Basketball is a game of speed, fast breaks, changes of direction, strength, power and stamina.
It truly is one of the most complete sports out there today.
If you think you can get away with just shooting in the backyard,
you’ll be sadly mistaken.
If you think you can just train in the weight room to get better,
you’ll also be mistaken.
Getting back into basketball as an adult requires a seamless integration of strength, conditioning, mobility and skills practice.
That’s why we wanted to put this article together.
We wanted to show how you, the adult athlete can optimize their triumphant return to the game without pulling a “hammy”,
without blowing up your back,
and without having a coronary on the court.
This article series will outline 7 major areas of focus when getting back into the game.
Injury awareness and prevention
Mobility and warm-up
Part 1 of this article will outline two of the seven major areas of focus – injury awareness and prevention and mobility and warm-up.
Injury awareness and prevention
It is inevitable that all sports involve some level of risk.
Basketball is no exception.
The most common injuries in basketball are lateral ankle sprains,
Knee irritation (jumper’s knee),
Lumbar (low back) strains,
and hamstring strains.
The beautiful thing about this list is that 3 out of 4 of these issues are largely avoidable with the right training and the fourth one can be greatly reduced with good training.
Lateral ankle sprains
These are going to happen.
Rolled ankles are a part of the game.
But there are a couple things you can do to help.
First, you can lift weights in a minimalist shoe or even barefoot.
This will strengthen up the ankles that are often babied with the artificial support provided by your Jordans.
Deadlifts, squats and lunges can work wonders on the foot and ankle if you free your ankles from the cushy walls of your high-tops.
Ditch the jordans when it comes to the weight room and your ankles will thank you.
Second of all, we address much of our ankle work in the warm-up with the use of both mobility drills to enhance the extensibility of the tissues in and around the ankle and stability drills to enhance balance and rigidity of the ankle.
The ankle needs to be able to move through it’s full range of motion but it also needs to be rigid for jumping up over and over for rebounds, for landing after a lay-up and for sprinting up and down the court.
Here are two of our favourite mobility drills:
Rocking ankle mobilizations
Multi-planar ankle mobilizations
And here are a few of our favourite ankle rigidity movements:
Knee grab to spider-man lunge with hip lift and arm reach
Patello-femoral knee pain
This is one of those things that is pretty easy to prevent.
The muscles in your hips (mainly the glutes) play an instrumental role in keeping the knee healthy.
The glute musles help keep the knee in line and prevent unucessary forces from being appplied to that knee.
So, we need to make sure the glutes are fired up and working in order to keep the knee healthy.
Here are some great moves for this:
Prone 1-leg glute activation
Also, the muscles and tissues leading into the knee can get rock-hard and tiiiiight.
This also puts undue stress and strain on the knees.
So we need to ensure that these tissues stay flexible and supple.
Here are a couple moves we use for this:
We wrote pretty extensively about this
The same thing applies to the adult basketball athlete.
Often, you get so caught up in the game that you forget about good form and posture.
It’s inevitable in a fast-paced game like basketball.
When this happens, you’ll often reach up for a rebound and use a back arch to get there,
or you’ll run down the core extending your back instead of your hips,
or you’ll try to make yourself bigger, taller and more upright on defense by arching the back instead of opening up the chest,
Or you’ll get tired and arch the back as you gasp for air.
What ends up happening is the muscles in the low back get really short and tight.
And the muscles in the stomach get overly lengthened and weak.
Also, the muscles in the front of the hips get really tight and the glutes lose their strength.
Here is how to remedy this:
Stretch out the hips:
Fire up the glutes:
Strengthen up the abs with this:
Then progress to this:
And finally, this:
Oh, and don’t forget about your breathing:
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles in the back of the leg that can extend the hip and bring the heel to your butt.
BUT, in sport, the hamstrings play a much more prominent role.
That role is deceleration.
After sprinting down the court, something has to slow you down.
Guess what does that?
After jumping up in the air, something has to slow you down and absorb the force as you land.
Guess what does that?
You guessed it – the hamstrings.
What those two things have in common (slowing you down and force absorption) is that they are both eccentric muscle actions.
What the heck is that?
Well, there are three types of muscle actions.
The first is concentric muscle actions.
That’s when the muscle contracts as it shortens.
As in, curling a dumbbell up for biceps curl.
The second is isometric muscle actions.
That’s when the muscle contracts as the muscle length does not change.
An example would be a plank.
The last is eccentric muscle actions-when the muscle contracts as it lengthens.
A gym example of this is when you lower the dumbbell in the biceps curl.
The biceps muscle is still contracting, but the muscle is lengthening.
Well, this is what the hamstrings are doing when they slow you down and absorb your landings.
They are contracting as they lengthen.
Of all those three muscle actions we talked about, where do you think the most injurues occur?
You guessed it…the eccentric muscle action.
So, the hamstrings need to be able to lenghthen under control with safety and precision.
Here are a couple of our favourite moves for this:
Barbell straight-leg deadlift
Supine hips-extended leg curl
For the purpose of hamstring injury prevention, we would do typically these for 3-4 seconds on the way down (barbell straight-leg deadlift) and 3-4 seconds on the way out (supine hips-extended leg curl).
And of course, there is no denying the value of practicing jumping and landing.
Start with mini jumps and focus on a soft landing,
don’t ket the knee collapse inward,
feet around shoulder- to hip-width apart
and keep the ankles STRONG.
Also, working on decelerations after you sprint is paramount to keeping the hamstrings healthy too.
After a 10-20 yard sprint, take 7-10 steps to slow down,
after a few weeks, take 5-7 steps to slow down,
after another few weeks, slow down in 3-5 steps,
and finally, try to stop in 2-3 steps.
Finally, many injuries happen when you are fatigued and your form starts to slip.
Ensuring adequate conditioning (see part 3 of this series) is also essential in injury prevention.
What you’ll notice with the injury prevention part of the equation is that it involves all aspects of performance training. So, really all training is injury prevention and injury prevention is training.
You just can’t one without the other.
Nonetheless, It’s pretty hard to get better at ball when your riding the pine because of an injury.
Mobility and warm-up
We talked extensively about warm-ups
We like to include our mobility work in part 1 of our warm-ups, that way you’re killing two birds with one stone.
We know you’re strapped for time so having to do an additional 15 minutes of mobility work can be tough to fit in at first, so we throw it in here.
You may have heard that stretching in the warm-up decreases power and performance, but that’s static stretching. As in, holding a stretched position for 30s, 40s, 1 minute.
This is different.
With mobility, you are taking the joint through it’s full range of motion while under the active control of your muscles.
This is called dynamic stretching
Important areas to tackle for this include:
and the upper back
Or you can do one big “catch-all”
Also, we like to include our injury prevention exercises in our warm-ups. So feel free to throw in your breathing, side-lying clams and cradle grabs in here too.
Other considerations for a warm-up:
A good warm-up progresses from floor to standing
A good warm-up progresses from slow to fast
A good warm-up progresses from simple to complex
A good warm-up progresses from single-joint, small exercises to multi-joint, large exercises.
Here’s an example of a good dynamic mobility warm-up:
Fetal breaths x 5
Side-lying clam x 8 per side
Side-lying windmill x 8 per side
Deadbug x 8/side
Rocking ankle mobilization x 8/side
Cradle grab x 8/side
Pull-back foot grab to spiderman lunge to hip lift to arm reach x 5/sd
For part 2 of the warm-up, we get into the faster stuff.
The more typical warm-up exercises that lend themselves very well to speed and jump training.
Here is a sample part 2 warm-up for adult basketball players:
A march 2 x 15 yards
A skip 2 x 15 yards
Lateral A march x 15 yards per side
Lateral A skip x 15 yards per side
Lateral push-offs x 15 yards per side
Mini-vertical jumps (focus on soft landing) 2 x 6
Again, this is where we “sneak” in lots of of injury prevention work, so DON’T ignore this part!
It shouldn’t take much longer than 15-20 minutes.
As adult athletes, the warm-up is crucial to not getting wrecked.
So, take your time, be deliberate, have intent and get after your warm-up.
Note: Warm-ups can be hard if done with purpose and intent. They can be a workout themselves. So, don’t think this stuff is fluffy! When done properly warm-ups should get your blood flowing.
Note 2: We usually have some form of foam rolling in our workouts. Whether it is before or after the workout doesn’t matter as long as it gets done. If you are doing it before you workout, make sure to do it before your mobility work.
Basketball is a game that can wreck you if you are not ready for it.
Don’t put yourself into a situation where you get injured on day 1 and have to pay for it for the rest of the season.
Proper injury prevention for the sport involves a combination of sound technique, mobility, strength and conditioning.
Use the strategies in this article to help keep you off the pine and on the hardwood.
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