How To Get Quicker, Faster and More Explosive On A Basketball Court

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I’m in my defensive stance driving the shooting guard to the left as it’s his weak side. My eye is on his waist so that I don’t lose focus of where his body is really going.  I take a step back in anticipation of his drive but none the less the guard hesitates and blows by me.

One of the most frustrating feelings you can have as a basketball player.

Or how about the one where you get shut down by a defender because you’re always getting beat to the spot?

When I had those things happen to me, my frustrations would drive me to train harder and stay after practice to play defense on the best scorers on the pro team (I was on the junior team at the time). It made me better on defense because I got better at reading the offensive players. But I didn’t get quicker and still couldn’t beat some of the players to the spot.

Still frustrated, it led me to reading and studying speed, agility and quickness training (and anything else that would improve it) from every resource I could get including going to Olympic track and field coaches and training with them. I believe that’s when my passion for training really begun (I had a purpose!), the first step to becoming a strength coach,  even though it would still be a long time before my basketball career ended.

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Here’s a guy who’s basketball fast…

My experiences coupled with the knowledge, trial and error in the trenches, help me when teaching and training basketball players on how to get faster on the court.

I brought this issue up because I can honestly say that 80% of the questions I get asked by basketball players are either:

  1. What do I need to do to jump higher?
  2. How can I get quicker, faster and more explosive on the court?

Since I’ve talked about the first question quite a bit, I wanted to address the second question and go into a little more detail that will help you increase your basketball game speed.

Before I move on I would like to mention that basketball speed doesn’t have much if anything to do with your top sprinting speed. I’ve seen many basketball coaches outlining speed programs for basketball athletes with many sprints (sometimes the majority) going over 50 yards.

I’m not going to say that there are no benefits to this type of speed training but it’s not what you’re looking for if your goal is being untouchable on the basketball court. Let’s be realistic, when do you really ever sprint more than 20 yards in basketball game? Most sprints are between 5-15 yards and there is a ton of starting, stopping, as well as lateral and multi directional movement.

While I’m talking about no no’s for basketball game speed, let me mention another one – working on speed and quickness with short rest breaks and treating it as conditioning. Seen that before?

If you’re not quick and fast then training with short breaks and incomplete recovery will only help you run at the speed you’re already at over and over again. Conditioning is one thing, speed training is another.

Ok, now we can get to the meat and potatoes.

There are a lot of variables in becoming quicker, faster and more explosive on the court. I’m going to list the one’s that I think are the most important as well as some that are completely overlooked. In no particular order of importance:

1.       Posture – this is definitely one of the points that are overlooked! When I’m talking about posture I mean having optimal alignment to transfer force for sprinting, starting, stopping, jumping.  Here are some of the most prevalent issues when it comes to messing up your posture:

–          Tight hip flexors

–          Gluteal amnesia (a.k.a. your butt doesn’t activate and work like it should)

–          Weak core

–          Tight hamstrings

–          Stiff ankles

–          Rounded upper back (shoulder forward posture)

–          Forward head posture

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Let’s just say his posture is holding his speed development back…..

These are definitely some of the most important issues that cause postural issues. If you are not in good alignment then you have what is called power leaks. These “leaks” prevent you from applying all the force and into the ground, making you a lot less powerful, as well as more prone to injury. The good thing is that a lot of times fixing one helps fix some of the others.

How to fix them?

A good program design that will address the issues with foam rolling, stretching, mobility and dynamic warm ups, as well strength training and corrective exercises that are going to get you where you need to be.

2.       Technique – Yes, you actually have to have good technique for accelerating, running and stopping. Fixing your posture will help with technique but you still have to work on it to get good at it (especially when you’ve done it engrained the wrong technique). I know many players that have good speed, quickness and power only to have really crappy technique which is slowing them down.

Making sure the hips are working without the back bedning…

3.       Relative Strength – Just get stronger! I’ve talked about this many times before but one of the best ways to get faster is to get stronger. Even though it sounds simplistic, it goes back to force production. The more force you can apply into the ground the faster you will go. There is a catch though; you have to apply that force quickly. More on that later….

Yes, this will make you faster (noises included)….

 Front squats, box squats, deadlift variations, bench press, chin ups, strongman training and everything in between. If you want to get stronger you’re going to have to get to know the above exercises and start lifting in lower rep ranges (1-6 reps) rather than constantly doing higher rep pansy exercises (which may help you get in a Speedo on stage…….take that back, it won’t even help you with that).

4.       Explosive Strength – This type of training will help us generate force fast and without the use of any elastic energy (momentum). Think about the first step in basketball, or jumping without momentum.

To train explosive strength you can use a lot of different tools. Some of my favorite are Olympic lifts (clean, snatch jerk) with a barbell or kettlebell, pause squat jumps and box jumps, speed box squats (chains and bands), tire flips, broad jumps, sled pulls, medicine ball throws and different accelerations and deceleration drills (and honestly, any other innovative exercise that will help you with explosiveness). These exercises should be done for lower reps with maximum acceleration and power.

Cleans are great if a player can do them, if they have restrictions there is other tools and exercises….

5.       Training Deceleration – You have to learn how to stop first. Most injuries in basketball come at a time of deceleration because the body cannot handle it. Train to decelerate whether it is from jumping or running, stopping and changing direction.

How should you train to decelerate effectively? Strength train and do absorption and plyometric drills to handle forces of deceleration. Drill proper landing and stopping mechanics, as there is an optimal way to stop (watch some players that always land on one leg when coming down from a jump).

You’d never think “slowing down” would be so important for speeding up!

6.       Reactive Strength (Reactivity) – Reactive ability is extremely important. Basketball is an extremely reactive game as it is so chaotic and changes on play happen quickly, so when they do you want to be able to stop fast (which we covered) and then change direction and re-accelerate. Since this happens so fast, your tendons store the elastic when you stop and reapply into acceleration. The same happens when having to jump consecutively without pausing.

Reactivity can be trained to a pretty high degree (we will touch on genetics later). Plyometrics are a great way to improve reactive ability. There are progressions depending on the physical preparedness of the player which can range from simple hops and jumps to single leg bounding, depth jumps, etc.

7.       Multi-directional speed and quickness – This is a combination of starting and stopping and being able to transition into different movements and directions. In basketball you may have to backpedal, then sprint and immediately drop down into a defensive stance and do lateral slides. All the above point will help you with multi directional speed and quickness but that doesn’t mean that training it with specific drills and technique will not help you, because it certainly will.

8.       Chaos Basketball Speed – Chaos speed training is putting all that we have learned into chaotic drills where change of speed and direction will be unpredictable and specific to the sport. This type of training is very broad and can be applied in many different ways but it is an incredible tool in improving basketball game speed.

Even though it is a volleyball team doing the drills, it’s a great example of the chaos speed training that could be applied to baskteball. Robert Dos Remedios Chaos Sport Speed DVD is a great resource for this type of training!

Many times we will use a basketball while doing these drills to really get a more game like feel and have the player get used to doing all the drills at full speed with a basketball.

9.       Basketball Skill and Playing The Game – All the above doesn’t matter if you’re playing basketball, you’re on offense and you have crappy ball handling skills, because you may have a quick first step and end up leaving the ball behind you. Being fast and quick and being crappy at basketball is not going to get you far on the hardwood (well, maybe you can still change sports and you can give me credit for being fast and quick there).

 I know that should be self explanatory but how many times have you met someone that has trained their vertical day and night, they can dunk like no other, only to find out they really suck at playing the game of basketball.

Above is a thorough list of the things you need to fix or improve on to get quicker, faster and more explosive on the basketball court. You may already be good or proficient at some but need work on some others. Ussually the aspect that you hate working on the most, is the one you need to work on the most!

Who needs what will be pretty individual and can be found out with some testing. To make it simple think of it this way, if you’re already a really reactive player but you’re too weak to lift up a bag of groceries, then you will see a lot of progress with improving relative strength and explosiveness (and make sure you’re posture doesn’t suck!). If you’re strong but feel like the weight of the world is pulling you down when you try to explode, then you may do a lot better with improving reactivity, explosiveness and training deceleration (there is also a slight possibility you’re a fat ass and you need to get your nutrition in check….that would explain the weight of the world thing). For most players, they will do besy progressively improving all the above aspects.

Now that you know what you need to work on, get to it! Knowing what to do and doing it are two separate things and action takers will always rise to the top. Are you one of them?

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About Luka Hocevar 4 Articles

Luka Hocevar is the president of Hocevar Performance and the performance director of Elite Athletics LLC, as well as Owner of Hocevar Performance Gym in Renton, WA and co-owner of the Kettlebells Center Ljubljana in Slovenia.

Luka has made a name for himself as one of the premier trainers in Washington state as well as one of the up and coming strength coaches in the country, helping clients and athletes from all walks of life achieve their personal physique and performance goals.

Luka has spent his whole life in the training and sports industry. He is a former professional basketball player that played years in the European leagues as well as the NBA Summer Pro League. During his career Luka started his training career by openening a kettlebell training center in his hometown of Ljubljana, Slovenia, which has now grown to be one of the premier kettlebell gyms in Eastern Europe.

Luka Hocevar

Luka’s journey continued to the U.S. to take his knowledge of training to the next level, studying everything he can get his hands on, as well as learning under some of the world’s top strength coaches while applying it with hundreds of clients in the real world. Over a decade of knowledge and training, as well as a lifetime of experience has come together as Hocevar Perfomance.

Luka’s training methods include a mixture of powerliting, Olympic weightlifting, Kettlebell training as well as many other methods to produce significant strength & performance gains. His specialty is his versatility to provide the highest quality training for every ability level from the young athlete, fitness enthusiasts to elite/professional athletes.

Luka has trained national and world champions, Euroleague basketball players, NBA, MLB players, UFC and other mixed martial arts fighters, as well as players from multiple other sports. He commits the same passion to all of his clients that are committed to reaching their goals regardless of what they are striving to achieve.

Luka has written a number of articles for international magazines and newspapers as well as being featured in the local newspapers and mentioned in the local KOMO 5 News. Luka’s gym in Slovenia has been featured in the international Men’s Health as well as being one of the hosts of the Men’s Health challenge 2009.

Luka is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS – FZS) and a certified fitness trainer (ISSA – CFT). He is also a Russian kettlebell instructor (RKC) with close to a decade of experience with kettlebell training.

Luka’s passion of training the youth has also led him to become a youth fitness specialist through the gold standard for youth fitness certifications – the IYCA.

Albert Park

Albert has been working and training at Hocevar Performance as a true apprentice to the Strength and Conditioning field since January 2009. His background in athletics and martial arts has allowed him to quickly gain knowledge and insight into the industry. He has helped numerous individuals reach diverse goals including Sports performance, Combat performance, fat loss, and overall health/fitness.

In college, Albert was a division II athlete competing in track and field at Western Washington University. While in school his passion for fitness and athletic performance was expressed as he became a Trainer and Group fitness instructor. A lot of his unique training styles come from the last 6 years of training in the arts of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai kickboxing, and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

From continuous studying, being mentored by Luka Hocevar, and drawing upon his experiences, Albert incorporates the most effective and latest strength and conditioning techniques into his training. His training methods are a fusion of strong-man movements, Olympic lifts, Mixed Martial Arts conditioning, bodyweight training and Kettlebell work. This variety of training methods allows him to effectively train different and diverse individuals from the weekend warrior to the athlete desiring to take it to the next level.

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