How to improve your game Speed, Basketball, Tennis and Squash
If your game is confined by a limited amount of space, the ability to accelerate, decelerate and change of direction (agility) are the elements that will either make you a Pro, or Recreational.
Skill is the part that your sport specific coach will work on, game play, dribbles vs back hand are all subjective choices that require you to know sport and practise. Speed and agility training is the most overlooked part in basketball training these days. For Instance in Basketball, everyone wants to increase their vertical leap, but if you can stop and start better than any other player on the court you have a huge advantage throughout the course of a game. And so athleticism is another matter entirely and one that shouldn’t be neglected. Being even 0.1 of a second quicker across the court could be the difference to winning the point and winning the championship or not even being chosen to play!
Most, in fact nearly 99% of sprinting in any court based sport starts from moving or “rolling” positions, not a stationary one with time to prepare. So, some of your training should be spent with that in mind. Performing your speed training from different starting positions such as turning and sprinting from a backpedal, accelerating from a side-shuffle, or running after getting up from the floor (simulating being knocked down and having to get up and hustle down the court) translates into more “real world” training for basketball players than simply lining up at one baseline and sprinting to the other. But of course as is becoming more and more stated, you need to know the rules before you can break them. So learn positional acceleration and then apply it in game context.
Now there are in reality a fair few things to consider as a coach when we take a deep look at an athlete and try to improve these area’s and these are probably to in-depth for this short article (i.e. inside vs outside edge, knee collapse, COM, extension vs flexion requirements and even hip raise and rotation etc) so below I am just going to provide some very simple drills/exercises you can do that will get you some of the way yourself, if you decide you want that extra edge on your competitors then feel free to contact and arrange some coaching.
So let’s start with a position nearly everyone knows a version of:
This drill helps put the body in an optimal position for leg action and body posture. It helps a player develop motor skills that transfer into great technique specific to sprinting.
Benefits: Trains the movement pattern of acceleration.
Initially position yourself approx. so that when arms reached out you are 6-8 inches from the wall (remember you’re a court sport athlete, you don’t want to be in the same position as a track athlete in blocks) lean into the wall hands at shoulder high supporting your weight and heals off the floor.
- First exercise is a simple March, high knee lift and applying pressure into the floor just as you would if trying to move the wall
- Next up, Switch. With one leg already raised high you’re now simply to switch legs as fast as possible (as one goes up the other comes down) aim to punch your knee forward and finish in a strong solid position
- Next, progress the Switch into doubles, making that Boom Boom sound as each foot hits the floor, continually applying the pressure into the wall
Now this is an exercise purely aimed at your feet and calf structure, improving your athleticism, stability and also your reactivity to get moving quicker
Benefits: Improves ability to generate and absorb force
Positioning for this exercise is very simple, imagine you’re doing jump rope, straight body, strong hips and straight legs (knees should not be completely locked out, allow some slight bend to occur – this is actually a benefit we want)
- “Life jumps”, 2 Jumps Forward and then 1 back. Covering only about 10 inches in distance each jump landing and using the ball of your feet try to minimise the heal touching the floor, especially on the backward jumps complete about 6 rounds of the sequence.
- “Bad Patch”, Reverse the above, 2 backward and 1 forward
- “Stuck In a rut” Similar to above but now sideways, mix this one up but its 2 jumps in a direction followed by one jump the other way.
Plyometrics improve explosiveness for vertical jumping and first-step quickness. It allows basketball players to produce maximal force quickly. Broad Jumps can help a player express a higher amount of force horizontally, basically allowing him or her to move quicker going forward.
Benefits: The Broad Jump is a great foundational drill to enhance explosiveness.
This is as standard as you imagine and know it to be, standing tall in a power position (feet shoulder width and slightly bent, quickly descend swing your arms and jump as far as you can.
Reaction drills are seldom used in training but are essential to success. The ability to react to constant changes on the court makes for versatility. A well-rounded player will not only be able to achieve success, but play at the highest level. The Ball Drop Drill is a great drill to enhance reaction in basketball.
Benefits: Quickness and coordination
This drill compliments the Rudiment jumps Nicely. For this one the coach will either give a visual or Auditory signal for reaction this can be a simple “Go” a light turning on or the dropping of a ball.
On the signal the athlete simple moves as fast as possible to a pre-determined point or even to the ball it-self. The athlete should be in a ready position similar to the broad jump start with weight positioning on the balls of their feet. When training alone the athlete can use any “reaction” app on their phone.
Personally this is one of the most beneficial drills for any team sport, be that a court or field based athlete. And this is a skill that really sets people apart. The ability to stop is a pre-requisite for the ability to then get moving again in another direction, or even not hit the wall!
Benefits: Game Speed!
This drill always starts with some movement in a direction, initially keep it simple and just go forward!
- First drill set 2 cones 10m apart (now known as cones 1 and 3)
- A 3rd (no2.) cone at 3 meters from the 1st cone (7m from Cone 3). The athlete accelerates from cone 1 as fast as they can, when they hit cone no2 they try to stop before they get to the 3rd cone
- Progressing is simply moving the 2nd cone a meter closer to cone 3 with the athlete only moving to the next when they complete 2 successful stops within the distance.
- Next drill is a 3 step continued. Very simply the athlete has to cover the full length of the court, they accelerate only for 3 steps and have to stop in 1. Repeat the sequence until the end.
- Last progression is to react to an signal and stop as soon as possible, for this purpose it needs to be an auditory response ( progression to a visual signal only once this is mastered)
So there we have it, a simple training progression to help any team sport either field or court based to work their ability to improve speed, quickness, agility and deceleration capacity to really aid their game play and set them apart from the opposition. You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned anything about traditional “Agility” drills running round cones etc, that’s simply because I feel to do these correctly you need a coach on site, observing foot position and your capacity for internal and external rotating to create the space and positioning for optimal acceleration. In fact we will have a podcast discussing this very soon so take a look over in the Podcast section of the site.