Filter Blogs By Sport:

Get Educated about Strength and Speed Training for Basketball

If you want to be a great basketball player, you need to be strong and fast.  Here are some key points by former Gonzaga Basketball player and NBC Camps camper and coach Mike Nilson on the key principles you need to know. Mike states that many people have incorrect perceptions of strength training, so he has a few pieces of information and advice for parents or athletes looking into performance training.

1.      Strength and Speed Training is not the same thing as Bodybuilding.

Twenty to thirty years ago, weight training was used almost exclusively by football teams. Many athletes were afraid of lifting because they did not want to bulk up. For soccer players or cross country athletes, it seemed like weights would only make them bulkier, when in reality, weight training can just hone in on skills that they’d like to improve. “If we’re training a soccer player, the idea is to look at the demands of soccer and look and see what kinds of balance, coordination, speed, agility, reaction, and quickness they need. We can improve on those things inside the weight room.” Now, people are realizing that they can jump higher, run faster, and play longer without putting on a lot of extra weight.


2.      Injury Prevention is integral to Performance Training.

Many different aspects of performance training are intertwined with each other. For example, if you are training an athlete with a focus on strength, they will naturally increase their ability to gain agility. In the same way, injury prevention is part of the result you get from performance training. When those muscles are strengthened, you are less prone to injure them. In Nilson’s gym, injury prevention is even more than just a bi-product. “My number one priority is reducing the chance of injury. Whether I’m working with a basketball player, a baseball player, or a football player, the idea would be to keep them healthy so they can spend more time on the field or the court. And then, if you can make them more durable and keep them more injury resistant, then we can start increasing some of those sports performance qualities of speed, quickness, agility, and reaction.” Some trainers focus on injury prevention more actively than others, but ultimately, it is also a bi-product of performance training.


3.      Performance Training is only effective when paired with Recovery.

When you are going into the gym to work out, that is actually the time when you are breaking down your muscles. “It’s only when you rest, when you sleep, when you eat properly that you get the benefit of working out—that’s when you get stronger.” We’ve realized that if we want athletes to get stronger, jump higher, and run faster, we just have to work on that recovery piece. “Sleep is one aspect that we track with all of our athletes. There’s not a definitive number of hours that every person needs, but from the research that I’ve seen and doctors that I’ve talked to, it seems that nine is a good home base. Athletes need nine hours of sleep, give or take one hour.” A study conducted by Dr. Williamson and Dr. Feyer in Australia actually showed that moderate sleep deprivation impairs cognitive and motor skills just as much as being within the legal levels of alcohol intoxication. They showed that if a person had only seven hours of sleep for seven days in a row, they have the same chance of getting in an auto accident as a person driving under the influence of alcohol. “Think about what a lack of sleep does to your reaction time. You wouldn’t show up to practice or to a game under the influence of alcohol, so why would you do that to yourself with your sleep?” On the other hand, Stanford conducted a study by making their Men’s Basketball Team sleep for 10 hours a night. After six weeks, their hundred-yard dash times were faster, their free throw percentages were higher, and their three point percentages were higher. Many athletes fail to realize that the extra time of recovery during sleep is necessary for better focus and better muscle strengthening.


Mike Nilson has had his fair share of conditioning and weightlifting. In college, Nilson played for the Gonzaga University basketball team, contributing to their Elite 8 and Sweet 16 appearances. While at Gonzaga, Nilson was honored as WCC Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-Academic Team Honors. Nilson graduated with his BA in Business and is now a licensed Sports Nutritionist and has been teaching health, human movement, and nutrition classes as an Adjunct Professor at GU since 2010. In 2004, Nilson co-founded U-District Physical Therapy. U-District PT was formed with the intention to create a space where athletes could receive exceptional performance training, personal training, and physical therapy. Currently, U-District PT is the exclusive strength and conditioning provider for Gonzaga University, making them the trainers of some of Gonzaga’s best athletes. 

About NBC Basketball Camps

NBC Basketball Camps offers intensive basketball training at camps in eight countries in over 50 cities. NBC Basketball Camps trains athletes to become stronger leaders, develop skill mastery, and live with greater confidence, joy, and grit. If you love basketball enough to work hard, you need to be at NBC Basketball Camps this summer. Find a program that fits your training needs. Go to for more information.

Share This Basketball Article