. Should be sweaty by the end.
  • 35-40 minutes for my themed workout (shooting, low post work, scoring moves to the basket etc.)
  • 5-10 minute competition to finish the workout (beat the pro, if I have a partner we’ll compete in a shooting game or one dribble-two dribble only one-on-one.)

Then you build in variety by changing the theme of your workout for that day based on what you want to improve in the off-season and maintaining your core.

Strength training and SAQ stuff should be done on separate days or in separate workouts the same day.

So if you are working out 6 days a week you could do 3 gym days and 3 strentgh/SAQ days or some combination.

And over the course of the off-season how break up your skill work, strength/SAQ work and actually playing should change.

4 Dre January 3, 2011 at 5:22 am

this is really helpful for me i never thought about writing down my workouts, i cant wait to get in the gym now. thanks i needed this.

5 oC-ShxckzZ February 19, 2012 at 3:05 am

i agree with dre, i really needed this. and the quotes from MJ were very inspiring, thanks.

6 basketball training May 31, 2012 at 8:34 pm

As a part of tracking your workouts, you should also be sure to set goals. The goals should be obtainable, but should be a stretch vs. what might be expected. It is also important to make things stressful or more difficult than game situations…

7 marrio June 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm

How do we build basketball IQ and pinpoint our weaknesses and strenghts in our basketball game.what are specific skills that we look at/for

8 brandon July 23, 2012 at 11:04 am

Thats another things every one tells me to get the muscle and height i want but thats the thing i dont know what workouts work for me. I play point/foward but im only 6’1 and compares to guys like austin rivers im pritty short the real answer im looking for is, how can get better faster stronger and taller, everyone tells me im good, and sometimes they say im better than them, but when i look at college games and NBA games i see i have ahole lot more to learn. Can you giue me any advice. Please,and thanks.

9 Julio February 19, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Hi the tips are very helpful but I’m a junior in high school and I want to try out for varsity next year and there’s a lot of good players trying out, what can I do to be the best player out there

P.s: I’m short like 5’8 to 5’9 is there a advantage to it?

10 LP March 19, 2014 at 1:30 am

This gave me some motivation and a different perspective on hard work. I was thinking about giving up on my dream to play D1. I play basketball everyday literally and im in the weight room alot also. I BARLEY see results on the court and im not getting bigger. i was thinking man im 20 now i should stop playing ball like everyone else and give up like EVERYONE TELLS ME. But ima try to give it another go using some of these tips. Basketball is my life and bascically all i wanna do i hope to get better and walk on to a D1 team or maybe playin the Dleague

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