Note: The majority of this content was originally produced for STACK Magazine and can be viewed here.
Staying on the Court
Put simply, players that are injured are the players who have the smallest chance of improving because they must devote the majority of their team to rehab. Basketball is a game that must be worked at every day in order to become the player you want to be.
Some injuries are fluke accidents and no amount of preparation will help you avoid them. However, certain injuries like muscle strains and rolled ankles can be kept to a minimum by using these simple tools to prepare your body for the pounding it will take during practice and competition.
The following exercises will not only help you avoid injury but will make you more explosive and powerful. Quickness and explosive power are some of the most valuable assets any basketball player can have; yet many players struggle to find time to work on these.
In this post we will focus on improving our hip strength because the hips are vitally important to our athleticism. Healthy hips allows our whole body to stay healthy. Hip strength is one of the most important yet neglected aspects of athleticism. Your hips allow you to generate power, absorb shock, and change direction during practices and competition. Your butt and hips are the basis for any athletic movement or power generated from your legs. For basketball players your hip strength is what allows you to change from running down the court one minute to jumping in the air and grabbing a rebound the next. Here a fitness expert (Joel Smith) had to say about the importance of your hips in regards to athleticism.
"Any movement that converts horizontal velocity to vertical is going to require large amounts of strength through the hip joint...the legs act as rigid levers to translate an athlete’s velocity from horizontal to vertical."
Numerous scientific studies have also emphasized the importance of hip strength as an important link in the kinetic chain between your upper body and your lower extremities. Not only is hip strength important for quickness, but also is vital to the health of your knees, backs, and ankles. Staying healthy allows you to perform at maximum capacity while avoiding having to watch games from the sideline. One study found that athletes who were injured during the course of their season displayed “significant weakness” in their hips. One study on the effects of core stability found that: "athletes who experienced an injury over the course of a season displayed significant weakness in hip abduction and external rotation."***
The following exercises will not only benefit glute and hip fitness, but will improve your general health. Your hips are the key to preventing injury, because they connect everything in your body together.
Excercise 1 – Rotation Series
Find some empty space in your living room or bedroom get into table-top position – so that your hands and knees are touching the floor and your back is flat. This series of exercises can be performed with or without the resistance band. There are 4 different movements within the table-top series, you should alternate performing the movement with each leg so you don’t fatigue as quickly. The four movements are…
- Clockwise Hip Circles – bend your knee and raise your hip laterally and start making a series of large clockwise circles.
- Counterclockwise Hip Circles - bend your knee and raise your hip laterally and start making a series of large counter-clockwise circles.
- Firehydrants – raise your leg with a bent knee laterally, trying to get your knee as high as possible from the ground
- Lateral Lifts – lift your straightened leg to the side of your body, trying to get it as high as possible from the ground
You should go through all 4 movements with 8-10 reps on each movement on each leg (alternating legs with each movement), this comprises one set of exercises. You can do 2-4 sets at a time.
Exercise 2 – Bridge Series
Lay in a supine position with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. There are 3 different movements in the bridge series and can be performed with out without the resistance band. If you decide to use the band, put it around your knees and maintain tension on the band for the duration of the exercises by spreading your knees.
1. Double-Leg Bridge (3 sets x 10 reps) – lift your hips off the ground by driving through your heels and slowly lower your glute back to the ground after you done your bridge. Maintain tension on the band the entire time.
2. Single-Leg Bridge (2 sets each leg x 10 reps) – straighten one leg while keeping the opposite heel on the ground and lift your hips off the ground by driving through your heel.
3. Double to Single-Leg Bridge (3 sets x 12 reps alternating legs) - lift your hips off the ground by driving through your heels, but before you descend straighten one leg and slowly lower your hips back to the ground controlling your movement with a single leg. Maintain tension on the band the entire time.
Double Leg Bridge
Single Leg Bridge
Exercise 3 – First Step Series
Stand with the resistance band around your knees, making sure to keep the tension on the band the entire time. This is a great exercise for improving the quickness of your first step to get past defenders. There are 3 movements in this series.
1. Lateral Step (3sets x 15 reps) – start with tension on the band by spreading your knees and make a quick lateral jab and then return to your starting position. Alternate sides until you have done 15 reps with each foot.
2. Diagonal Step (3sets x 15 reps) - start with tension on the band by spreading your knees and make a quick jab at 45 degrees and then return to your starting position. Alternate sides until you have done 15 reps with each foot.
3. Reverse Step (3sets x 15 reps) - start with tension on the band by spreading your knees and make a quick reverse jab at 45 degrees and then return to your starting position. Alternate sides until you have done 15 reps with each foot.
Bonus Exercise: Perform the above exercises with “quick feet” (alternating your feet like you are jumping rope) instead of starting from a stationary position.
You might not have enough time to accomplish all 3 exercises at one time, but the important thing is to work on your hip strength at least 2-3 times a week in some capacity. Each exercise only takes about 5 minutes, which is small price to pay for increased quickness and explosiveness. Remember, all in the hips!
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