Basketball Plyometric Exercises

Improving Explosiveness on the Court
Increasing a Basketball Player's Strength, Power, and Flexibility
By Alan Stein, Stronger Team

What Are Basketball Plyometric Exercises?

Basketball plyometrics are drills that usually involve some form of explosive movement such as a jumping, hopping, or bounding movement for the lower body, as well as some type of swinging, pushing, and throwing for the upper body. Basketball plyometrics are designed to increase a basketball player’s power, balance, coordination, and quickness.

[Related: Basketball Coaching Playbook]

Ray Allen drives to the basket for a layup.

How Does Basketball Plyometric Drills Work?

Plyometric drills use the force of gravity or of a weighted medicine ball to store potential energy in the muscles, and then immediately release this energy in the opposite direction. The energy stored, in addition to physiological responses and mechanisms in the body (myotatic reflex) during the eccentric (negative, muscle lengthening) phase of a muscle contraction, is used to produce a more powerful concentric (positive, muscle shortening) phase of muscle contraction.

Are Plyometric Basketball Drills Safe?

If plyometric drills are appropriately picked and supervised, than they can be a safe and productive supplemental workout tool. However, the game of basketball itself is already very plyometric in nature, so adding a large volume of additional plyometric drills can be counterproductive and produce overuse injuries including orthopedic trauma to the joints, tendons, ligaments, and bones that occur from too much impact. Unlike many other sports, today’s basketball players play year round with no real off-season. It has been estimated that the average basketball player will perform between 450 and 500 full speed jumps per week. As such, what will an additional 50 jumps from a plyometric training program do? While plyometric basketball drills – commonly referred to as ‘Plyo’s’ - can be implemented carefully into a training program as a way to help players with their body-awareness and confidence in performing certain movements, it is imperative to pick only the safest drills and use as soft of a surface as possible to reduce the orthopedic stress placed on the body during such drills. It is not necessarily the jumping that could potentially cause a problem, but rather the landing. Be very cautious when having basketball players jump off of boxes and/or performing weighted jumps.

How Do You Improve a Player’s Explosiveness?

Explosiveness is a key ingredient in the sport of basketball. Basketball players and coaches are constantly in search of ways to increase their vertical jump and run faster. Simply put, the basketball player or team who can run faster and jump higher has a tremendous advantage over their competition. Great improvement can be made for a basketball player’s explosiveness by implementing a structured, progressive, and safe basketball strength training and plyometric workout program, complimented by dynamic flexibility training and floor conditioning drills.

By improving in each of the following 5 areas; a basketball player will be able to run faster, jump higher, and become more explosive on the court!

Improving a Basketball Player’s Strength

If a basketball player increases the strength in their legs, hips and core, they will automatically improve their ability to produce force, which results in greater explosiveness. For example, the more force a basketball player can exert against the ground – the higher the potential to vertical jump (basketball strength training routine).

As mentioned above, it is extremely important for a basketball strength training program to be safe, time efficient, and productive. To reduce orthopedic stress while lifting weights, basketball players should work within an appropriate repetition range (8-15 reps per set) and avoid maxing out. Basketball players should aim to make every weight lifting workout as time efficient as possible; this can done by using a limited number of exercises and sets, thus making the workout brief, but intense. This can be accomplished by minimizing rest intervals in between weight lifting sets.

A basketball strength training program should focus on training the entire body equally to ensure muscle balance. Working opposing muscle groups equally will help reduce the risk of on-floor injuries, while training at a high level of intensity will produce great results. All of this can be accomplished in 2 or 3 well planned full body workouts per week, each lasting about an hour.

Improving a Basketball Player’s Power

As obvious as it sounds, if a basketball player wants to be able to jump higher, he needs to practice jumping as high as he ca. Basketball plyometric drills (jumping, skipping, bounding, etc.) provide a means for basketball players to practice jumping with maximal effort in a safe and controlled environment. Also, a proper basketball plyometric program can help train the nervous system to perform basketball player movements more efficiently. Since the game of basketball is already very plyometric in nature, these drills and workouts should be chosen carefully and be done in limited volume. Again, coaches should attempt to reduce as much impact and orthopedic stress as possible. Here again, try and use soft training surfaces, make sure your basketball players are wearing proper shoes, and know that when it comes to plyometric drills, more is not necessarily better.

Broad jumps, squat jumps, box jumps, and broad jumps are some common plyometric drills used to increase an athlete’s explosiveness. When doing box jumps, it is recommended that basketball players jump onto the boxes only. It is important to note that these plyometric drills should be performed when basketball players’ legs are fresh and before lifting weights.

Improving a Basketball Player’s Flexibility

Flexibility is defined as a full range of motion in a joint or group of joints. Improving a basketball player’s flexibility in the ankles, hamstrings, hips, and lower back can increase a player’s potential to be more explosive. Flexibility is accomplished best by performing all weight lifting movements through a full range of motion, and performing dynamic flexibility drills before every practice or workout. The old days of sitting on the ground and static stretching are gone!

Improving a Basketball Player’s Skill Proficiency

Proper skill training is one of the most overlooked aspects when trying to improve a player’s athletic power. Decreasing the amount of time it takes to perform a specific basketball player skill is in essence increasing the speed at which the skill can be performed. In short, increasing the speed at which a skill is executed will result in improved player’s explosiveness on the hardwood. The most practical and effective way to improve basketball skill proficiency is to execute these skills through many hours of basketball individual workouts. Players need to practice the specific skill at game speed. For example, the better a forward becomes at shooting a jump shot, the more range he will have. Increased skill proficiency means it will take less time and energy to perform the skill. Competent basketball coaching, studying videotape, and many hours of perfect practice are the best ways to improve a basketball player’s skill proficiency.

Improving a Basketball Player’s Conditioning Level

A basketball player’s overall conditioning level is vital in his attempt to become more explosive. As you might have guess, what good is improved skill and strength if you can’t maintained it for the entire ball game? Delaying or preventing the onset of fatigue is vital to performance. A well-conditioned basketball player should be just as good in the second half as he was in the first half. A progressive pre-season basketball conditioning program should make sure that all players are in great shape to begin the new season.

In summary, if a basketball player wants to become more explosive on the hardwood, and therefore give themselves an advantage over their competition, they need to become stronger through productive weight lifting workouts and structured plyometric drills, while at the same time mastering the skills of basketball – passing, shooting, ball handling, defending, rebounding and boxing out.

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