Basketball is a sport that builds competitive success upon training and strength conditioning programs that encompass a broad variety of physical requirements. Like soccer and rugby, the basketball player must be able to perform all aspects of the game to at least a fundamental level. The object of the game is to put the basketball through the opponent's basket and to, conversely, prevent the opponent from scoring. Every player is engaged at some point in a game, either ball handling, passing, shooting, and/or defensive techniques.
Studies by the National Collegiate Basketball Association (NCAA) have found that an average segment of play during a game will last between 12 and 20 seconds. For this reason, basketball places its primary demands on the human body's anaerobic energy system, with secondary reliance on the aerobic energy systems. In general terms, aerobic systems utilize oxygen to burn the bodily energy sources: first, glycogen (the source stored in the liver and muscles), next, fats, and lastly, proteins. Sports such as distance running and road cycling are aerobic sports. Anaerobic activities are those in which the body burns energy for the purpose of movement without utilizing oxygen; such sports usually require intense effort over a short period of time, such as sprinting or the pole vault. Basketball, as a sport of short, intense sequences, which reoccur over a longer period such as the course of a game or a practice, places stresses upon both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.
For this reason, the most effective forms of basketball training develop the physical skills necessary to play the game by placing emphasis upon both energy systems. In previous basketball eras, it was thought that conditioning was best achieved in practice sessions that involved lengthy scrimmages, as well as running drills that were as much punishment as they were productive. Modern basketball training, as with the development of any higher level athletic skills, requires methods that incorporate fitness and sport-specific skills into each element of training.
To best achieve the objects of the game, basketball places a premium of the a number of physical attributes including: quickness, lateral mobility, agility and balance, jumping ability, coordination, physical strength, and a combination of aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
Practices will involve several different elements. Drills that emphasize rapid, well-balanced and controlled movements in all directions, with the player sliding in a crouched, athletic stance, are very effective. Basketball is a fluid game, and the player's ability to react to changing situations on the floor will be founded upon a proper stance. It is sometimes said that there are three types of basketball players: the player with the one-dimensional, straight-backed stance; the player with the two-dimensional stance, using the same upright stance and the feet wider apart; and the three-dimensional player, with feet apart, knees bent, and the body center of gravity lowered into a stable crouch.
As with any other athletic movement, a crouched position will tend to be more explosive, as the athlete can utilize the large muscle structures in the body core (hips, buttocks, and thighs). Drills that reinforce to the athlete that a lower and wider stance is ultimately a faster and stronger one will be useful.
Sample drills reinforce speed and control and include "slide" drills, in which the payer mimics full-speed defensive coverage. Shooting and passing drills are carried out at full speed with specific practice targets.
Jumping ability will be developed through specific drills based upon plyometric principles. This manner of training is calculated to build explosion when jumping on the floor. As such drills are typically done at levels at or near 100% effort, rest periods of 48 hours or more should be built into the training. During practice, the ratio of work to rest should be at least 1:3 to 1:5. Effective plyometric drills include hops from a squatting position, rapid step-ups, calf raises, and repetitive leaps. Stretching of the target muscle groups is of prime importance, both before and after this drill.
Hand-eye coordination and player agility can often be enhanced through individual drills with the basketball. Two- and three-ball dribbling exercises, in which the player must move at full speed keeping the balls under control with a proper dribble, are examples.
Basketball was invented as a non-contact sport; it has evolved into a discipline that has very pronounced physical elements. In the center, or post, and forward positions, the physical strength of a player will determine the success in securing rebounds, driving to the basket when the floor is congested with other players, dealing with an opponent's blocking techniques, and other maneuvers where significant contact is permitted in the course of play.
Overemphasis by a player upon muscle mass and muscular strength will likely result in the loss of other aspects of the game, particularly agility, coordination, lateral quickness, and speed in moving up and down the floor. The optimum balance between strength and agility for most players will be achieved through weight training that is primarily low weights with high repetitions, as well as core strength exercises such as Swiss ball, abdominal crunches, and lunge-type exercises.