Agility is based on a fast change of direction, but no matter how fast your car is, if you don't have good brakes, you will crash. Same goes for a basketball player—if you can't stop safely, eventually things are going to go wrong. Adding deceleration training to your agility drills for basketball is crucial for two reasons.
- Injury Prevention: The majority of ACL and other knee injuries occur when attempting to stop a body in motion. Highest risk times are the moment of impact when landing a jump and when pushing laterally or changing from a forward to backward motion. Learning deceleration technique teaches the athlete proper knee placement and eliminates valgus (i.e., twisting of the knee joint) when the knee joint is most susceptible to injury). Proper technique also allows an athlete to slow his or her body down to a stop and absorb force with the stronger muscles of the hips instead of the weaker muscles of the thighs, again protecting the knee.
- Court Coverage: On both offense and defense, changing direction hinges on the ability to stop. Learning to stop quickly with balance and control gives an athlete the ability to move faster on the court and control his or her redirection. Finally, when athletes use proper deceleration technique, they develop proper lines of force, recruiting the strong muscles in their hips so they can move faster.
By enhancing these two factors, you can train athletes for both maximum court speed and safety.
The following drills teach athletes how to engage their hips to absorb force while correctly tracking their knees. Perform each drill three times a week to develop mastery and at least once a week after that to maintain good mechanics.
Reach to Load
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Reach your arms overhead as if you were blocking a shot.
- Lower into a quarter-squat to assume a loaded jump position; hold for 2 counts, keeping your chest up, back flat, weight in your heels and knees over your ankles.
- Drive up out of the loaded jump position.
Sets/Reps: 3x8-10 with 1 minute rest
- Stand on one leg with the other leg out in front at a 90-degree angle.
- In a controlled manner, squat down as low as possible with your heel still on the ground.
Sets/Reps: 3x8-10, in a slow and controlled motion on each leg; rest about 1 minute and repeat
Posture, the Forgotten Factor
As soon as a player begins to decelerate, he or she needs to pin his/her shoulders back to a neutral spinal posture (i.e., flat back) and pull his/her belly button in to have a braced core. Failure to keep a flat back and tight core during deceleration pulls the athlete's center of gravity (i.e., middle of body) out and away from their base of support (the area where their feet make ground contact). These postural flaws greatly increase the risk of court injury and inhibit speed and power production.
To improve postural control, perform 3 sets for 30 seconds of each of the following drills. Make sure to pull your belly button in and tighten your stomach as hard as possible during these drills.
1. Center Elbow Plank: Get into push-up position on the floor. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and support your weight on your forearms, with your shoulders directly over your elbows. Hold your body in a straight line from your neck to your ankles.
2. Superman: Lie on your stomach. Keeping your head down, raise your arms and legs as far off the floor as possible. Keep your elbows and knees straight. Hold this position for time.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock