For more advanced basketball players that have been strength training for a while, these are GENERALLY the top lifts you want to progress to and really get stronger at.  Like any of these “top exercises” lists, you really need to be aware that while this is generally true for most athletes, NOTHING is true all the time for everyone.  The specifics of the athlete may dictate other exercise variations for various categories.  Additionally, it should be clear that these are generally NOT the exercises to start your training with.  For more common beginner exercises please see our earlier posts:

Top Strength Exercises for Basketball Players

With those Disclaimers out of the way (1 – individualize for the athlete, 2 – progress to these more advanced exercises) here are the top strength exercises we usually try and work our basketball players up to in order to really start developing some serious strength that can transfer to on-court performance and injury reduction:

  • Trap Bar Deadlift
  • Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS)
  • Barbell Bench Press
  • TRX Low Row with Feet Elevated 
  • Anti-Rotation Walkouts
  • Ab Wheel Rollouts

Hinge: Trap Bar Deadlift

The Trap Bar Deadlift is generally the ONLY bilateral lower body exercise we aim to be lifting really heavy – it’s spine friendly, the angles are very similar to those experienced in sport, and while it’s called a deadlift it’s really a bit of a hybrid of a hinge AND a squat.  Athletes can continue to develop strength in this lift for years.  It also lends itself easily to other variations including dynamic effort lifts like Trap Bar with Chains, Band-Resisted Trap Bar DL, and Trap Bar Jumps.  If athletes actually get to a point that they get “too strong” in this lift then they can still progress from there but working on loader skater squats (yes, it’s called a squat but the movement pattern is very similar to the Trap Bar DL, except that it’s unilateral) 

Squat: Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS)

Unilateral Strength is critical for basketball players, and really all athletes and humans in general.  It is the key to developing strength that reduces injury potential AND increases strength that translates to on-court performance.  The Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS) is an exercise that you can get REALLY strong in – you can keep changing the loading position and implement to increase the load for a long time.  Make sure you master split squats before attempting these.  Start with Body-weight RFESS, then progress to goblet and farmer.  Depending on the tools available you can progress this with Safety Squat Bar (SSB) or U-Bars (Single Leg Squat Bars).  Make sure you are pushing through the front leg, and only lightly supporting yourself with the back leg.  If you get “too strong” in this lift you will find you start pushing too much with the back leg.  At that point you can transition to loaded Single Leg Squats to Box (which you should have been developing in parallel with this) to become your primary unilateral lift.  But the RFESS will serve you well for a LONG time:

Push: Barbell Bench Press

Definitely, we can progress a basketball player a LONG way without ever even touching a barbell – we can progress them with push-up variations for years.  But, let’s face it – basketball players are going to try to bench press on their own, and they love it. They will also likely see it in most high level college strength programs.   So, they need to work on it properly, under supervision and develop strength in it. 

Pull: TRX Low Row with Feet Elevated 

This one is a bit harder for us to pick just 1.  The TRX Low Row (with External Load) gets the nod as it’s a bit more joint friendly being in the horizontal pull category, but chin-up variations (with external load) are definitely important in our programs for more advanced lifters too.  We also love the Single Arm Bent-Over Row, but that said, the TRX Low Row is challenging, joint friendly, can be progressed with external loads especially if you have a really good weighted vest: 

Core: Anti-Rotation Walkouts & Ab Wheel Rollouts

For core, we really need to pick one exercise in the anti-extension category and one in the anti-rotation category.  For anti-extension, if we can progress athletes to proper ab wheel rollouts with good form, we know they have developed a really strong functional core.

For anti-rotation, it’s probably harder to pick ONE exercise as the “Big Rock” to try and progress too.  We really love developing strength in a variety of sport-specific anti-rotation exercises once the athlete progresses in this category.  That said, we like to see athletes master this anti-rotation walk-out before getting too creative here: