“Thousands of high school and college players can shoot and dribble as well as some pros; however they fall short of the pros in speed, power, agility, coordination, strength, and endurance. This is what prevents them from competing on a higher level.” -Dean Brittenham Strength and Conditioning Coach, New York Knicks
Most conventional training programs are based on the fact that if you practice basketball skills over and over that all other variables in the sport will be enhanced as well. While improving skills is critical, especially at younger ages, it is the improvement of the player’s athletic skills that will elevate the athlete to the next level.
Athletic skills include strength, speed, power, endurance, agility, balance, and quickness. Conditioning is a great equalizer. It could make the difference as to whether you start or sit, or whether you can advance to the next level.
When one looks at the various athletic qualities, more often than not strength is at the core. Strength is the ability to exert force at a given speed. Let’s take a look at speed, power, and agility.
Speed is the amount of distance covered in a given amount of time. Acceleration is how quickly you get to top speed. A basketball player does not hit top speed unless he is at the end of a fast break. Acceleration and stride rate are the most important speed related factors in baskteball. Strength, particularly in the quadricep, hamstring, and hip flexor groups, plays a role in all of these abilities. Lateral speed and multi plane reactive speed are big issues.
Power is the product of force, therefore strength, and velocity. This quality is needed both at the plate and on the mound. Power is the ability to exert strength in a given time frame. A good example is a vertical jump. It takes about .2 seconds for most athletes to go from flexion to extension at the knee before leaping. Why do some athletes that weigh the same amount and extend their knees in the same time frame jump higher than others? They can express more force via strength and motor recruitment in this time frame. Speaking of vertical leap, we can improve it here. A program utilizing methods to minimize power loss through the torso will be used in conjunction with plyometrics. The key is stabilizing the pelvis, hip abductors, adductors, and external rotators. We also need to analyze your jump for proper knee tracking and to prevent what Chicago Bulls strength coach Al Vermeil calls back jumping. The low back is comprised predominantly of slow twitch fibers and will not get you vertical fast enough. Glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps should be used to provide power for jumping. Agility is the body’s ability to change direction while maintaining speed. Power, and therefore strength is at the root of agility. Key areas are the legs, hips, abdominals, and low back.