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16 October 2015

Is game play enough to get fit for basketball?

These days it’s the age-old adage that you get fit for basketball by playing basketball no longer holds much traction amongst sport scientists and strength and conditioning coaches. Recent research* took 26 teenage athletes (13-14 years old) and split them into two groups for a 6-week training program. One group did two sessions of games-based team-sport training whereas the other group completed one session of game-based training and one session of high intensity interval running. The running included 15 seconds of high intensity running followed by 15 seconds of rest and this was repeated 16 times (with a 6 minute rest after the 8th repetition). After the six weeks the group that did the mix of games-based training and interval running improved their aerobic fitness more than the program that used the games-based training only.



This message is further backed up by research** in under-15 soccer players. One group did 6-weeks of normal soccer training (acting as a control group to compare to). The other group had two supplemental training sessions per week including plyometrics (jump training), strength exercises and sprints. The group that did the additional training sessions improved 20 metre sprint speed, squat strength and jump height more than the group that just did normal soccer training.

Of course, the practical response to these observations is that time is precious…in skill-based sports such as basketball young athletes simply do not have the time to miss practice sessions to do fitness sessions. This is true. Skill practice can’t be compromised. But let’s not miss the heart of the research: If young athletes want to take their fitness forward they can’t just rely on playing basketball, they need to dedicate time to it. And if young athletes want to take their basketball forward they need to address their fitness at some point…at the very least good injury prevention programs need to be in place to ensure our young basketball players don’t suffer from muscle imbalance issues and can continue enjoying the game for years to come. And the off-season is the best time to get new routines in place…

But now we have more questions… What fitness should young athletes do in the off-season? What should be worked on? How can we tell where a young athlete’s fitness weaknesses are? How can we balance the importance of skill and fitness development in our young athletes? What age is it ok for children to do strength and conditioning exercises?

…you will be able to glean some of the answers to these questions on our future Senators Blog articles… stay tuned.


by Dr Laurence Houghton (PhD Sports Science)


* “Aerobic Fitness for Young Athletes: Combining Game-based and High-intensity Interval Training” in the International Journal of Sports Medicine 2015
** “Effects of Combined Resistance Training and Plyometrics on Physical Performance in Young Soccer Players” in the International Journal of Sports Medicine 2015