Squats for basketball players: A no no?

Barbell Squatting For Basketball Players

We don’t barbell squat. Actually to be correct, we do not barbell squat initially. For many of our basketball players, we don’t incorporate barbell squats into their training programs for at least 3 months. Many don’t squat for 6-8 months. Why? It’s simple. The risks outweigh the rewards.

5 Reasons basketball players shouldn’t squat

1. Long Femurs = Bad Backs

The longer the femur, the worse the squatter. Watch a tall athlete squat, and you’ll see the stress they put on their lower back. It’s extremely hard for a tall athlete not to lean forward during the squat, especially if the strength coach erroneously demands parallel squatting for athletes no matter the skill level or size of the player.  Remember, we’re coaching basketball players that strength train, not weightlifters that play basketball. Our primary goal is to keep them on the court as much as possible.

Solution: Single leg split squats, rear foot elevated split squats, single leg squats

2. Lack of core stability

Almost every basketball player that comes through our doors has a weak core. If a player’s core is weak, how can he transfer the energy from the ground through his body? With the squat, a weak core translates into poor form and decreased range of motion.

Our solution: Anti-extension core work (planks, rollouts, etc), anti-flexion core work (side planks, 1 arm farmer’s walks, etc), and anti-rotation core work (pallof press, chops, lifts, etc).

3. Lack of mobility

This problem is more common with our male basketball players than our female players. Most male basketball players severely lack the mobility to squat properly in their ankles, hips, and t-spine.  If they lack the necessary mobility in those areas, they’ll find it somewhere else. More often than not, it’s in their lower backs and knees, which is not ideal to say the least.

Our solution: Ankles (Wall Ankle mobs), Hips (Rock backs, Kneeling Adductor Rocks, Goblet Squats, KB Windmills, etc), and T-Spine (Bench T-Spine Ext, Lying Windmills, Bretzel, etc).

4. Lack of range of motion

Most basketball players don’t squat deep enough to get the full benefit of squats, especially when they’re squatting to improve their vertical jump. Strength coach Charles Poliquin reviewed a study looking at this phenomenon.

When an athlete performs a partial squat, although he may think he is performing a full range squat, he’s primarily working his quadriceps. The glutes and hamstrings, although worked, are not worked maximally until the athlete gets deep into the squat.  It’s those two muscles, along with the rest of the posterior chain, that we focus on to get athletes to jump higher and be more explosive. The quadriceps are important, but most of our athletes quadricep strength far exceed their glute and hamstring strength. Hammer the posterior chain and their vertical jumps will explode.

Our solution: Squats, if done correctly, to femur parallel, trap bar deadlifts, hip thrusts, single leg deadlifts, glute bridges, valslide reverse lunge

5. Hardgainers, volume, intensity, and overtraining

We train mostly high school basketball players. Thus, 9 times out of 10, their diets stink, their sleep schedules are erratic, they’re ectomorphs by nature, and they play multiple sports year round. On top of all of that, they usually need to spend more time on their sport skill practice than getting stronger. So I’m a minimalist. I only have a small amount of time to get them as strong as possible without negatively affecting their sports performance.

I love the work of Pavel, Dan John, Jason Ferruggia, and Stuart McRobert. Like me, they are all minimalists. They believe in the minimum effective dose: the exact amount needed to accomplish your goal and not an ounce of volume and intensity over it. After the majority of my workouts, my athletes will leave refreshed. Every once in awhile I’ll really work them, and they’ll leave sore and tired, but those workouts are rare.  Ectomorphs by nature recover poorly. They grow when they rest, and they need as much rest as possible. Kill them in the weightroom each session, and they’ll be overtrained quickly. They’re not these Division 1 mesomorphs you see playing college  football on Saturdays that have muscle on top of muscle.  Don’t train like them.

Our Solution: We train the trap bar heavy  and train the squat as our single-leg training. We’ve found training both the deadlift and squat heavy in the same week impedes recovery.

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