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Over the years strength and conditioning programs have evolved from a "one size fits all" philosophy for a more customized program that bases specific strength and conditioning exercises on the types of movements/actions an athlete performs due to her/his specific role on the field/court. For example, while most athletes on an American-style football team will perform similar exercises, there will be some strength & conditioning exercises designed specifically for linemen and others designed specifically for defensive backs. Thus, the linemen will perform some exercises relevant to them because of the skills necessary to play their position. Similarly, they will not perform the exercises designed specifically for defensive backs because the movements/skills required by defensive backs are unique only to them. Another example is track & field. An athlete specializing in the javelin will perform exercises designed to condition/strengthen the attributes needed specifically for the javelin. As such, she/he will perform exercises unique to her/his sport which, in turn, will differ from the training exercises performed by a sprinter. (Other exercises may be similar.)

All of the above brings me to one central question: Why, when training basketball teams do many strength & conditioning programs design a "universal" program that is utilized by each player on the team, regardless of position? Granted, many of the movements on the court are similar, regardless of position. But, there are some unique attributes/skills required by a point/shooting guard that are not required by a strong forward or center (and vice versus). Thus, why are basketball strength & conditioning programs not traditionally developed in a more customized manner?

I'm interested to hear the thoughts of others out there. I'm sure there are some highly customized programs as well. Any examples to share?

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Comment by Duval Kirkaldy on October 2, 2010 at 4:05pm
I agree and disagree with some of this.I think when it comes to basketball EVERYONE pretty much has to do the same things run, jump, shoot etc. I think the biggest thing that comes into effect is the type of players that you have and the style of play you want to be known for. Take a team who doesnt really have a true big (Dirk Nowitzki) then why woudnt you train everyone equally if your going to try and run people out of the gym.On the other hand if your more of a half court team who has a true big man (shaq) then maybe just maybe you might do some different things.
Now take football for example not everyone does the same thing block, run through the trenches, throw,adjust to recievers routes etc. I would think this type of training may have more of an effect on a sport like that. At the end of the day its prob the head coaches who decide what type of player they want and it is our job to try and "mold" the players so that they are able to play to the coaches liking.
Comment by Wes Herlocker on February 16, 2009 at 12:23pm
You just have to remember that strength coaches are creating the athletes. The sport coaches are breaking the sport down into sport specific movements and skills during offseason and inseason practices. We as strength and conditioning professionals do not have a lot of time with our athletes as it is, so I believe we should worry about the meat and potatos(Squat, Bench, Olympic Lifts, Plyos) to create bigger, faster, stronger, and more explosive athletes. If you can get an athlete to master these lifts and stay in an organized program for their 3 offseasons, everything else will fall into place from a sport specific standpoint.

Our guys here play a lot of pickup basketball in the offseason, which takes a big conditioning component from our system. However 6 weeks from the start of practice I conditon our guys as well.
Comment by Jesse Webber on February 16, 2009 at 11:07am
My comments will run most closely to Brijesh:

I feel what we do is general training, not specific. We are preparing the athlete to be strong, fast, explosive, etc. We are also training for injury prevention. I agree with Michael, if you watched my athletes train (in the weight room), you might not know what sport they play. That being said, there are some minor differences that could be called "sport specific". Others said that specificity is overdone. True; I am not trying to mimic the sport in the weight room... I am preparing the athlete for practice and games.

Matt said college strength coaches don't have the time for that level of specificity, and that is true too. However, even if I had the time, I would not write a separate weight program based on basketball position. I will keep the individual players needs in mind, as Chad pointed out. So, there will be some differences between what player A does vs. player B, but will not be based on position. It will be based on evaluation, what the coaches tell me, and observing the player in practice/games.

David, while you say a 5 will need strength and a 1 will need quickness; at this level, those attributes are recruited. As stated above, if someone needs to get quicker, I will give them some supplemental work. But, as Ted was saying, sometimes a 2 will post up and a 4 will be out on the wing. So that 2 now needs strength and the 4 needs quickness. My more general program will prepare these athletes for these scenarios and practice will take care of the rest.

Jeff, based on the study you cited finding physiological differences between positions, I don't follow how that means I need to write positional programs. Granted, I did not read the study, but you state that there are some differences found. Do these differences occur just because a post player is built different than a guard? Does that mean I need to now train them different in the weight room? It comes back to recruiting I mentioned above. Coach is going to bring me quick/agile guards and big bodied post players. To come full circle, my programs are designed get everyone quicker, more explosive, stronger, more flexible, and so on.
Comment by Craig Cheek on January 2, 2009 at 3:46pm
my comments are directed at patel's post. dead on in my opinion
Comment by Craig Cheek on January 2, 2009 at 3:45pm
all the "specific" weight room work in the world isnt going to increase one's free throw percentage.
Comment by Jeff Caha on December 28, 2008 at 10:21pm
I feel doing general lifts in an awful way to go with basketballplayers - I earned a unique way of training and it helped me when trying to play professionally - I am a big fan of overtraining and as a 29 year old, I feel better now than I did when I played college basketball and I do a lot of movement and lifting that is in a basketball specific stance or method - anyways, just thought I would throw my two cents in
Comment by Brijesh Patel on November 24, 2008 at 3:20pm
I think everybody has some interesting comments, but I have to against the specificity argument. What we do (as strength and conditioning professionals) is to reduce the chance of injury and make our athletes better athletes. This is done through general means..improving mobility, flexibility, strength, speed, quickness, power, etc. Athletes get their specific work from actual practice. They practice their sport skills with their improved athleticism which then improves their sport skills.
There could be some minor things that may differ between guards and bigs, but you can't honestly tell me that improving a guards strength isn't going to help them...even if they "out quick" their opponent. You can' t tell me that improving a big's ability to move isn't going to help them even if they are predominantly battling on the blocks. They get their sport specific work in individuals in much more specific things do they need to do?
No exercise is going to help a guard improve their crossover dribble or footwork coming off a screen other than doing it...that is the principal of specificity. Let practice take care of itself and let us do what we do.
Keep it general, keep them healthy, make them more efficient, and let them practice.
Comment by David Harris on November 24, 2008 at 10:56am
Wow. There are some great thoughts here. I've learned a lot just reading the above comments.

Eric - Let me expand a bit in order to address the clarifications you requested:

The easiest way to respond to the phrases for which you'd like clarification is to refer you to the comments made by Jeff, Ted, James and Chad. While I understand that "specificity" and "customization" of programs by athlete and by the position an athlete plays may be difficult due to resource restraints (I.e. Not enough coaches), I don't believe one can deny the fact that if a player trains specifically for her/his position she/he will become a better player AT THAT POSITION than if she/he is trained generically. In regard to the points on which you wanted clarification:

1.) The most simple example I can think of is a quarterback vs. a lineman - There is no reason for a lineman to concentrate on strengthening a rotator cuff, work on throwing form or the steps/movements needed to execute a 5-step drop quickly. Similarly, there is little reason for a quarterback to concentrate on developing strength/quickness related to coming out of a three/two-point stance, getting his hands up quickly, driving a blocker back and/or quickly shuffling feet when executing a pass block. I feel this also translates to linemen vs. defensive backs - There is no need for a defensive back to concentrate on developing the lineman skills noted above. Similarly, there is little need for linemen to specifically concentrate on overall speed (needed to run with a receiver), bump and run techniques and the conditioning therein, catching drills, explosiveness associated with jumping for a ball, or the same feet/hip movements executed by a defensive back during a given play. Obviously some strength and conditioning exercises will be performed by athletes regardless of position (I.e. Power/Hang Clean). It is my opinion, however, that "generic" exercises should be supplemented by position specific movements/conditioning.

2.) Centers vs. Guards in basketball: Again, I'm not arguing that no player should perform the same strength & conditioning exercises. I am, however, stating my belief that players should be trained based on certain specifics related to their position. Ted and James make good arguments above for the need for specificity in basketball. Guards primarily survive on their agility and quickness, while centers earn their paychecks by dominating on the inside based on strength and the ability to "get taller" than those in the key. Correct, all positions will jump. But, guards primarily operate off finesse, why players operating on the inside utilize strength/power. Guards survive off the ability to "out quick" their opponents while the big men/women underneath win through staying power and being able to outmuscle their opponents throughout the duration of the game. As a result, I believe that while all players will probably again utilize Olympic exercises to their benefit, supplementing a guard's program with conditioning exercises designed to improve explosive speed while centers concentrate more on overall strength and power could be a way to go.

3.) Why are basketball programs not developed in a more customized manner?: I understand the resource constraints. Those aside, however, if one could devise the ideal basketball strength & conditioning program I believe that the studies show, regardless of sport, developing overall strength/conditioning while supplementing a generic program with a program based on an athlete's position, will result in optimal performance AT THAT position.

Thanks for all the comments everyone!!
Comment by Greg Werner on November 24, 2008 at 10:42am
Basketball is a specific conditioning sport in itself. If you ask the athletes to play games at an intense pace for limited time frames with the emphasis on full speed intense pressure they will get the most specific form of conditioning you could ever design, it's pure specificity at its finest. You can't do this with football, because they would kill one another, so therefore your conditioning must be broken down to each positions functional needs.
Comment by Chad Traver on November 24, 2008 at 12:10am
I agree and disagree with many of the statements above. In my opinion specificity and individualization are to very scientifically sound principals that have been misused and distorted by people who have not taken the time to really study them and then truly taken the time to put them into real life setting. One item that seems to be overlooked in the above discussion is the body types of these athletes and how the sport puts different demands on a person's body. I train 17 bb-players and while a majority of them would do alright with a "cookie cutter program" I believe that it is my duty to evaluate and address each athlete as an individual, with this said I do believe that if we got back to the basics of addressing the body as a whole anbd teaching controlled full range of motion technique than our "universal" programs would be almost perfect and would only need a little tweaking here and there for certain players with special needs.

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