Speed for Basketball

Be careful not to overtrain speed because it is not a critical performance factor in basketball. It may be impressive when a player sprints down the wind to finish on the fast break but these cases are rare during games. Basketball is a chaotic sport, involving a large number of discrete athletic movements, most of which last less than two seconds. As the level of play rises, so does the speed of the action. The fastest player is not always the best player; the best player is the one who can perform complicated movements under control.

Time Motion Analysis

Any speed training should be modified to suit tactical metabolic training: drills and exercises designed to mimic the physical demands of the sport. At the most basic level, this means that athletes will never run more than the length of the court without a change in direction — likely running many sprints at much shorter distances (Taylor, 2004, p. 26). Also, the rest:pause ratio of training sessions should be the same as games, which is about 2:1 (Abdelkrim, El Fazaa, & El Ati, 2007, p. 71).

Out of the thousand different movements performed in a basketball game, only ten percent are sprints at maximal velocity. Most sprints last less than 1.5 seconds so training should be adjusted accordingly. Only a quarter of all sprints last longer than two seconds and only five percent last more than four seconds (McInnes, Carlson, Jones, & McKenna, 1995, p. 391).

Sport-Specific Speed

Speed is only valuable within the context of movements which are valuable within the sport. Jason Kidd and Steve Nash are not the fastest players on the court yet they are very dangerous because of their change of pace dribbles and abilities to make decisions at game speeds. A ballhandler may be adept with various moves but they will never be able to explode to the hoop if they lose their balance and take time to recover.

Central Nervous System and Reaction Times

Training should also develop the body’s Central Nervous System and ability to perceive and react. A body that sends signals to activate the its limbs efficiently becomes a faster person (Balyi, 2009). Sprints which simply demand that an athlete accelerate to full speed before slowing down will achieve this function, as will an exercise that requires an athlete to react to a cue in order to choose which direction they will move (Stein, 2011). Athletes could also react to a teammate, opponent, or coach before commencing their sprint (Pasquali, 2010).

Given the short nature of sprints during the basketball, it becomes as important to train one’s rapid response as it does maximal velocity. Although the court may be ninety-four feet in length, most of the runs are shorter; common distances include ten, twenty, and fifty feet (Taylor, 2004, p. 29). The player who anticipates well and reacts swiftly during dynamic game situations will be quicker – a critical attribute – than the more athletic counterpart.

Acceleration and Deceleration

Balance is also a significant factor (Stein, 2011). Balance is essential because a first step must be under control and a player who is decelerating must recover their centre of gravity. In order to accelerate rapidly, athletes need to be stronger – especially in the lower limbs – in order to push off with their first step. Practicing sport-specific moves at peak intensity (utilizing both the right and left feet) will test the limits of athletes (Maroko, n.d.).

Guards can dribble at full speed for one or two dribbles and hit a pull-up jumpshot. Posts can run a short distance, such as from halfcourt to the paint, before catching a ball and making a power lay-up. A lateral shuffle for four or five steps followed by a quick deceleration in order to take a charge or a few long strides ending in some short choppy strides to get under control will develop defensive speed.

Load speed drills, moving from fundamental movement skill to pattern running to reading and reacting. Instruct athletes regarding the relevant clues to be monitored and advise them how to promptly respond (Holmberg, 2009, p. 76).

The acceleration and deceleration and the changes in direction necessitate lightning reflexes. Drills which force the muscular and nervous systems to work in tandem can develop sport-specific speed. A workout comprised of two-inch runs, base rotations, and line jumps can be effective and requires little time to perform (Slater, 2009).

Jumping and Landing

The accelerations and decelerations that are part of speed training are excellent preparation for the jumping and landing which is an integral part of the sport (Ford, 2011). On average, players perform about forty-four jumps per game so it is necessary that they can do so explosively and safely (Abdelkrim, El Fazaa, & El Ati, 2007, p. 71). Landing awkwardly is the leading cause of lateral inversion ankle sprains, one of the most common injuries in basketball (McGuine, Greene, Best, & Leverson, 2000, p. 242).

Training Speed

Year-round conditioning for basketball contributes to improved performance and reduced risk of injury. Key sport-specific physical performance factors include anaerobic and aerobic energy systems, muscular strength, power, and endurance, and flexibility. Although maximal velocity can be developed during a program that lasts at least six weeks, improvements are relatively insignificant and should be balanced against the risk of an overuse injury (Mikolajec, Góralczyk, Poprzecki, Zajac, Szyngiera, & Waskiewicz, 2003, pp. 40-47).

Dynamic Warm Ups

At the conclusion of the dynamic warm up, teams should perform a few short speed drills. These brief exercises will physically activate key body parts – muscles like calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings and joints like ankles, knees, and hips – and mentally energize the players in preparation for practice. A thorough dynamic warm up will reduce the risk of injury and raise intensity throughout workouts, practices, and games (Balyi, 2009).

Active Recovery

Obviously, the better the aerobic base, the quicker the recovery for the next sprint. In games, high intensity sprints occur every twenty-one seconds (Chan, 2011). However, there is non-stop chaotic action of varying degrees of intensity so all workouts should occur some form of active recovery, whether the work:pause ratio is 1:2 for tactical metabolic training or 1:4 for maximum velocity speed training.

Assessment and Evaluation

Assessment should be designed to improve performance, in addition to identifying those most likely to succeed in game situations. Testing usually combines speed, power, and agility, like the “T” test or a sport-specific skills test requiring players to move across the Coronal , Sagittal, and Transverse Planes. Testing should require different movements, such as lateral shuffling, back-pedalling, and a combination of movements.

Training Groups

Different positions need different levels of sprint training. Guards run at maximum intensity more than forwards and posts (guards complete about twenty percent more sprints than a post during games). Posts seem to run about fifteen percent more slowly than guards and forwards.

When planning practice time for physical performance factor training, coaches should be aware that guards spend about 5.9 percent of game time sprinting and 9.3 percent performing a high intensity sport-specific movement, compared to 4.5 and 7.9 percent respectively for posts (Abdelkrim, El Fazaa, & El Ati, 2007, p. 72).

Coaches should consider that while posts may run longer sprints than guards (basket to basket in transition), guards shuffle laterally longer because they are perimeter defenders (Delextrat & Cohen, 2009, p. 1980). While providing extra speed work for perimeter players could provide more strength and balance work for those who play in the paint. These divisions will also create a zone of proximal development effect, motivating sprinters of similar speed to push each other to improve.

Speed Exercises

Basketball requires chaotic speed and the ability to quickly change direction so while these drills develop flat out speed, they also require sport-specific skills.

Alternate between different drills to create variety; speed training should last a few minutes and the work:pause ratio is 1:4.




Other Athletic Abilities


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