Optimizing your performance as a basketball player can be thought of as a two stage process. First you need to build the fundamental components of movement, and then you need to translate that movement into quality sports performance.
The Building Blocks of Performance
At the basis of all effective movement patterns is your flexibility, strength, posture, balance, and agility:
- 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 a normal or neutral postural alignment allows for efficient biomechanics, while abnormal posture (for example, if your head is too far forward or your spine is rounded) 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 – boxing out when rebounding as an example.
- Agility: Being an elite defender requires a lot of changing speed and direction
Not only will working on the fundamentals improve your performance, but it lowers your risk of injury, which then increases your chances of being able to play and develop your sports skills. For example, 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).
Examples of exercises you might incorporate include weight training, plyometric training, and drills to improve your speed, agility, reaction time, and hand/eye coordination. Whatever strength and conditioning program you follow, don’t underestimate the importance of your form or technique. You can do the right exercises the wrong way, which would not only reduce the effectiveness of your efforts, but also increase your risk of injury before you even get on the court.
Reframing Rest & Relaxation as a Tangible
Getting the appropriate amount of rest and relaxation is a key factor in optimizing your talent. Don’t think of it as empty time – think of it as something tangible that you’re doing to improve in your sport. Practical steps that you can take in order to help your body repair itself include:
- Getting 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep
- Hydrating adequately
- Eating well
- Getting a sports massage
- Light stretching and foam rolling
- Practicing guided meditation and relaxation techniques
R&R 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.
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.