One of the things that you need to know about basketball is that it is a game that relies on explosive movements. By explosive, we mean quick and powerful movements that allow the player to blow by defenders with a sudden step or jump fast and high enough to score points near the basket. Explosiveness is essential in basketball because of how reliant the sport is on athletic ability. So, how do you become more explosive in basketball?
What Does it Mean to Be Explosive in Basketball?
The fantastic part about basketball is that it relies on plenty of different mental and physical aspects that can easily make a difference in how a player plays. While skills and basketball IQ are essential in this sport, players also need to become explosive enough. Some of the best basketball players in the world are not only skillful but also explosive. Still, what does it mean to be explosive in basketball?
To be explosive in basketball is to have well-developed fast-twitch muscles capable of quick and strong movements. An explosive player is capable of making powerful moves that combine quickness and strength at the same time. This is usually seen in how a player could make sudden explosive steps that are so quick and powerful that defenders will not properly keep up.
Explosiveness can also be displayed in how a player jumps. Being able to jump high enough is not always enough for a basketball player because the jump has to be explosive. An explosive jump allows a player to perform a quick, sudden, and powerful leap. It is not merely just a high vertical jump.
As mentioned, a player with explosive strength is someone who develops strong fast-twitch muscles. It is important to distinguish fast-twitch muscles from slow-twitch muscles to understand what it means for a player to be explosive in basketball.
Slow-twitch muscle fibers are the more abundant muscle fibers in the body. These muscles are responsible for providing pure strength and power. Those who build slow-twitch muscle fibers often add more muscle mass to their body because more muscle mass usually equates to pure strength.
To make this easier to understand, look at it this way. Your slow-twitch muscle fibers are responsible for providing you the raw power you need when you are using your muscles for slow movements that require strength. Imagine yourself pushing a boulder. This act requires you to move slowly and steadily while putting constant force on your pushing motion. Your slow-twitch muscles are the ones performing more in this situation.
On the other hand, fast-twitch muscles are not as abundant as slow-twitch muscles, but they are important for the fast and sudden movements that require a good combination of quickness and strength. While strength is still involved in fast-twitch movements, speed is also incorporated. As such, building fast-twitch muscles do not always rely on muscle mass but also on muscle movement and efficiency.
A good example of how fast-twitch muscles are used is making a chest pass in basketball. The chest pass does not only require pushing power from your muscles but also quickness. So, while the movements that use slow-twitch muscles involve slow yet constant movements, the ones that use fast-twitch muscles are instant and powerful.
Going back, an explosive basketball player can use well-developed fast-twitch muscles that provide the sudden and instant movements involved in the sport regularly. To be explosive in basketball is to suddenly change pace, make a quick first step, or beat opponents to the jump.
However, it is also important to point out that being explosive does not always equate to being very athletic. Even though plenty of athletic movements require explosiveness, a person who is not naturally gifted in athleticism can still be explosive. For example, you do not have to be the fastest runner to develop a quick and explosive first step. In the same way, not all explosive leapers are the highest leapers because an explosive leaping ability has more to do with how quickly a player can get off the ground regardless of how high the jump may be.
Why is Explosive Strength Important in Basketball?
The reason explosive strength is important in basketball is that many of the different movements in the sport rely on explosive movements that require a player to have well-developed fast-twitch muscles. Basketball has always been a fast-twitch sport, especially when you look at how some of the world’s greatest athletes are playing basketball at the highest level.
There are plenty of different movements that rely on a player’s explosive strength. These movements can easily give a player the advantage needed against any defender at any given moment.
A good example of a simple movement that uses a player’s explosive strength is a chest pass. Simply being strong is not enough to perform a good chest pass because a chest pass needs to be sudden, quick, and powerful to provide the ball the speed it needs to elude an intercepting defender.
Another application of explosive strength in basketball is the first step. Players with a quick first step are always valued on any team because they can instantly lose a defender off the dribble without having to make plenty of dribbling moves. All that a player needs to elude a defender is a single step. That is why having an explosive first step can make a huge difference for any player.
Then there is also the quick jump. You do not always have to be the most gifted jumper to be effective as an explosive leaper. Plenty of explosive leapers in the NBA are not necessarily the ones with the best vertical leaping ability. However, because they can get off the ground quicker than most players, they are capable of making amazing plays near the basket before a defender could even react.
Even something as simple as changing pace and direction involves explosive movements. One of the secrets of a good dribbler is knowing how to change pace at an instant before the defender can react to the increase in tempo. Of course, off-ball players such as cutters also need to learn how to change their pace and direction to elude defenders. All of those movements rely on explosiveness.
3 Exercises to Improve Explosiveness in Basketball
If you want to increase your explosiveness in basketball, here are some of the most important exercises that you need to perform:
The deadlift is the king of all lifts because it involves all of the different joints and muscle groups that a basketball player uses. Deadlifts primarily train the hamstrings and quadriceps but are also great at building the core muscles, the most important muscles for any explosive movement. However, the most important part that makes the deadlift effective at building explosive strength is training the hips, knees, and ankles to move in unison. This makes it one of the most explosive leg workouts for basketball.
2. Jump squats
Jump squats are great basketball athleticism workouts because they develop their vertical leaping ability and explosive jumps. It is best to start with bodyweight jump squats before moving on to basketball jump squats. Incorporating a basketball in the movement will allow you to train the natural movements involved when jumping up with a ball in your hands. You can also use heavier medicine balls to make the workout more challenging.
Lunges are workouts that mimic the movements you usually perform when you are running. Lunges usually train all of the important muscle groups in the legs and are great at isolating each leg to make sure that both your right and left side are equally strong. To make lunges more challenging, you can incorporate weights into your movement by wearing a weighted vest or by holding dumbbells in each hand. This allows you to develop the muscles that are often used whenever you are sprinting. Lunges are also great basketball stability exercises because you need to balance your body while performing lunges.
How to Be More Explosive in Basketball: 3 Drills
On top of the individual muscle training that you should be doing, here are some drills that will help you become more explosive in basketball:
A lot of the things that you do in basketball involve sprinting up and down the court. Sprinting through suicides is a good way to train your explosiveness because the muscles used in this movement are more reliant on fast-twitch muscles that provide a short but quick and powerful burst. Here is how you do it:
- Start from one baseline and then make a sudden sprint to the free throw line.
- Upon reaching the free throw line, put on the brakes before turning your body quickly to return to the baseline.
- After that, sprint to the half-court line before running back to the baseline.
- From the baseline, run to the free throw line of the opposite court before making a sharp turn to sprint back to the baseline.
- Run from the starting baseline to the opposite baseline.
- Repeat the movement as necessary.
Watch this video to have an idea of how to perform suicides:
2. Wall acceleration
The wall acceleration drill is a workout that is often used in plenty of different sports that rely on a player’s acceleration. It trains the body posture and movement pattern for acceleration.
- Stand with your back against the wall. Take a step forward.
- Turn around and place your hands on the wall. Both arms must be full extended. The arms must be in line with the shoulders.
- Lift your left or right knee to hip-height. Make sure the toes are up and are parallel to your thigh when lifting your leg.
- Hold the position for 2 or 3 seconds until your partner makes a cue to switch with the other leg.
- The moment the partner makes the cue, quickly pull the lifted leg back to the ground while simultaneously raising the other leg. There should be a short point in time where both legs are in the air and your entire body is suspended.
- Hold the position again for a few seconds until your partner makes a cue. Repeat the movement as necessary.
Refer to this video to learn more about this drill:
3. Ball drop
The ball drop drill involves training your footwork and hand-eye coordination, which effectively make an athlete more explosive. Here is how you perform this drill:
- Stand in front of a partner in a defensive stance. Make sure that you are about six to seven feet away from your partner.
- The partner should hold a tennis ball in each hand while stretching the arms laterally.
- When the partner drops the ball, sprint to it and catch it before it bounces a second time.
- Give the ball back to your partner and then return to your defensive stance.
- React once again when the partner throws the second ball.
Here is a video that would show you how to perform this drill:
Wrapping Things Up: How to Be More Explosive in Basketball
So much of the different movements that a player does on a basketball court relies heavily on explosive movements. After all, basketball is a fast-twitch sport that requires players to know how to react quickly, move all of a sudden, and make short sudden bursts. This is why plenty of the different individual workouts tailored for basketball players train explosiveness and fast-twitch muscles.