Optimizing your performance as a basketball player can be broken down into a two-part process. First you need to build the fundamental components of movement. Then you need to translate that movement into quality sports performance.
The Building Blocks of Performance
Your flexibility, strength, posture, balance, and agility are the foundation of all high quality movement patterns in basketball:
- Flexibility: Ankle mobility is important for basketball players, especially considering the high rate of ankle sprains in the sport.
- Strength: Increasing the strength in your legs can improve your vertical jump as well as your ability to dissipate or absorb force when you land.
- Posture: Maintaining neutral postural alignment allows for efficient biomechanics, while poor posture (head is too far forward or your spine is rounded, for example) puts your joints in a comprised position. This can result in a loss of efficiency when you’re trying to do quick, dynamic movements with a lot of force.
- Balance: Balance and core stability are what allow basketball players to maintain control of their body when forced into challenging positions such as boxing out when rebounding.
- Agility: Being an elite defender requires frequent changes in speed and direction.
Not only will working on the fundamentals improve your sports performance, but it can lower your risk of injury. An article recently published in the HSS Journal reported that young athletes with less motion through their Achilles tendons experienced significantly higher injury rates (1).
Weight training, plyometric training, and drills to improve your speed, agility, reaction time, and hand/eye coordination can all be used to improve basketball performance. Whatever strength and conditioning program you follow, don’t underestimate the importance of your form or technique. It’s easy do the right exercises the wrong way, which can reduce the effectiveness of your efforts and increase your risk of injury before you even get on the court.
Reframing Rest as a Tangible
Getting the appropriate amount of rest is a key factor in optimizing your performance. Think of rest as something tangible that you’re doing to improve in your sport. Practical steps that you can take to help your body recover from training include:
- Sleeping for at least 8 hours (uninterrupted is ideal)
- Hydrating adequately
- Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet
- Getting a sports massage
- Performing flexibility and foam rolling activities
- Practicing guided meditation and relaxation techniques
Adequate recovery is especially important during the basketball season – not only because you’re continuously depleting your resources with practices and games, but also because traveling for games can be hard on your sleep schedule.
When to Train
There’s never a wrong time to work on getting better at your sport, but giving yourself more time to plan may result in a better outcome. For optimal results, start putting together your plan to optimize your sports performance in the off season – that way you’ll be that much further ahead when the season starts.
Getting Together a Sports Performance Team
The elements involved in sports performance are both complex and unique to each athlete – your age, body type, experience, history of injuries, and fitness level are all factors that need to be considered. Having the right team of sports performance professionals is essential to optimizing your abilities. Consider seeking out a board certified sports physical therapist, whose training and experience makes them uniquely qualified to assess your current level of play and help you put together a long term plan for reaching your goals safely. At the Hospital for Special Surgery Tisch Sports Performance Center, our physical therapists and performance specialists work together to create a highly specialized and individualized program. Performance specialists include a range of professionals with backgrounds in exercise physiology and science.
Updated on March 4, 2020
Joseph Janosky is the Manager of the Sports Safety Program at Hospital For Special Surgery with more than 20 years of experience as a physical therapist and athletic trainer with elite collegiate and professional athletes.