Explosiveness for Basketball

“In basketball, everything is first step” says Jasmin Repeša, coach of the Croatian Senior Men’s National Team (Repeša, 2009). A quick first step is paramount on the basketball court and it can be developed by proper technique and athleticism training. Single-leg strength powers this first push, which drives a ballhandler past the defence and towards the basket or enables a defender to close out quickly and cut down the three-point line (Ford, 2011).

Every athlete wants to be more explosive but very few know how to do so properly and safely. Achieving gains in explosiveness that improve performance on the court require a coach who is willing to inspire players to work at maximal Intensity and monitor the team so all repetitions are completed at the highest standard of Quality. Athletes must possess the discipline to train and practice with game Intensity and Quality throughout the season.

The Demands of Basketball

The average time of a movement in youth basketball is about two seconds. A one dribble sprint and a pull-up, a two-second cut and a jump-shot, jumping for a rebound and tipping it in. During a forty-minute game, athletes may perform well over a thousand distinct movements (Abdelkrim, El Fazaa, & El Ati, 2007, p. 72).

High performance basketball players must be able to accelerate to high speeds in a short time. Developing dingle-leg strength and maintaining a ready position can enhance this explosiveness. Due to the three-dimensional nature of the sport, which is played in an area enclosed by a rectangle that measures ninety-four feet long and fifty feet wide, a player may never reach full velocity in one direction but they must be proficient at changing direction quickly many times during a play and accelerating along a new plane (Moreira, Okano, vaz Ronque, de Souza, & de Oliveira, 2008).

Starting players on collegiate and elite development teams tend to be older, taller, and heavier than those who come off the bench. Those who played the most minutes also possessed a lower level of body fat, a higher vertical jump, more power from the lower body, and better speed and agility (Hobbs, 2008, p. 15). Bench players are unable to control their age or their size but they can increase their explosiveness in order to close the gap in minutes.

Improved explosiveness will help both rolling and standing starts when running. Also, the ability to push quickly in another direction will make it easier to decelerate from a full-sprint sprint in order to perform a sport-specific skill. Explosive athletes will be able to push off one foot to jump into the passing lane and steal the ball, accelerate to a full-speed dribble, and push hard off the floor in order to jump high and make the lay-up.

Fatigue and Overtraining

About sixteen percent of game time is spent on high intensity movements, like sprinting, jumping, and sport-specific movements. However, this is not consistent throughout the competition. Early in the game, eighteen percent of movements are classified as high intensity. This ratio decreases gradually to about thirteen percent during the final quarter (Abdelkrim, El Fazaa, & El Ati, 2007, p. 72).

We do not want to lose a game because fatigue hindered a first push towards a loose ball. Training explosiveness will provide our athletes with greater endurance and enable better performance in late-game competitive situations. Loading drills with additional weight early in the season or performing multiple repetitions under game conditions builds capacity. However, do not overtrain athletes and allow for full recovery between sets in order to train in a non-fatigued state and practice maximal intensity (Wakeham, 1999, p. 268).

Sport-Specific Skills

Shooting can be improved with an explosive vertical jump and defence necessitates the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction. Youth who are deficient in these explosive skills will be utilized less in game situations (Sporiš, Naglic, Milanovic, Talovic, & Eldin, 2010, p. 66). These sport-specific skills also weigh heavily on playing time in professional basketball. Performance in European professional leagues is largely determined by shooting ability and defensive effectiveness (Šeparovic & Nuhanovic, 2008, p. 17).

The athlete who lacks size can develop their explosiveness and level the playing field. A short guard may need another few inches on their vertical leap when executing a floater in the lane or an undersized rebounder can compensate by recovering after landing and jumping again before the bigger opponents can react.

Elite coaches want to close out the three point line, limit opponents to one-and-done possessions, finish in the paint, and score in transition. A player may not be as fast or as strong as their opponent but they can still perform these skills with a terrific first push.

Training Explosiveness

Complex training – combining strength and plyometric workouts on the same day – provides superior gains relative to other programs in terms of power ball throwing and acute and vertical jump performance. The plyometric training should not immediately follow strength training but take place after a recovery period. Three minutes of active recovery is usually sufficient (Ebben, 2002, p. 45).

A training program which loads energy systems, strength, power, and skill in succession should accomplish the goals of a basketball team (Balyi, 2009). The strength loading period could include explosiveness exercises at a lower level of intensity in order to teach the movement to the athletes and build confidence (Mackenzie, 1997).

Always practice a first push across all three planes of motion: coronal, sagittal, vertical. Include double and single leg explosiveness drills (Ford, 2011).

Long-Term Athlete Development

Youth coaches should understand the limits of the players who compose their teams. Some players may need more time to develop their fundamental movement skill, balance, or co-ordination before participating in plyometric exercises. Due to the prevalence of lower body injuries in basketball, especially knee and ankle (Shaw, Gribble, & Frye, 2008, p. 164), coaches should help athletes strengthen these body parts before pushing them too far.

Athletes who have not previously participated in plyometric training should start with low to medium intensity exercise with around forty contacts per session whereas experienced athletes can raise the level of intensity and perform up to two hundred contacts per session in a loading period (Mackenzie, 1997).

Off-Season Training

Basketball players can gain and lose explosiveness during the off-season. If an athlete eschews training during the off-season, they could be back to square one when the next season begins. They can maintain their vertical jump and first push by training explosiveness about once a week and can augment their results by incorporating a loading period for explosiveness. Such a period would last for about a month and consist of two workouts per week and four to six exercises per workout (Mackenzie, 1997).

Pre-Season and In-Season Training

Explosive movements should be trained in well-structured, focused drills which duplicate patterns that occur during games. Athletes should perform as many repetitions as they can while maintaining good technique. Some activities may start with three sets of six repetitions or three thirty second intervals. An appropriate work:pause interval is 1:1 with active recovery during the pause periods to dissipate lactic acid. Once the skill is developed to a certain point, repetitions are performed in high-speed game situations.

Explosiveness can be developed in the weight room, the basketball court, the stairwell, or any other available facility. The drills can be part of a training session (after strength training and recovery), stations at the beginning of practice, or imbedded within sport-specific skills. The only limitation is creativity. Coaches should constantly scrutinize Intensity and Quality and stop the training (for a recovery period or because athletes are at risk of overtraining) when these values wane.

Explosiveness Exercises

Explosive movements should be trained in well-structured, focused drills which duplicate patterns that occur during games. Athletes should perform as many repetitions as they can while maintaining good technique. Some activities may start with three sets of six repetitions or three thirty second intervals.

An appropriate work:pause interval is 1:1 with active recovery during the pause periods to dissipate lactic acid. Once the skill is developed to a certain point, repetitions are performed in high-speed game situations.


Other Athletic Abilities


Resources

  • Abdelkrim, N. B., El Fazaa, S., & El Ati, J. (2007). Time–motion analysis and physiological data of elite under-19-year-old basketball players during competition. British Journal of Sports Medicine , 46 (2), 69-75.
  • Balyi, I. (2009, February 20). Changing Coach Paradigms. (Ontario Coaches Conference)
  • Ebben, W. P. (2002). Complex Training: A Brief Review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine , 1 (2), 42-46.
  • Ford, J. (2011, February 23). Single-Leg Strength. (B. Bourgase, Interviewer)
  • Hobbs, M. L. (2008, December). Dynamic Balance and Basketball Playing Ability. Retrieved March 28, 2011, from eCommons@Texas State University: http://ecommons.txstate.edu/hpertad/3.
  • Mackenzie, B. (1997, January 1). Plyometrics. Retrieved March 28, 2011, from Sports Coach: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/plymo.htm.
  • Moreira, A., Okano, A. H., vaz Ronque, E. R., de Souza, M., & de Oliveira, P. R. (2008, Feburary). The effect of different models of training and competition-load structuration in the acceleration of adult male high level basketball players. Retrieved March 28, 2011, from EF Deportes: http://www.efdeportes.com/efd117/adult-male-high-level-basketball-players.htm.
  • Repeša, J. (2009, October 9). Personal Balance. (O.B.A. Clinic)
  • Šeparovic, V., & Nuhanovic, A. (2008). Latent Structure of Standard Indicators of Situational Effectiveness in Basketball in Bosnia League. Sport Scientific and Practical Aspects , 5 (1-2), 13-18.
  • Shaw, M. Y., Gribble, P. A., & Frye, J. L. (2008). Ankle Bracing, Fatigue, and Time to Stabilization in Collegiate Athletes. Journal of Athletic Training , 43 (2), 164-171.
  • Sporiš, G., Naglic, V., Milanovic, L., Talovic, M., & Eldin, J. (2010). Fitness Profile of Young Elite Basketball Players. Acta Kinesiologica , 4 (2), 62-68.
  • Wakeham, T. (1999). Improving Speed, Power and Explosiveness. In M. Brzycki, Maximize Your Training (pp. 257-270). Lincolnwood: Masters Press.