The fundamentals of basketball include a heavy dose of jumping, pivoting, cutting to the basket and sprinting around the court. Even the most talented and gifted players must stay on top of their fitness and skills training in order to be effective in a game. No matter what level of the game you participate in, it is vital to be in the best basketball shape for you and your team. Everyone from high school athletes to neighborhood court players can benefit from putting in the work off the basketball court to improve their game on the court. You need great agility to stay in the play and never be out of position or to make an incredible diving play to steal a pass. Making sure you can jump higher to grab that rebound is crucial in tight games. When you put in the extra work, it will show itself on game day and keep you motivated to stay on the grind.
Some players are better suited for a higher vertical jump than others. On the other hand, there are players that are naturally quicker and more explosive than some. Sometimes though as we see more and more, the player who is built for super high jumping also has amazing footwork and agility. This is a tribute to when a player puts in the time to improve the weak points of their game. The more tools you have in your toolbox then the more valuable of a player you can be.
Squats And Hill Sprints
When it comes down to it, having a good vertical jump in basketball is one of the most revered and important abilities to have. Some players are naturally gifted, and some other players have to train for an impressive vertical jump. No matter what level you are at, training to improve your jump is still a must. You can never jump high enough in basketball. Let’s go over some basic, proven methods for increasing your vertical jumping ability.
The main muscles used in jumping are your quads and hamstrings, these are the main drivers for jumping. The calves act by transferring the motion through your ankles where you make contact with the ground as you push off using your feet. While strengthening the quads with squats or leg presses will help, you must also practice jumping itself by including jump squats. To perform a jump squat, you lower down into a squat and then explode upward into your jump. This type of squat trains and activates the fast twitch muscles which are responsible for fast explosive movements. Be sure to incorporate traditional squats as well to build up strength.
One of the most efficient forms of training strength and endurance in the legs is doing hill sprints. In less than 20 minutes per session you can get an effective workout that benefits the quads, hamstrings, calves and most importantly, your ankles. Doing hill sprints will strengthen your ankles by making them flex towards the shin creating flexibility and durability. Having strong ankles helps prevent injury and will improve your vertical jump. Doing hill sprints also increases overall stamina and explosiveness. Including hill sprints as part of your training will help you jump higher and give you more endurance during a game.
For your hamstrings there are many exercises to choose from. One of the most popular is the deadlift. A deadlift has many, many variations. For those who don’t lift on a regular basis, it may be better to use the deadlift trap bar. Using a trap bar will reduce injury from typical barbell deadlift which when done wrong can lead to injury. Simply load the trap bar with a challenging weight and pull it off the ground for a set number of repetitions. Be sure to keep your back straight during the lift. The hamstrings play a very important role in jumping and maintaining strength in this muscle group will lead to higher jumps.
Another excellent exercise for the hamstrings is the Nordic Curl. This move involves lying face down with your feet secured. You can use a heaving barbell to anchor your feet down or an actual Nordic curl bench specifically designed for this exercise. With your torso upright, lower yourself down slowly on the eccentric portion and once you reach the bottom engage your hamstrings to raise yourself back up again on the concentric motion. One of the best ways to improve your vertical jump is by having strong hamstrings.
Agility Training Exercises
Basketball requires quickness during every phase of the game, especially in the half court setting where most of the game is played and schemed around. Every player from guards, forwards and centers needs to be agile and have the ability to change direction in a flash plus stop on a dime at any moment during a game. Now that you have strong legs let’s put them to work with some basic agility drills.
Most of the movements done in basketball are side to side lateral stop and go type of motions. To enhance your lateral ability, you need to mimic and practice the same movement performed in a game situation. Start with a lower stance and shift your feet to shuffle sideways for a set distance. This will develop your mind-muscle connection to the point where you don’t have to stop and think about what to do, you will do it automatically. This drill will make you a formidable defender inside the paint and on the perimeter. Having good lateral mobility also will help you create space on the offensive end leaving you open to drain a clutch shot from deep.
Zig Zag Drills
Having the athleticism to change direction on the open court can move the other team’s defense out of position, creating gaps for you to attack. When you practice the zig zag drill you get really good at both moving with the ball or moving without the ball. You can use cones to make it easier, but you can still do this drill by knowing where you want to change direction. Start by sprinting to the first cone or point you set then change direction and sprint diagonally to the next point as you go down the court. Practice this drill in different ways like using your back pedaling method that you use when getting back on defense during a transition. One other technique would be a sideways long stride type of shuffle. Knowing different ways to move around the court makes you a more versatile and valuable player no matter your position or role on the team. You can time this drill as a way to push yourself and track improvement.
By sticking to the basics of training, you give yourself the best chance for improvement and growth. Repeating the basics keeps you focused and ready. Having too many options tends to water down and stunt progress. There are of course other effective drills and exercises to try but be sure to go with what works and what your coaches suggest. Having your own program outside of practice will give you an edge on the competition. Creating the discipline to get better in your own time could mean more playing time and a brighter future in basketball and in life.