Sunday, December 9, 2012

Importance of General Physical Preparation

As written for

There is a common trend taking place in training for all sports, with players and coaches often feeling the need to have the performance training they do in the weight room closely mimic specific sport movements. Often times it may feel necessary to make an exercise excessively sport specific in order to achieve carryover to the sport itself. However, a stronger focus on a concept known as ‘General Physical Preparation’ (GPP), will help prevent premature overspecialization, and quick increases in performance followed by stagnation. GPP involves increasing all of your fitness qualities which may be applied to wide variety of sports. This includes strength, power, endurance, flexibility/mobility, and overall motor coordination. It also involves ensuring each individual athletes’ movement dysfunctions and weaknesses are narrowed in on. This article strives to discuss the importance of developing a well-rounded athlete before focusing on developing the basketball player.

Play a Variety of Sports
The first step in developing a well-rounded athlete starts with the variety of skills and abilities that are best learned in an actual sport environment. A common point of debate amongst parents, coaches, and players revolves around whether or not players should specialize in one sport from an early age if they want play at a high post-secondary level, or even make it pro. In their youth, basketball players should be learning and playing other sports, and working to develop all of their fitness qualities while training. If a young basketball player develops a larger base of athletic abilities from other sports, they will master basketball specific skills to a higher degree. Ask Steve Nash if soccer helped him in the long run with his footwork, endurance, and creativity. Ask Chase Budinger if his strong background in volleyball helped develop his power and vertical leap while on the basketball court.
“I’m comfortable (with basketball) footwork because I played soccer,” said Bryant. “From changing up rhythms to foot speed, to being comfortable with having my right foot as my pivot foot and my left foot as my pivot foot.” – Kobe Bryant
I understand that once a player falls in love with basketball, all they want to do is stay on the court, and that they believe any time not spent practicing basketball will put them far behind their peers. I also understand that it may be hard to convince some players to buy into this – but I think all athletes should dabble in traditional Olympic sports such as gymnastics, martial arts/wrestling, or various track & field events during childhood and adolescence to give them a very well-rounded foundation of athletic abilities such as strength, power, endurance, and movement patterns on which to build a high level of athleticism.

Be Smart with Your Time in the Weight Room
In the weight room specifically, youth basketball players should be performing full body movements, without worrying about 'sport specificity'. For example, all athletes should squat, but don’t squat only a quarter of the way down just because that is about as much as you’ll load your hips in most game situations. Not only will a partial range of motion neglect many large muscle groups that are responsible for jumping higher, and accelerating faster, it will also hinder the maintenance or development of the fundamental human movement patterns that will keep you healthy over your entire playing career, and in life. Furthermore, you must give your body a buffer zone of mobility, stability, and strength for the moments that you DO find yourself squatting deep in a game, such as during many post-up, box out, or defensive situations.
World Peace Squatting Low

As another example, don’t perform countless overhead tricep extensions in order to mimic a jump shot. This is an isolation movement that works one joint, and will, over time, lead to elbow injuries. It is also not a great use of your time when you may only have a few hours a week to lift weights. A better option would be a bigger 'bang for your buck' exercise such as a dumbbell chest press, which will strengthen many muscle groups (including the triceps) at once, requires full body coordination if done properly, and will allow you to spend less time in the weight room.

The vast majority of your off-court training should not be too sport specific. If you think about it – all the actions you are performing on the court in games, practices, and scrimmages are already very sport specific, therefore it is necessary to use the majority of the performance work you do off the court to balance your body. This balance will keep you healthy and allow you to reach your full genetic potential. However, if you have maintained a very solid base of general physical preparation, and as you get closer to the playing season, or are entering a high level of collegiate or professional competition, then you can start gearing your conditioning, strength exercises, and speed/power development a little closer to the demands that you would see on a basketball court.

All basketball players, and athletes in general, should learn how to properly squat, hip hinge, lunge, push, pull, rotate, jump, and land. All of these movements appear in the game of basketball in one form or another. Become proficient and strong with these movements, and they will become easier and less energy consuming in a live game scenario. If you have a high-octane game like Dwayne Wade, you may also need to learn gymnastic tumbling skills when you get bumped down on your way to the basket!

Key Points
Play different sports in childhood and adolescence!
All basketball players should learn how to properly squat, hip hinge, lunge, push, pull, rotate, jump, and land. Learn these skills through a variety of sports and full body movements in the weight room
Games, Practices, and Scrimmages are already sport specific. Use your time off the court to balance your body to stay healthy, and reach your genetic potential.

Please feel free to e-mail me at if you have any questions about how you may integrate these ideas into your child or athletes training program.

Baker, J., Cobley, S., Fraser-Thomas, J. (2009) How much do we know about early sport specialization? Not Much!. High Ability Studies 20(1)
Hartmann, H., Wirth, K., Klusemann, M., Dalic, J., Matuschek, C., Schmidtbleicher, D. Influence of Squatting Depth on Jumping Performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: December 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 12 - p 3243–3261
John, D., Tsatsouline, P. (2011). Easy Strength. Dragon Door Publications
Siff, M. (2004). Super Training. Super Training Institute
Arroyave, Luis (2006). “NBA’s Kobe Bryant almost became a soccer player”.Chicago Tribune.


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