September 06, 2020 11 min read
It’s 1990 and you’re one of the “Bad Boys” Pistons, having just come out on top for the third playoff game running, against your rival the Chicago Bulls.
You beat Chicago four games to one in the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, then in six games in 1989, and then in seven games in 1990. Due in large part to the Jordan Rules.
As you might figure out from the name, the Jordan Rules are the very successful defensive strategy used by your team to thwart the GOAT on the court. The point is to play MJ tough; challenge him physically every chance you get while switching up the defense to mess with his balance. One of the points in the Jordan Rules says that you must nail him every time he goes by you.
A gassed-out Jordan isn’t going to be as effective.
But this wouldn’t last for long. In 1991 the Pistons would be defeated by the Bulls in the playoffs, and then swept in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. Chicago would go on to win their first-ever NBA title.
And while a lot of different factors went into this turn of events, Jordan and The Breakfast Club were one of the most important.
In response to the Pistons’ defensive strategy, Jordan decided to meet them head-to-head in terms of strength and endurance training. But his intent was never to match the Pistons, but rather to be able to go right through them.
And so, his early-morning training routines began, known as the Breakfast Club. Beginning by himself, he eventually roped Scottie Pippen, Ron Harper, and Randy Brown into the pre-practice workout that was less of a routine and more of a ritual.
Those four men, along with Jordan’s personal trainer Tim Grover and his personal chef, would get up as early as 5 in the morning in order to take part in a specifically targeted strength and endurance program. One that would finally be able to get through the Jordan Rules, based on raw strength and power.
While the training sessions were adjusted to the practicalities around playing basketball during the season and practice, the members never took days off. It became a way not only for them to beat the opponents physically, but it was also a psychological game in the sense that they knew they were best conditioned, strongest players on the court.
The Breakfast Club was a precursor for the training now done by basketball players to prepare for the court. No longer did “being good” mean practicing the most, it meant being in tip-top physical condition; when it came to both training and eating.
And that played out in dividends.
So, you throw enough bricks to build a house and we’re not even going to bring up your three-point game. Let’s just say that you’re not going to have any defensive strategy rules named after you anytime soon. And neither are we, for that matter.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn heads at the next pick-up basketball game. Or, at the very least, have a guy guarding you. When it comes to weight training for basketball, there’s a lot we can learn from The Breakfast Club—hell, they basically wrote the playbook.
The first lesson is that simply practicing the sport won’t necessarily get you to where you want to be. Sure, practice makes perfect. But if you want to excel, and excel easily, you need to overload your muscles to the point where the actual movements on the court will come easy. That kind of training won’t happen in a regular practice basketball game—it’ll only happen when you add progressively more tension on your muscles.
And there are a few different angles that training can be approached from.
MJ and the Club looked at strength and endurance training—two aspects that were absolutely necessary for crushing the Jordan Rules. We can build off of that by adding training for lateral quickness and explosive power, a key part being a strong core.
There’s also the necessary strength training. Both for explosive jumping power, but also a necessary component of having shoulders strong enough to be launching the ball into a swish. If your arm is getting tired halfway through a match, you can bet that your aim is going to suffer as well.
There’s also the component of conditioning training. You need to be able to keep up your endurance for long bouts of explosive power. If you can stay fresh in a game while the other team is already huffing and puffing, you can run circles around them. Whether you’ve got a defensive strategy created solely for the sake of stopping you, or not.
If you’ve already got a good workout routine, we’ve collected some exercises below for you to incorporate. These place a major emphasis on lateral movement and explosive energy, while also maintaining mobility and speed.
While losing is bad, getting injured is usually worse. These movements will maintain and improve the mobility you need in basketball, helping you to prevent injuries such as sprained ankles and ACLs.
Lunges are probably one of the best exercises to prepare you for basketball. The lateral lunge, for example, is a terrific way to practice the side to side shuffling motion during defensive plays, helping you to stretch out your hips. Moreover, these can also be done as a standard dumbbell lunge. If done till failure, the dumbbell lunge can double as an amazing conditioning exercise.
In order to perform the exercise, hold a dumbbell in each hand, and step forward with your right foot, bending the knee 90-degrees. You want the motion to be smooth, eyes forward, and back straight. Pause at the bottom and either go back into the starting position or step forward to do walking lunges.
Want to jump higher? Who doesn’t—especially in basketball, so you’re going to have to train those glutes. And if you think that you’re too short, let us introduce you to Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb. One of the shortest players at 5 '7”, he’s known for having won a dunking competition.
To begin the movement, you want to lie down on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet remaining flat on the ground. Tightly squeeze a soft object between your legs (like a towel) and engage your glutes so as to bridge your hips upwards.
Only your heels and shoulders should be touching the ground. Maintain the position for a few seconds at the top, and slowly lower back down.
While lateral lunges can help with defensive slides, the lateral bound will be a great way to train fast cuts and other sideways movements.
Balance on one of your legs and squat slightly, with the other leg off the ground. Engaging the leg muscles and glutes, jump off the squatting leg and land on your other one as softly as you’re able to. Make sure to keep your balance and pause after each jump for a few counts. Repeat for alternating legs.
This movement develops your posterior chain, much like the glute bridge. It’ll improve your vertical jump ability and explosiveness in the hamstring department. Furthermore, you’ll be employing a lot of stabilizers to keep you properly balanced.
Lying on your back, keep your feet extended while you put your heels on an exercise ball. Engage the glutes in order to raise your hips. The ball should move towards you, but don’t drop down the hips throughout the entire movement. Reverse the movement by extending the legs, then repeat for the desired amount of reps.
The deadlift is one of the greatest lifts to train explosiveness, and the same is true for the Romanian variation. Its greatest strength is developing the hip-hinge movement, which is where most of your jumping power really comes from. Your entire posterior chain will benefit from adopting this exercise into your training routine.
The Romanian variant of the deadlift is better for our goals since it begins from a standing position, effectively engaging more of the hamstrings and glutes. The traditional deadlift, on the other hand, places a greater focus on the quads and the mid-back area.
Begin the lift by holding the barbell with an overhand grip at the hip level. Continue by drawing the shoulders back while keeping your spine in an aligned position. Focus on the hip-hinge as you push your hips back and the bar is slowly lowered toward the feet. Driving through the feet and pressing your hips forward, return back into a standing position with the barbell resting in front of your thighs.
In order for MJ to smash through the Jordan Rules and the defensive gauntlet, he needed a crazy amount of strength. He knew that simply matching the other team wouldn’t do; he needed to get better.
The innovation of The Club’s training was largely due to how strength was tied to the game. Not only explosiveness was developed, but also general shoulder and lower body strength in order to keep the body going for longer, and with more power behind it.
The two different workout routines below both focus on these aspects, placing special emphasis to build muscle. These routines should be done in parallel with conditioning workouts, which we’ll look at further down below.
Furthermore, you should be warming up before each day with some mobility and core exercises—an important part when playing in a game as injury-prone as basketball.
Basketball is all about explosiveness. Explosive strength and explosive speed. So, a conditioning regime should above all reflect that.
While at least a little bit of cardio is always a good idea, your conditioning training for basketball should reflect a game with workouts that mimic:
Incorporating a good conditioning and endurance aspect into your workout routine will aid in injury prevention. Doing these movements over and over again for varying periods of time will get your body (and joints and ligaments) prepared for a real game. You can also incorporate ball handling and dribbling.
Another reason for a good conditioning aspect is the fact that the less fatigued you are throughout the game, the better you will perform. It goes without saying, but part of the strength of The Breakfast Club was that they focused on endurance as well. Their success was due in large part to the fact that they could perform in overtime just as well as in the first quarter when everyone else was already completely gassed out.
For a good conditioning workout, remember to keep in mind the specific energy system requirements. That means keeping the drilling anywhere from 15 seconds to 2 minutes at most at a constant and intense rate. A high-intensity interval training with a jump rope would be a terrific fit.
Furthermore, you should also be utilizing the same movement patterns that are found in basketball, such as the ones listed above. Whenever possible, your stance should be athletic and low.
Lastly, you want to progressively overload the body so you’re always getting better. You can do this in a number of ways, either decreasing the amount of rest you give yourself, increasing the speed at which you do these drills, or increasing the amount of drilling you do.
As the name suggests, The Breakfast Club was more than simply a training session. It was also a diet plan.
Not only was the training innovative during the time for basketball, but the whole idea of taking care of the body was also something that Jordan pushed with The Club. The body was much more than what you could make it do, but also what you put into it and how you fuelled it up.
The importance of diet can be seen with the inclusion of Jordan’s personal chef as one of the key supporting members of these infamous training sessions. It was the personal trainer along with the personal chef that helped to catapult Jordan, Pippen, Harper, and Brown into the stars they were—along with the rest of the team.
Eating clean with plenty of high-quality protein was an absolutely essential part of building muscle and elevating their athleticism like no other basketball player during the time.
Along with the food, however, was the camaraderie. In a team-based sport such as basketball, the long-term success so often falls into players playing cohesively (as much as it might not seem sometimes).
The Breakfast Club was more than a training session and more than a diet plan. It was a time and place where a group of guys got together for the sole purpose of pushing the limits of their bodies and their sport. We’ve just seen the effects of that.