You run all-out "death valley" sprints every practice. You spent some of your summer earnings on equipment and gadgets to improve your first-step explosiveness. But you're still getting taken to the hoop and eaten alive by defenders. What can you do to improve your speed and on-court quicks?
Stretch. Elias Karras, founder of EFT Sports Performance and former trainer of Lance Briggs and Tommie Harris, says, "don't take mobility and flexibility for granted" when working to develop speed. You might think this advice belongs in the Flexibility section of the mag; but for basketball players, muscle and joint fluidity provides the biggest assist for improving hardwood speed— particularly if you're not blessed with innate Derrick Rose-like lightning quickness.
According to Karras, here's what you need to do to see a monumental improvement in your flexibility, and therefore directly improve your speed and vert. It helps to prevent injury too.
Start every practice or workout with foam rolling or PVC tube massage therapy. Hit up any muscles or soft tissue areas where pain is noticeable, and always emphasize rolling calves, Achilles, hips, glutes and hamstrings.
Progress to a Barefoot Dynamic Warm-Up. Use movements such as Lunges, Leg Kicks, Hurdle Walks and Walking Hamstring/Glute Stretches. Doing them barefoot recruits proprioception, which is the ability to sense the position, location, orientation and movement of the body and its parts. In layman's terms, it's your brain sending a signal to your foot to "move to fire." Building proprioception helps to develop faster and stronger feet, more stable ankles and posterior body balance from the ankles to the core.
Finish with a must-have for all ballers: Barefoot Hurdle Duck Unders and Step Overs. You'll complete your Dynamic Warm-Up with an intense flexibility drill that will get the blood flowing and also loosen up the hips, hamstrings and glutes.
Do all three consistently and you'll improve your speed without sprinting or picking up a ball.
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