Plyometric Training for Basketball
Donald A. Chu, Ph.D., PT, ATC, CSCS

Basketball is a very demanding and physically challenging game. The ability of today's athletes has far exceeded the limits of the game put on it by the original inventors. The skills required of today's players are incredibly different than those of yesterday. Basketball now allows for individual athletes to exhibit physical aptitude within the context of an offense or defense. The attributes of speed, change of direction and power rule the game as we know it today.

The athlete should be concerned with developing agility, power and speed as well as the endurance to enable the player to sustain maximum performance for the duration of the game. Maximum performance in basketball stresses primarily anaerobic sources available within the muscles, i.e. creatine phosphate.

Plyometric training is an excellent way to train for the demands of basketball. Training programs should include repeated high intensity work, followed by periods of recovery that mimic the specific tasks associated with basketball. This type of training is known as interval training. Plyometric drills should be progressive in nature and extend through the preparatory and preseason cycles of training. In season plyometric training is often too much for players who are maintaining a full schedule of two to four games per week.

One of the most important components of basketball is the ability to jump vertically. It is necessary to assess an athletes jumping ability and strength levels before beginning the design of the training program. The following abilities should be measured:

1. Standing jump and reach.
Standing on both feet, have the athlete reach as high as he or she can on a wall and mark that height. Have the athlete jump off both feet, reaching as high up on the wall as possible. Mark the height and record the difference between the two marks.

2. Depth jump and reach.
Have the athlete drop from an 18 inch box. Upon landing the athlete must reach as high as he or she can on the wall. Record the difference between the two heights.

Note: If the athlete has a low mark (less than 16 inches) on test one, but equals the mark for test two, he or she needs to work on leg strength over plyometrics. If the athlete has a good score on test one (24 inches or above), and a lower score on test two, the athlete is an excellent candidate for plyometric training. Rarely will you see a good score on test one and an even better score on test two. If this does occur, the athlete should emphasize resistance training and plyometric work equally.

3. Three-step vertical jump.
Using a three-step approach, the athlete jumps off the preferred foot and touches as high as he or she can on the wall. Record the difference between the standing and three-step marks.

Note: This test is a measure of coordination and skill in the one foot take-off technique. The athlete should be able to score higher than his or her standing jump and reach score.

4. One repetition maximum (RM) parallel squat.
The athlete should determine the maximum amount of weight that cam be lifted at one time doing a back squat. To perform this lift, the athlete stands with his or her back to the barbell at shoulder height using the legs so that the bar rests on the shoulders, bend at the hips and knees until the thighs are parallel with the floor. Return the the starting position.

5. Five repetition/Five second parallel squat with 60% of body weight.
Perform five squats with the barbell that is weighted with 60% of the body weight. Start the timing with a stopwatch, at the "go" command and stop it with the completion of the fifth repetition.

Note: These strength tests will give the coach the athletes overall leg strength and power. The goal in a 1RM squat test should be 1.5 time body weight, while the goal in test five is to complete five repetitions with 60% of body weight in five seconds.

Plyometric exercises for basketball emphasize the lower body, and include rim jumps, depth jumps, cone hops with change of direction sprints, lateral cone hops, cone hops with 180 degree turn, depth jump with 180 degree turn, low post drill, catch and pass with jump-and-reach.

1. Rim Jumps.
Equipment: A high object such as a basketball goal or crossbar on a football goal post.
Start: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart under the high object.
Action: Jump continuously, reaching with alternating hands and trying to reach the object on every other jump. Time on the ground should be minimal, with each jump being at least as high as the one before.

2. Depth Jumps.
Equipment: A 12 inch box.
Start: Stand on the box, toes close to the front edge.
Action: Step form the box and drop to land on both feet. Try to anticipate the landing and spring up as quickly as you can. Keep the body from settling on the landing and make the ground contact as short as possible.

3. Single Leg Push-Off
Equipment: A box 6 to 12 inches high.
Start: Stand on the ground and pace one foot on the box, heel close to the closest edge.
Action: Push off the foot on top of the box to gain as much height as possible by extending through the entire leg and foot. Land with the same foot on top of the box and push off again. Use a double arm swing for height and balance.

4. Cone Hops.

These drills can be used to improve lateral change of direction.

Cone Hops with change of direction sprint.
Equipment: A partner and a row of four to six cones placed 3 to 4 feet apart to form a Y.
Start: Stand with feet shoulder width apart facing the first cone. Your partner stands at the top of the Y, between the spread cones.
Action: Do two-footed hops over the row of cones; as you are clearing the last cone, your partner points to one of the far cones. Sprint to that far cone immediately upon landing the last hop.

Lateral Cone Hops
Equipment: Three to five cones lined up 2 to 3 feet apart (distance depends on ability).
Start: Stand with feet shoulder width apart at the end of the line of cones (with cones stretched out to one side).
Action: Jump sideways down the row of cones, landing on both feet. In clearing the last cone, land on the outside foot and push off to change direction, then jump two-footed back down the row of cones sideways. At the last cone, push off again on the outside foot and change directions. Keep movement smooth and even, trying not to pause when changing directions.

Cone Hops with 180 Degree Turn
Equipment: A line of four to six cones spaced 2 to 3 feet apart.
Start: Stand facing the line of cones, your feet even with the first cone.
Action: Jump. While in the air, turn 180 degrees, so that you land facing the opposite direction. Continue to jump and turn in the air down the entire line of cones.

5. Sport Specific Jumps

Some of these jumps include the use of a medicine ball or actual basketball depending on the strength on the players.

Depth Jump with 180 Degree Turn
Equipment: A box 12 to 42 inches high.
Start: Stand on the box, toes close to the edge.
Action: Step off the box and land on both feet. Immediately jump up and do a 180 degree turn in the air, landing again on both feet. For added difficulty land on a second box after doing the turn.

Low Post Drill
Equipment: A partner, a medicine ball and a basketball goal.
Start: Stand with your back to the basket, about a meter from the front or side.
Action: Your partner starts the drill by throwing you the ball in the low post position. Catch it, pivot, and jump to touch the ball against the rim. Immediately after landing, jump to touch the ball to the rim a second time. Finally, pivot back toward your partner and pass the ball back to him or her. To increase the difficulty of this drill, pivot to one side and touch the ball to the rim five times, pivot back and pass your partner the ball. Repeat pivoting to the opposite side.

Catch and Pass with Jump and Reach
Equipment: A partner, a box 12 to 42 inches high, a medicine ball, and a high object (like a basketball goal).
Start: Stand on the box, feet shoulder width apart and toes close to the edge.
Action: Step off the box and land on both feet. Explode up and forward, extend your arms, and catch a pass from your partner. Upon landing, explode up again and reach for the high object with the medicine ball.

6. Medicine Ball Drills

Medicine ball drill can also be used to train the upper body specifically for the demands of basketball. Both core strength and upper extremity power should be addressed in a plyometric program for basketball athletes.

Pullover Pass
Equipment: A partner and a medicine ball.
Start: Lie on your back with your knees bent, holding the ball over your head. Your partner stands at your feet.
Action: Keeping your arms extended, pass the ball to your partner. Your partner can back up to require you to throw farther for increased intensity.

Power Drop
Equipment: A partner, a box 12 to 42 inches high, and a medicine ball.
Start: Lie supine on the ground with your arms outstretched. Your partner stands on the box holding the medicine ball at arms length.
Action: Your partner drops the ball. Catch the ball and immediately propel the ball back to your partner. Repeat.

Kneeling Chest Pass
Equipment: A partner and a medicine ball.
Start: Face your partner approximately ten feet apart, holding the ball at your chest.
Action: Forcefully rock forward while pushing the ball off your chest to your partner. Keep your stomach and buttocks tucked in and your body straight.

Pass On the Go
Equipment: A partner and a medicine ball.
Start: Stand facing your partner approximately ten feet away.
Action: Pass the ball to your partner while he or she shuffles from side to side a distance of 15-20 feet. He or she should pass the ball back to you while continuing to move and the passing is repeated.

Jump training is extremely demanding and it is necessary to monitor the volume of training. Plyometric training is often measured by counting foot contacts. The recommended volume of specific jumps in any one session will vary with intensity and progression goals. A beginner in a single workout in an off-season cycle could do 60 to 100 foot contacts of low intensity exercises. The intermediate athlete might be able to do 100 to 150 foot contacts of low intensity work and another 100 of moderate intensity exercises. An advanced athlete may be able to do 150 to 200 foot contacts of low to moderate intensity in this cycle. Multiple hops and jumps are an example of a moderately intense plyometric exercise. Box drills and depth jumps are a higher intensity and foot contacts should be monitored closely.

The frequency at which plyometric exercises should be performed is also important to avoid injury and overtraining. Frequency is the number of times an exercise is performed (repetitions) as well as the number of times exercise sessions take place during a training cycle. European writings suggest 48 to 72 hours of rest between sessions for full recovery. The intensity of the exercise also effects the amount of recovery time needed. An athlete performing higher intensity plyometrics will need more rest in between sessions than a beginner performing less demanding exercises.

Recovery time between sets should allow for maximum recovery for muscles. Anaerobic plyometrics for basketball are primarily directed toward improving power. Therefore, longer rest intervals are necessary (45-60 seconds). A work ratio of 1:5 to 1:10 is appropriate to ensure proper execution and intensity of exercise.

Basketball is a game of vertical jump and lateral movements. It is important that the athlete work to improve his or her abilities in these areas to maximize performance. Plyometric training is effective in developing these skills, as well as the anaerobic endurance necessary to sustain an elite level of play throughout the game.

(Before beginning any exercise program consult with your physician.)


Home | About | Services | Calendar | Plyo Products | Articles | Affiliates | Contact | Photo Gallery | Privacy Policy

Dr. Donald A. Chu, Ph.D.
phone: 925-225-9840 - email:

© 2004 - 2015  Dr. Donald A. Chu, Ph.D. - All Rights Reserved