Strength in basketball isn’t all about a massive body mass or ripped muscles.
In the game of basketball, the bulk of strength a player needs would come from the legs. If you’ve heard the saying “Athletes are built from the ground up,” you might catch the drift.
In essence, you need explosiveness. For most guys, this means having the bounce to posterize opponents. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Explosive strength unlocks other necessary abilities, like rebounds and blocks, quick change of direction, and speed.
If you look closely, elite defenders like Anthony Davis, or shooters like Steph Curry aren’t the strongest but are explosive on defense and when attacking the ball.
Of course, you can also throw in talent or skill into the mix. But today, I’ll show you some overlooked exercises that will make you stronger in the low post with consistency, form, and the right technique.
1. The Good Old Squat
Ever had a coach or trainer who told you squats don’t work for tall players?
Well, some trainers say tall players shouldn’t do squats because they won’t have the right range of motion.
First, that’s not totally true. The squat exercise remains the #1 movement for basketball players to build strength, in my opinion. It is a great overall compound exercise.
As long as you’re able to dip into a 90-degree angle during back squats, it’d hit the right muscles. You don’t necessarily have to bend all the way down. In fact, you shouldn’t go much deeper below the knees with heavy weights.
Besides, there are other effective variations of squats you can perform like front squats, goblet squats, or even bodyweight squats. Also, a good power rack is a necessary piece of reliable equipment to protect you from injury at failure and also help with form and technique.
Squatting increases the velocity of force, which in turn means you can jump higher, run faster, and change direction faster. This shows you aren’t only going to dominate under the bucket, but will also see results out of the paint.
Hint: Squeeze the glutes and quads on your way back up to develop extra explosiveness.
2. Romanian Deadlift
Being strong on the court isn’t about benching a ton of weight, or building biceps as big as Karl Malone’s.
You’re not a bodybuilder.
The posterior chain is one of the essential muscle groups to train to get stronger as a player. Not only does it increase jump, speed, and pivoting, but it also prevents severe injuries like tearing your ACL.
And of the best exercises to work this group of muscles is the Romanian Deadlift. It targets the glutes, hamstrings, and adductors.
The single-leg variation builds strength and core even better. The movement increases balance, which helps during landing, edging out in post battles, and finishing strong at the rim.
Also, the single-leg Romanian deadlift with barbells corrects irregularity in strength from the left to the right leg. Many players say they leap stronger off one foot than the other, which is normal, but they should be trained to be symmetric as possible.
If done correctly, the Romanian deadlift is sure to help you build the core strength needed to dominate on the court. On a final note, it’s even more effective than the conventional deadlift.
Yes, Chin Ups.
Most young athletes want to bench or do barbell curls, which is alright. However, the underlying reason is for the aesthetics of a buffed body and not strength training in any way.
The thing is, pulling movements are more important than pushing in basketball. The chin-up strengthens the upper back and biceps that help to clear the boards and battle in the paint.
Before you say it’s boring, understand that you need to have the right amount of relative body strength to gain massive vertical leap. And not just lifting or squatting heavy weights in the weight room or in your own home gym.
So, if you find it hard to do high reps of chin-ups, pull-ups, and push-ups, it’s almost impossible to see a significant increase to your bounce or explosiveness.
Actually, you need to build this aspect of your workout routine to really see the results of force-focused exercises like squats and deadlifts.
It’s not a coincidence that small athletes like Nate Robinson and so many more are fast, explosive, and have an off-the-chart vertical leap.
4. Dumbbell Step Ups
For guys that have a noticeable imbalance between their right and left legs, this is important.
Like the single-leg Romanian deadlift, not only does it balance strength in both legs, but also your body. Plus, it’s a great plyometric exercise that would boost your one-leg vertical leap.
Also, by driving your foot into the box during step-ups, you’ll learn to generate force into the ground. This gives you a simulation of how you should plant when you go for a dunk or block.
Tip: Try to keep your chest out and hold up your knee at the top for about 2-3 seconds. This is when the effect of the step-up on balance manifests.
5. Clean Pull
Last but not least, the clean pull is one of the most underutilized exercises for building explosive power. Surprisingly, it’s easy to pull off, which makes it a hidden gem.
The clean pull targets the hips, knees, and ankles in an explosive shrug movement. Its technique is easier to master than the full/power clean and still makes an impressive impact on force production. Nevertheless, you can progress to a power clean once you perfect the clean pull.
Daniel Payseur at Stack believes it’s the king of power exercises for athletes. He also explains how to perform this Olympic lift properly.
Bonus Exercise: Dumbbell Curls with Press
I’d be a bore if I didn’t at least recommend an exercise that’ll make you “feel good” while you do it.
Because, there’s no denying it, confidence gives you the boost to do more when you’re on the floor. So, while you’re training your biceps, add an overhead press into the mix. This gives you that ripped physique in your jersey by also training your shoulders.
These strength exercises would help you dominate in (and out of) the paint with perfect technique and hard work. It is also critical that you are supplying your body with the needed nutrients to grow as well. After executing these different exercises, make sure that you are fueling your muscles with the needed supplements and diet. This will make sure that you are seeing maximum results in your strength development.
One last thing, you should also learn proper footwork to utilize your newly-built strength to its fullest potential.