Basketball quickness and explosive power are among the most valuable assets for any player, yet many players struggle to find time to work on their athleticism as they balance workouts, practice, schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Ideally, it is best to invest in a comprehensive strength and conditioning regimen, but if you are crunched for time, a few simple exercises will improve your speed and athleticism in only a few minutes each day.
Hip strength is one of the most important yet most neglected aspects of this. Your hips allow you to generate power, absorb shock and change direction during practices and competition. Your butt and hips are the foundation for any athletic movement or power generated from your legs. Hip strength allows basketball players to change from running down the court one minute to jumping up and grabbing a rebound the next.
Here is what strength expert Joel Smith had to say about the importance of your hips:
"Any movement that converts horizontal velocity to vertical is going to require large amounts of strength through the hip joint. . . The legs act as rigid levers to translate an athlete's velocity from horizontal to vertical."
Numerous scientific studies have emphasized hip strength as an important link in the kinetic chain between your upper body and lower extremities. Not only is hip strength important for quickness, it is also vital to the health of your knees, back and ankles. Staying healthy allows you to perform at maximum capacity while avoiding having to watch games from the sidelines. One study found that athletes who were injured during the course of their season displayed "significant weakness" in their hips. And a study on the effects of core stability found that "athletes who experienced an injury over the course of a season displayed significant weakness in hip abduction and external rotation."
The following exercises will not only benefit glute and hip fitness, they will improve your general health. Your hips are the key to preventing injury, increasing explosiveness and maintaining basketball quickness, so it only makes sense to invest a small amount of time in improving their strength and flexibility. All you need to get started is some empty space and a simple resistance band (optional). Resistance bands or "tubing" can be found online, in athletic stores, or in your school's training room or workout facility.
Circuit 1 – Tabletop Series
Find some empty space in your living room or bedroom and get into tabletop position, hands and knees touching the floor and your back flat. This series of exercises can be performed with or without the resistance band. There are four different movements in the tabletop series. You should alternate performing the movement with each leg so you don't fatigue as quickly.
The four movements are:
- Clockwise Hip Circles. Bend your knee, raise your hip laterally and start making a series of large clockwise circles. Sets/Reps: 2x10
- Counterclockwise Hip Circles. Bend your knee, raise your hip laterally and start making a series of large counterclockwise circles. Sets/Reps: 2x10
- Firehydrants. Raise your leg with a bent knee laterally, trying to get your knee as high as possible off the ground. Repeat the lift 8-10 times. Sets/Reps: 3x10
- Lateral Lifts. Lift your straightened leg to the side of your body, trying to get it as high as possible off the ground. Repeat the lift 8-10 times. Sets/Reps: 3x10
Go through all four movements, doing 8-10 reps of each movement on each leg (alternating legs with each movement). This comprises one set of exercises. You can do 2-4 sets at a time.
Circuit 2 – Bridge Series
Lie in a supine position with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. There are 3 movements in the bridge series, and they can be performed with or without the resistance band. If you decide to use the band, put it around your knees and maintain tension for the duration of the exercises by spreading your knees. Check out Dwyane Wade's Power Plate Glute Bridge in the video player above.
- Double-Leg Bridge. Lift your hips off the ground by driving through your heels, then slowly lower your glutes back to the ground. Maintain tension on the band the entire time. Sets/Reps: 3x10
- Single-Leg Bridge. Straighten one leg while keeping the opposite heel on the ground. Lift your hips off the ground by driving through your heel. Sets/Reps: 2x10
- Double to Single-Leg Bridge. Lift your hips off the ground by driving through your heels, but descend by straightening one leg. Slowly lower your hips back to the ground, controlling your movement with a single leg. Maintain tension on the band the entire time. Sets/Reps: 3x12, alternating legs
Circuit 3 – First Step Series
Stand with the resistance band around your knees, keeping the tension on the band the entire time. This is a great series of exercises for improving the quickness of your first step to get past defenders. There are three movements in this series.
- Lateral Step. Start with tension on the band by spreading your knees, make a quick lateral jab and then return to your starting position. Alternate sides until you have done 15 reps with each foot. Sets/Reps: 3x15, each side
- Diagonal Step. Start with tension on the band by spreading your knees, make a quick jab at 45 degrees and then return to your starting position. Alternate sides until you have done 15 reps with each foot. Sets/Reps: 3x15, each side
- Reverse Step. Start with tension on the band by spreading your knees, make a quick reverse jab at 45 degrees, then return to your starting position. Alternate sides until you have done 15 reps with each foot. Sets/Reps: 3x15, each leg.
- Bonus. Perform the above exercises with "quick feet" (alternating your feet like you are jumping rope) instead of starting from a stationary position.
You might not have enough time to accomplish all three series at one time, but the important thing is to work on your hip strength in some capacity at least 2-3 times per week. Each series only takes about 5 minutes, which is a small price to pay for increased quickness and explosiveness. Remember, it's all in the hips.
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