Contrary to popular belief, basketball players don’t have to choose between hitting the court or hitting the weight room. Various weighted training devices allow players to add resistance to their usual on-court conditioning drills, helping them bulk up without compromising their form. But using weighted vests and ankle cuffs isn’t as easy as strapping them on. They’re great for building strength and adding range, but if you hope to reap the rewards of your training on game day, you’ll need to alternate weighted training with unweighted drills. It’s because your muscles generate memory by repetition—trust us, regulation free throws get much harder if you only practice using a three-pound basketball. Read on to learn how to effectively use all the tools at your disposal.
The weighted vest is one of the simplest devices in the basketball player’s arsenal, yet it is easily also the most misunderstood. Vests are extremely effective for increasing your speed, upper body strength (think push ups) and vertical jump height. Training the former is best done by incorporating the vest into HIIT routines, or high-intensity interval training wherein you perform short, high-speed exercises such as sprints and shuttle runs across the court. As for improving your air time, exercises should never involve actual jumping. Stick to bodyweight exercises such as squats, calf raises and lunges—your joints will thank you.
An effective method for adding resistance to an average day on the court is donning a pair of ankle weights. They won’t compromise your form or put your knees at as high a risk of injury as a vest, but even one to three additional pounds on each foot will pose a serious challenge and can help you build endurance. That said, they’re great for any exercises involving agility, from footwork drills, to running, to jump rope. They can also be a tool for increasing your jump height—again, despite keeping your knees safe(r), you’ll want to land in a controlled manner on your toes to avoid straining your ankle joints.
Weighted agility gloves and wrist cuffs
Getting handles is a lot easier with the right equipment. A pair of weighted agility gloves can help a basketball player up the ante on dribbling drills, especially when it comes to developing a mean crossover. They can also help by increasing your shooting and passing reflexes by adding resistance to drills. An upshot is they’re safer to use than most weight equipment if you warm up your arms, but to really get the most out of them, ensure you perform movements using a full range of motion. Otherwise, you’ll end your workout with very strong wrists and nothing else to show for your hard work.
Another great way to add passive resistance to your game is by ditching the wearables and weighting the ball instead. Most weighted basketballs hit around three pounds, or around twice regulation weight, all the way up to six pounds or more. Despite their weight, they retain the same shape, size and bouncing ability you play with on the daily. As such, you can safely incorporate them into virtually any set of exercises you’d normally do, or even a pickup match. Exercise a little extra caution while receiving the ball, however, as the unexpected weight can make it easy to risk a hyperextended finger. Lastly, if you’re going to do drills, cap off the day with an unweighted ball. Not only will it help your muscles reacclimate to regulation weight, it’ll give you an opportunity to admire your increased shooting range.