Tier System Strength Training – Pre Season Basketball

Tier System Strength Training for Pre-season Basketball

Steve Hartman
SCCC, CSCS, NASM-PES, CFSC, USAW, FMS
Head Sports Performance Coach
Bellarmine University

As the Head Coach and sole staff member of the Sports Performance Department, I create, write, implement and supervise training programs for twenty-two varsity sports encompassing over four hundred student-athletes. Our facilities include an eight hundred square foot weight room, an auxiliary turf room and one basketball court utilized by three teams for conditioning, individual instruction, team practices and by other organizations when no athletic events are scheduled.

There are several major conditions to consider when developing a pre-season sports performance program for the Men’s Basketball Team at Bellarmine University, a private, parochial, Division II school located in Louisville, Kentucky. Specifically, facility space, equipment, staffing, schedules and a system of planning and organization are of paramount importance.

Our biggest challenge on a daily basis is to find a way to meet the needs of our athletes and coaches. The answer for us is to apply the “Tier System” developed and written by Coach Joe Kenn to achieve our program goals. We begin by listing our training objectives and to develop a “needs” analysis based on player positions whether they are a guard or forward.

We incorporate our “Pre Season Intents”, which are:

– Prepare the team for the volume of practice
– Produce and protect at all times
– Improve speed and conditioning (energy system specific)
– Improve core strength, flexibility, total body strength and power

The factors for consideration in establishing this successful pre-season program include:

– Accounting for team practices, individual practices, double sessions, and structured pick-up games
– Availability for court time conditioning with 3 different teams occupying the floor due to practices and university events
– Look to enhance recovery, reduce soreness and keep the athlete engaged
– Limited to 20 hours per week based on NCAA Division II rules
– Out of those hours I’m given an hour a day for 5 days over a span of 6 weeks.
– Given my 30 total hours over 6 weeks, how to attain the goals of the pre-season objectives under these constrictions

For each training session we utilize Coach Mike Robertson and Coach Joe Kenn’s “R8” method, which includes:

R1 – Release: soft tissue work using foam rolls, lacrosse balls, golf balls, car buffer or tiger tail.
R2 – Reset: help restore alignment and improve function of movement patterns.
R3 – Readiness: The pre-activity prep, or warm-up, aiming increase body temperature and kinesthetic awareness. This is the strength circuit for the movement categories involving neck, core, posterior chain & posterior shoulder.
R4 – Root: Power zone or core work.
R5 – Reactive: Improve power and explosive development with plyometrics or med ball throws.
R6 – Resistance: Training session for that day.
R7 – Regeneration: Energy System Development.
R8 – Recovery: Traditional cool down, stretching, relaxation drills, cold tub.

Next step is to look at the demands required for each position. The following lists some of the points of emphasis to create their training program.

Guards: Movement and fitness based program. We want our guards to be “bullets not bowling balls.” Our head coach wants them to be able to play low and play fast. We will emphasize unilateral lower body movements that will increase strength, mobility, and work capacity. Our mascot is a Knight so we came up with the term “body armor” to implement circuits that will help protect our ankles, knees, and hips. All movements will be technique based and emphasize control on the eccentric phase and an explosive concentric phase while always paying close attention to posture. Total body movements will be predominantly medicine ball throws or plyometrics. Upper body strength will involve Max Effort bench press with Repeated Effort horizontal and vertical presses, while playing close attention to our push/pull ration, trying to keep it close to two pulls for every one push.

Forwards/Centers: Strength and movement based program.  It is more important for our big guys to be able to handle themselves in the low post, while still being fit enough to play a fast style of basketball. We will put more emphasis on bilateral lower body movements, as well as total body Olympic based movements. Lower body strength and explosive power will help our low post athletes box-out and be in a proper position to out-rebound their opponents. In addition, their low post work will be enhanced by training their backs, so we will focus on developing a strong core and upper back by making sure that we have at least two pulls for every one of our pushes. We will also train our Max Effort bench press very hard with our big guys. There will be an emphasis on Lower body injury reduction by utilizing the “body armor” circuits and eccentric hamstring exercises.

Conditioning Objectives:
Our head coach will demand a fit and fast team. Because of this emphasis, conditioning will take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On these days, we will spend the beginning of the session (no longer than a few minutes) working on sprint mechanics and running technique. On non-lift days (Tuesday & Thursday) the Speed School will be followed by agility/footwork sessions that will incorporate both short agilities (under :07 seconds) and long agilities (in between :07 seconds and :14 seconds), and will culminate with agility based conditioning (agilities that range over :15 seconds that will involve change of direction). On lift days (Monday & Wednesday), the Speed School will be drawn out longer and involve elements of lateral speed as well as linear speed. The conditioning on Lift Day #1 will be our slide board session for lateral quickness, while Lift Day #2’s conditioning session will consist of bike sprints in a Tabata fashion, 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds rest. Lastly, the Lift Day #3 is designed to train the men for their 22’s test with tempo runs.

Click link below for example layout of the 6-Week Pre-Season Training overview.    

Bellarmine Pre Season

Click link below fro example Forward/Guard Daily Training Template using the R8 method and Tier System.

ForwardsGuards Hartman

We have sixteen basketball athletes training out of 800 square feet and there are a lot of moving pieces to their sports performance program. By incorporating the R8 method and Tier System, it has allowed us to accomplish all of our objectives for each position. Starting the session off with the readiness circuit creates space and tempo. Pairing movements with the priority lifts in our turf room also frees up space and keeps our athletes moving. As you can see from the templates above, we do a lot with a little. It does not matter if you have 800 square feet, or 8,000 square feet, following the R8 and Tier System method works! We are absolutely committed to this method and the benefits it produces for our program, and our athletes. As coaches, we all know that success is predicated on winning! Since the 2011-12 season, our men’s basketball program at Bellarmine University has achieved the following:

– 2011 NCAA National Champions, NCAA Midwest Regional Champion, Regular Season Conference Champions, Conference Tournament Champions

– 2012 NCAA Midwest Regional Champions, Regular Season Conference Champions, Final Four

– 2015 NCCA Midwest Regional Champions, Regular Season Conference Champions, Final Four

– 2017 NCAA Midwest Regional Champions, Regular Season Conference Champions, Conference Tournament Champions, Final Four

Our team won the NCAA Division II National Championship in March 2011 and in 2017, we earned our fourth trip to the Final Four in the last seven years. We firmly believe that we are in this position because each athlete over the years has been available to contribute to the game and stay on the court longer. There is a deep commitment to every member of our team to make this possible and with the utilization of Coach Kenn’s Tier System, it aids in the process of creating a competitive edge over the competition. Please consult Coach Kenn’s website (www.bighousepower.com) for further information. I am happy to respond to any questions you might have. Please forward them to steve.hartman87@gmail.com.

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