The following post is a guest post from Shelby Turcotte. Shelby is a basketball strength coach and was kind enough to share some awesome ideas on how to train for power without the Olympic lifts (GASP!!!)
I love the Olympic lifts (snatch and clean & jerk). I’m as much of a fan of the O-Lifts as I am of Chuck Norris’ facial hair – and the greatness that surrounds him. As an intelligent coach you have to realize that not everyone is ready to start throwing hundreds of pounds overhead from day one.
For those basketball players who aren’t able to O-lift, I’ve got your power solution.
Basketball players are notorious for having jacked up ankles and being horrendously inflexible. So, as much as I’d love for every athlete to be a great candidate, many are not (especially early on in training).
Poor ankle, hip, and upper back (thoracic) mobility limit the ability for these athletes to both go deep in a squat (safely) without fear of knee or back issues; and overhead without fear of shoulder problems.
Limitations like these have forced me to go into my little black book of training secrets to conjure up some alterative exercises to keep them healthy and explosive. Rather than omit all power training for these athletes or simply just using bodyweight plyometrics, I decided to find a way around it.
Here are 4 movements that have proven to be effective solutions for athletes who may not be able to use the traditional O-lifts:
Single Arm Landmine Press/Jerk –
Jerks have shown to have the greatest single power output of any traditional lift. And while I love to use them, most of my athletes aren’t ready for them from the get-go. My still awesome solution? landmine jerks.
Traditional jerks require optimal shoulder motion and the ability to go overhead without restrictions (upper back), the landmine jerk requires significantly less shoulder motion to perform safely. Because of the more horizontal nature of the ‘jerk,’ the movement is more of a hybrid of a vertical press and a traditional horizontal push (think bench press).
In addition, because of the unilateral (one arm) nature of the lift it forces a great deal of balance, stability, and coordination – all of which any basketball can use more of. So not only do you get the power production from the movement, but you also get the stability factor.
My favorite version of these is performed by having the athlete receive the bar overhead in the split stance position. For most athletes this is much more applicable than the traditional bilateral (both feet on the floor) version. Depending on the demands and needs of your athlete(s) you can tweak this movement to create your desired output.
Box Jump with Goblet Squat Supersets
Because of the velocity nature of the snatch, when an athlete can’t snatch safely (lack of t-spine mobility or otherwise) I typically plug in weighted box jumps with goblet squats. While not as glamorous or sexy as the snatch, I’ve found that this superset is simple to teach and produces almost immediate results (a win-win).
With this combination we use a lightweight vest, typically 20lbs, just enough to create more of a strength-speed movement than pure plyometrics (for athletes over 200lbs I would use 40lbs of vest). The light vest keeps the movement explosive without weighing the athlete down, and landing on the box reduces the impact for those taller athletes who may have patella issues.
Lastly, the explosive use of the arms in the movement is much more similar to that of the snatch than squat jumps with dumbbells or a barbell. The freedom of the ability to move the arms and create that violent arm action is much more realistic for creating power than simply holding dumbbells or a barbell (although we use these in certain situations).
To perform this superset, simply complete 8 reps of box jumps, and then go right into 8 goblet squats. It’s important that the weight on the goblet squats be challenging, but it’s probably even more important that the athlete accelerate their body through the entire movement.
There should be zero grinding or deceleration when you’re standing out of the bottom position. If fatigue from the weight is a factor (just like with the O-lifts) the weight is too heavy or there isn’t enough rest between sets. Athletes under 6’2” typically lower to about a 12” pile, on their squats (for depth) while my athletes taller (or those with longer femurs) will lower to a foam pile and a ½ foam (or about 15”).
Split to Squat Jumps
In case you skipped over my earlier explanations and just went straight to my videos, or if you enjoy redundancy, I should tell you that I am a sucker for power movements that also improve coordination.
Split to squat jumps do just that. They work on improving positional quickness (ability to quickly change position of the body) while creating power. The majority of sporting movements, basketball being one of them, require an athlete to get themselves into an efficient position then immediately follow that movement up with another explosive movement.
Split to squat jumps force a player to work out of a position very similar to the acceleration stance on the court. In addition this staggered stance often transitions into a bilateral position (like a jump shot) before a jump. To add a little extra beef to this movement (and replace a power clean) we will use dumbbells to force an athlete to create extra power and develop coordination.
Drop-Step MB Jumps
Almost any coach you talk to will tell you how important your vertical is to the game of basketball.
On defense an impressive vertical can help you be more explosive in general, as well as help you rebound and block shots. But on offense, having a good vertical is much less impressive.
What they won’t tell you is that jumping with a ball in your hands is completely different. Just ask your friend who can hang off the rim all day long, yet can’t even get to the rim with a basketball in hand.
When you jump with a basketball you are forced to use different mechanics than you would without. With a ball in hand you can’t load the bottom of your jump with your hands as far behind you (like without a ball), and you can’t bring your arms back through as violently (or you’ll lose the ball).
In order to help fill this void of improving on-court vertical jumping, we use medicine balls (MB) to do two things:
1) Add the element of holding a ball in hands (similar size to a basketball)
2) Add external resistance to increase the weight of the movement to make it more of a speed-strength movement than just a pure plyometric movement.
If your athlete(s) are restricted by wrist, ankle, hip, or back issues, use these friendly substitutes to still develop raw athletic power that transfers to the court. They can also be great assistance exercises/drills for players who are still using the Olympic lifts in their training as well. Remember, the goal is to improve the on-court play of all athletes by making them faster, stronger, and more explosive.