Upper-Body Weight Training for Basketball Players

Basketball player with basketball
Basketball player holding a basketball (Image: Image Source/DigitalVision/Getty Images)

Training for basketball isn't just about building leg strength and increasing your jumping power -- upper-body strength is critical too. Stronger shoulder, chest, back and arm muscles can give you the edge over your competition when it comes to stealing, blocking, dunking and passing. Hit your upper body three times a week as part of a full-body workout or dedicate two entire sessions to your upper body twice weekly.

Building the Back

A strong back helps with any movement that involves pulling or twisting. Your back exercises can be divided into two categories -- vertical, or primary, exercises and horizontal, or supplementary, exercises, according to NSCA-certified coach Ramon Williams. Perform chin-ups, pull-ups or lat pull-downs for your vertical moves and dumbbell, barbell or seated rows for your horizontal moves. Strength coach Matt Ludwig also recommends performing a maximum boy-weight chin-up test throughout the year, just to make sure your back strength is up to par.

The Best of Chest

Your chest is the main muscle group working when you throw a pass. You can't go wrong with the traditional barbell bench press for building brute strength and power, and Miami Heat star Lebron James claims to base a lot of his training around the bench press. Troy Wills, strength coach at the University of Tennessee, recommends the one-arm dumbbell bench press as a better alternative though, as this engages your abs and hips, making it more applicable to basketball players.

Boulder Shoulders

The overhead press is potentially the king of shoulder exercises for wannabe NBA-ers. It works all three heads of the shoulder muscle and replicates the overhead movement you have to perform numerous times in games. Former Cavaliers, 76-ers and Jazz player Matt Harping used the overhead press as his main shoulder exercise, though his former coach, James Lloyd, also advises adding in lateral raises to fully work the deltoids.

Arm Yourself

Between the various back, chest and shoulder exercises, your arms get a pretty decent workout as it is. For optimal arm development, an isolation exercise or two wouldn't go amiss though. Williams prescribes adding in either dumbbell or barbell curls for your biceps, along with push-downs on a cable machine or one-arm extensions for your triceps.

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