OK, so you are a serious hooper with goals of taking it to the next level.  You want to start “training”.  You read our last post and believe that the place to start is strength.  You also saw we said to focus on “push-pull-squat-hinge-core”, but you have no clue what that means and where to start!

No worries…I got you!  

Baseline Strength Exercises – Part 1

To get started, I’m assuming you are a beginner to strength training, and you are injury free.  If you have any injuries you should always see a qualified medical professional to help assess your injury and build a plan a rehab and return to play/training plan. 

At PPT, a baseline exercise is the exercise we assume the large majority of beginning clients can do well and safely.  It’s the place to start for most athletes.  Definitely, for some it’s too difficult in which cases we need regressions, alternatives, and correctives.  But for most, it’s often the place to start, to build competency in the fundamental movement patterns and to start loading those exercises and building strength before moving on to more advanced progressions. 

So assuming you are a real beginner, these are the baseline exercises we would recommend learning, mastering, and getting stronger in before starting to introduce both some other exercise categories as well as advanced progressions. Every exercise referenced has a short video that contains some demo reps as well as all key instructions and cues. 


For push we start with only the HORIZONTAL Push category.  We leave the vertical push category until we achieve some competency in the horizontal category first.  The baseline push exercises is the push-up:

But the truth is for many young beginners, they are NOT ready to do push-ups well enough, with good enough form and control for nearly enough reps necessary to make much progress.  For most athletes we need to regress to the Incline Push-Up:

The above video is shown using a bar for the incline but you can easily do this with a sturdy chair or bench.  The key to getting stronger with the incline push-up is to gradually progress closer to the ground and a REAL -push-up.  Start at a level that is challenging but that you are able to do 10 reps.  Those 10 reps should be hard, especially the last couple reps, but they all must be done with good form.  Once you feel you can do even more reps in a set progress the exercise by lowering the bar another level! 

This is a WAY better approach than grinding out sloppy regular push-ups with poor form! 


For pull, like for push we generally start with the horizontal category and leave vertical pulling until we have developed some competency  in the horizontal pull exercises. At PPT, the baseline pull exercise is the TRX or Ring Row: 

We love it because simply by changing the angle you can regress it (less steep) or progress it (steeper)

For those of you that don’t have access to TRX the Inverted Row is a bit harder but it’s really similar.  I would recommend starting with the inverted row with feet on the floor and knees bent:

If you don’t have access to either of these then some alternatives are prone incline rows or Bent Over Single Arm Rows.  You can see variations of these on our Youtube channel.

If you don’t have any equipment, then see our Free Bodyweight Program here for options for pulling exercises: https://progressiveperformance.ca/ppt-free-bodyweight-program-for-basketball-players/ 


The Squat category is also known as the “knee dominant” category.  For beginners we will usually start with Bilateral squat movements.  Unilateral movements are a critical part of the PPT program but we will usually make sure the athlete has established a basic level of competency in bilateral squats before adding unilateral variations into their program. At PPT, the baseline bilateral squat is the Goblet Squat to Box:

For athletes not ready to hold a load we would regress to the bodyweight squat to box

If the squat can’t be done with proper form then we’ll introduce various correctives to try and address the issues.  Those correctives can be described in a future post.

Note:  This is NOT a BOX Squat where the athlete SITS on the box.  This is a squat TO box where the box is just used as a depth gauge to help the athlete lower to the right level. 


Like the squat, the hinge has two sub-categories – bilateral and unilateral.  Here too, we start to develop competency in the bilateral category before introducing the critical unilateral work into the training program. The Hinge category is also known as the “Hip Dominant” category.  At PPT, the baseline bilateral hinge is the Kettlebell RDL:

However, if we see from the initial assessment that the athlete is not ready to perform standing and loaded hinge movements then we will regress further to Glute Bridge and Hip Thrust Variations starting with the basic Glute Bridge Raise:  

The issue with the Glute Bridge Raise is it quickly becomes too easy, while the athlete may still not be ready to perform standing, loaded hinges.  In these cases there is a whole progressions of glute bridge raises and hip thrusts we go through which we can share in a future post. 


For core, our baseline is really simple.  We plank!  We have two categories for our baseline: 1) anti-extension, and 2) anti-lateral flexion.  There is a third category of core work – 3) anti-rotation – it’s probably our favourite as it relates most to sports, and basketball, and they are fun, explosive, and challenging.  But, we usually leave anti-rotation out until the athlete develops competency in the baseline anti-extension and anti-lateral flexion movements. We aim for the athlete to be able to do 3 sets at 30s each (per side for lateral planks) with good form for each:


Anti-lateral flexion

That’s it – that’s our baseline exercises for the most basic strength training categories – for someone just starting out these will help start you off on your strength training journey and gains.  For someone a little more advanced, but still a beginner we’ll give you some of the other baseline exercises in the other categories in another post!


Let’s do this!