By Scott Lucett, MS, NASM-CPT, PES, CES
Speed and agility training is crucial for basketball to improve footwork skills as well as improve cardiorespiratory stamina. Speed and agility training is also key in decreasing injury for basketball players. This article will review the rationale for speed and agility training for the sport of basketball and provide drills to enhance performance and decrease the risk of injury.
Basketball is an extremely dynamic sport that requires movements in multiple planes of motion as well as rapid transitions from jogging to sprinting to jumping. The ability to quickly elude defenders, rapidly decelerate to take a jump shot, or explosively jump up to grab a rebound are all skills required to effectively play the sport. It is equally important for the athlete to be able to perform these skills in a variety of directions and in a controlled manner to ensure injuries do not ensue. Due to the myriad of physical demands that come with the sport makes speed and agility training a crucial component to incorporate into a basketball training program.
Rationale for Speed and Agility Training for Basketball
Research has demonstrated that speed and agility training follows the principle of specificity, showing that straight (linear) speed training produces improvements in straight ahead speed with little carry-over to agility and vice versa (1).Thus, it is important to train these elements as separate components to ensure both speed and agility are being developed maximally. It has been shown that eight weeks of sprint training can improve performance in the maximum speed phase of sprinting (20-40 meters) and resisted sprint training (pulling a sled weighted with a 5-kilogram load) can improve the acceleration phase of sprinting (10 meters) (2).Research has further demonstrated that agility training can improve one’s ability to change direction (agility) (1).
Research has also shown that running and cutting maneuvers associated with many land-based sports can produce high levels of altered forces involved in non-contact injuries such as an ACL injury (3-5). Several authors have found that the use of specific exercise programs incorporating various forms of speed and agility drills can significantly reduce the incidence of injury, especially to the lower extremities, while improving performance (6-13).Many of these studies have made it a point to focus on the mechanics/technique and a systematic progression of the exercises used and not just the exercises themselves. This is necessary to help ensure that the body is being re-trained to move in biomechanically correct positions in a progressive manner and ultimately reducing excessive stress to the joints and connective tissues.
Speed and Agility Drills for Basketball
Speed can be defined as the amount of velocity a person has in any given direction (14). Typically, this refers to how fast someone can run in a forward directed, straight path of motion. Therefore, speed is the straight-ahead velocity of a person or how fast a person can run forward (also known as sprinting). With this said, speed drills would include those in which the athlete is required to run in a linear path. Example speed drills that would be appropriate for a basketball player would include:
- 10-in-1 Drill (sprint from one baseline to the opposite baseline and back to the original baseline, repeating five times for a total of 10 lengths of the court)
- 30-yard sprint: acceleration and maximal speed
- ¾-court sprint (sprint from the baseline at one end of the court to the free throw line on the opposite end of the court)
These drills will help improve straight ahead speed and deceleration capabilities required during transition periods and fast breaks that are performed in basketball. The drills can also be performed on the court and do not require a field. Refer to NASM’s Performance Enhancement Specialization course for more basketball speed drills.
Agility is the ability to start (accelerate), stop (decelerate and stabilize), and quickly change direction while maintaining proper postural alignment (15).This requires high levels of neuromuscular efficiency (movement coordination) because the athlete is constantly regaining their center of gravity over their base of support while changing directions at various speeds. All of these elements are very common in basketball and will be important to train for. Example agility drills that would be appropriate for basketball include:
- Pro-lane Agility Drill (sprint around cones following the below pattern)
- Agility Ladder Drills
- T-drill (sprint around cones following the patterns)
These drills are designed to help improve deceleration capabilities, change in direction and foot work skills required for basketball. Like the speed drills, these agility drills can also be performed on the court. Care should be taken when performing agility ladder drills on a basketball court to ensure the athlete does not slip on the ladder due to the slick floor surface. Refer to NASM’s Performance Enhancement Specialization course for these and more agility drills for basketball.
Below is an example speed and agility program that can be used for basketball. This program can be performed on non-OPT training days. For example, OPT training (core, balance, plyometrics and integrated resistance training) can be done on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while speed and agility training can be done on Tuesday and Thursday.
The sport of basketball requires many changes in direction, quick movements and explosive jumping. To ensure the athlete can perform these skills properly and handle the stresses that come with the sport, speed and agility training will be an important training component to include in the training regimen. These drills can be incorporated into any basketball program for athletes across all levels to help maximize performance and decrease the risk of injury.
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- Zafeiridis A, Saraslanidis P, Manou V, Ioakimidis P, Dipla K, Kellis S. The effects of resisted sled-pulling sprint training on acceleration and maximum speed performance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2005;45(3):284-90.
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