Yesterday one of my Twitter posts caused a firestorm of responses:
Do you believe basketball players should do 'max testing' in the weight room (exercises like bench / squat / power clean for a 1 rep max)? Why? Why not?
It created such a debate of passionate responses, I felt compelled to address it in my blog.
I sent several follow up Tweets explaining my stance (this topic is not easily covered in 140 characters or less). Below, in bold, are a few of those Tweets with expanded thoughts.
“I am fine with off-season testing as a way to monitor progress - if (and only if) you use appropriate & applicable tests.”
· To clarify, I am not opposed to testing. I am opposed to 1 RM testing in the weight room (seeing how much weight a player can lift one time). I don’t need a 1 RM to tell me if a player is getting stronger. If Day #1 he can lift 100 lbs for 10 reps and on Day #60 he can lift 115 lbs for 11 reps… he clearly got stronger and made progress in that particular exercise. And how is maxing out on a bench press or squat even remotely applicable to basketball? What does their 1 RM score tell me about them as a player? Nothing.
“I don't believe in 1 rep max strength tests. They are dangerous, impractical, unnecessary, and illogical (for basketball).”
· This is was the Tweet that set it off! This is a brash statement - but one I stand behind 100%.
o Dangerous: Players like to compete, which is an invaluable characteristic. However, when they are competing to see who can lift the most weight, someone needs to waive a red flag. If you have ever been in a weight room when a bunch of macho male meatheads are competing for max numbers, you can throw proper form out of the window. They will arch, bend, and squirm in every way possible to get the weight up. As soon as you combine poor technique with inappropriately heavy loads, your risk of injury gets exponentially higher. That’s not science; that’s common sense. And that’s not even mentioning the increased orthopedic stress placed on the joints, tendons, ligaments, etc.
o Impractical: Performing a 1 RM is a very specific skill. Assuming you don’t have 1 RM’s as part of your actual workout program, it means you are testing for a skill that you don’t practice. How practical is that? Plus it doesn’t give you any relevant information. Testing a basketball player’s 1 RM for strength gains makes no more sense than testing a player’s shooting ability by having them shoot half-court shots.
o Unnecessary: I know for a fact that you can run a very safe, progressive, and successful year round strength training program without 1 RM testing, thus making it unnecessary. By definition, ‘necessary’ means ‘essential.’ 1 RM testing is clearing not essential.
o Illogical: Long arms and long legs are a physiological disadvantage in the weight room (think bench press and squats), yet they are a tremendous advantage on the court. So to truly excel in 1 RM lifts, you want to have the exact opposite physical characteristics that are coveted in basketball! Why penalize a player for being born with a favorable ‘basketball’ body? Point being… a 6’ 6”, 180 lb high school junior will probably not bench, squat, or power clean very much. So what? If that player is skilled, wouldn’t you want him on your team?
“There is no correlation (zero) between 1 RM test scores and success on the court.”
· Kevin Durant scored 2nd to last in the NBA pre-draft combine. It was an eyebrow raiser (to some) that he couldn’t bench press 185 lbs. I believe it is safe to say KD has turned out OK. Enough said.
“My #1 priority is for my players get progressively stronger & train 'correctly.' I don't care 'how much' they can lift 1 time!”
· I would prefer a player with great ankle and hip mobility, a strong and stable core, and who can control their bodyweight with perfect form during exercises like multi-directional lunges and pull-ups than a player who can bench press a car. Since those are the characteristics that are important to me; those are the characteristics I emphasize every workout. So testing for something other than what I emphasize is foolish and sends a mixed message.
One additional follow up thought… as it came up in a few Twitter exchanges… I don’t use Power Cleans (or any of the Olympic lifts) in my program. It’s not that they are ‘bad’ exercises… they aren’t… I know several very accomplished strength & conditioning coaches who use them religiously with great results. I prefer not to use them for 2 reasons:
1. Most basketball players don’t have the favorable limb lengths to do them safely (because they are long and lean).
2. It is a very technical lift. The time and effort spent teaching and coaching the Power Clean can be better spent on other things.
If you have the ability to coach it correctly and spot every rep for every player, than it may be a viable exercise choice. In my setting, I am often supervising 20+ players at a time – so overseeing every rep from every player is not an option. Plus, the benefits derived from doing Power Cleans (improved power/explosiveness through triple extension, etc.) can be accomplished through a combination of more traditional movements and safe plyometrics (see the bullet point on ‘Unnecessary’).
Well there you have it gang… a cursory overview of why I am adamantly opposed to 1 RM testing for basketball players and why I don’t do Power Cleans.
I appreciate everyone who voiced their thoughts through Twitter and Facebook, even if we had differing opinions. I always enjoy respectable, professional debates!
If you missed out on that action, make sure it doesn’t happen again! Follow along at www.Twitter.com/AlanStein and www.Facebook.com/StrongerTeam.com.
I appreciate you!
PS: Here is the warm-up I did with the Jordan Brand Classic All-Americans before practice:
Your warm-up lays the foundation for your workout or practice. Make the most of it!