I’m not a fan of phrases like hacks or quick wins because it sounds like something meaningful can be achieved quickly and easily. However, I’m a big proponent of activities that generate significant returns in a short period of time (in a sports context, that means 2-3 months) but don’t require a lot of time investment.
This article is all about that, with a particular focus on basketball players. So without further ado, let’s go!
1. Good sprint training
Basketball players run a lot. But mostly not in a way that provides a great speed-enhancing benefit. So what makes an effective sprint speed session, you might ask? Here are the criteria that must be met for this to happen:
- Sprints must be performed in a “fresh” state. You’re not fresh enough if you can’t run at least 95-97% of your best sprint time.
- Sprints should be performed with maximum effort, ideally running against someone or trying to beat the clock.
- Sufficient rest is provided after each sprint, so quality is maintained. 45 to 60 seconds of rest for every 10 meters of a sprint.
- At least focus on good sprint mechanics.
If we look at what the majority of basketball players do, we will see that:
- They often do sprint training in a fatigued state
- They don’t rest long enough
- Little or no emphasis on sprint technique
- Prioritize quantity rather than quality (effectiveness judged according to fatigue)
In contrast to what good sprint work should look like, it’s easy to see how quickly basketball players can get faster by changing a few things. Athletes often tell me that it feels like “cheating” because they go faster without getting exhausted, like in their “speed building” sessions in basketball!
2. Good strength training
Even today, I am amazed at how misused true strength is in basketball circles. While the situation is improving, basketball coaches and athletes still fail to recognize the vast benefits of strength training. Even those who understand that strength training is a MUST often fail when it comes to designing a program.
When implemented at least halfway correctly, basketball players often experience rapid and noticeable improvements in their strength and explosiveness. I’ve seen guys go from barely touching the edge to diving in 4-8 weeks!
So the question arises, what is good strength training? For me, the following criteria must be met:
- 1-2 exercises per movement category per session
- 2-4 weight training sessions per week (1 is acceptable during the season)
- 1 to 3 sets of 6 to 20 repetitions per exercise
- There should be an exercise progression plan (more weights/reps)
- The rest period between exercises and sets is long enough to maintain quality.
- Good choice of exercises. My favorite exercises when designing a strength training program for basketball players are:
Lower body thrust: Goblet Squats, Split Squats, Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat, Step-Ups, Front Squats, Skater Squats, Single Leg Squats, Side Lunges, Calf Raises.
Lower body pull upDumbbell/Kettlebell Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift, Hip Thrust, Single-Leg RDL, 45° Back Extensions, Stability Ball Leg Curls, Copenhagen Plank
Upper body thrust: Push Ups, Dips, Overhead Press, Bench Press, Landmine Press.
pull upper body: Reverse Rows, Cable Rows, Pull Ups/High Pull Ups, Lat Pull Up.
And that’s all! It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that for hoopers to start seeing crazy, fast wins.
3. Dedicated foot training
A lot can be said about the foot and ankle complex and basketball players. According to Deitch and colleagues (2006), ankle and foot injuries account for almost a quarter of all basketball injuries. Poor proprioception, strength, mobility and neuromuscular capacities of the foot-ankle complex are risk factors for lower extremity injuries (Akoh et al., 2020).
From a performance perspective, dedicated foot training improved jumping and running performance (Tourillon et al., 2019; Unger and Wooden, 2000). It would therefore be crazy to say that a well-functioning foot and foot workout is of no use.
Unfortunately, basketball players spend a lot of time in their bouncy sneakers, which impedes their proprioception, mobility, and functioning. Additionally, ankle tapping is very common in basketball. Although duct tape is helpful in some cases, prolonged and unnecessary use only further inhibits the proper functioning of the foot and ankle.
With that in mind, it’s clear that even a little time spent on specific foot exercises can quickly bring noticeable improvements to basketball players. So a more practical question, what exercises and methods can be used to train the feet?
First of all, spending time without shoes during the warm-up is a great way to challenge your feet. Mobility, low intensity plyometrics and other low impact barefoot exercises will be beneficial.
Second, specific foot exercises like the short foot are a great way to target the smaller muscles in the feet and ankle. Calf raises, posterior calf raises, anterior shin raises, towel toe crunches, and single-legged hip circles are all simple but effective exercises for strengthening the ankle-foot complex.
Finally, exercises and activities that challenge balance and proprioception are a great way to improve foot function. Single-leg balance exercises, single-leg non-force weight exercises, trail running, and other activities performed on variable and “different” surfaces will provide a nice proprioceptive challenge.
And you don’t need to spend a lot of time with these exercises! A few minutes every other day will be enough to notice a difference.
Akoh, C., Chen, J., Easley, M. and Amendola, A., 2020. Foot and ankle injuries in basketball: Of the medicine and science of the sport of basketball. Spring, pp.455-458.
Deitch, J., Starkey, C., Walters, S. & Moseley, J., 2006. Risk of injury in professional basketball players. The American Journal of Sports Medicine34(7), pp. 1077-1083.
Tourillon, R., Gojanovic, B. and Fourchet, F., 2019. How to assess and improve foot strength in athletes: an update. Frontiers in Sport and Active Living1.
Unger, C. and Wooden, M., 2000. Effect of intrinsic foot muscle strength training on jumping performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research14(4), pp.373-378.
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