The Keys to Basketball Cross Training
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When it comes to sport-specific cross-training, the secrets to success are often shared among the different sports: Improve your skills as much as possible while at the same time reducing your risk of injuries. Basketball certainly fits this mold, as well, but the specific aspects of running, jumping and shooting involved with the game can make basketball cross-training unique.
“Within basketball, shooting drills and footwork drills are unique compared to other sports,” says Amanda Leon, a certified athletic trainer with the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute. “Footwork drills involve multi-directional movements on unstable surfaces at times due to jumping and landing mechanics.”
How to get better at hoops
Leon says that the key drills for basketball players that both improve their skills and prevent injuries are:
- Landing mechanics drills, such as broad jumps, depth jumps and drop jumps from a box
- Agility drills, such as cone drills, ladder drills, figure-eight drills and line drills
“Basketball players usually complete agility drills while dribbling in order to incorporate sport-specific movements,” she says. “These routines should be performed as a dynamic warm-up before practice or activity. More intense routines such as landing mechanics and plyometric drills should be completed two to three times a week.”
Of course, beyond the requisite basketball skills of dribbling, shooting and jumping, what really makes you stand out in the sport is strength, speed and endurance.
And that’s where cross-training through strength and conditioning comes into play.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends a model known as Optimum Performance Training to develop the strength and power needed to be successful at basketball. This five-phase program can be modified for various sports, and it focuses on the following progression in an athlete’s development:
- Stabilization Endurance
- Strength Endurance
- Muscular Development
- Maximal Strength
- Power 
Kayla Schaff, a certified athletic trainer, says that working with a trainer or a strength coach is the best way to build your skills and abilities in a manner that is most effective for basketball. “For overall strength, it is important to address where there is a lack in motion and strength before building as a whole,” she says. “We use PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) techniques to look at joint stability, mobility, strength, and overall functional ability. After getting this baseline, it gives a better understanding on how to improve the overall abilities.”
Once a player is ready to start building strength, Schaff focuses on building upper and lower body mechanics through eccentric and concentric motion and core stabilization exercises. These can include exercises like dead lifts, squats, chest presses, seated rows, planks, flutter kicks and various kettlebell carry techniques.
The other key aspect of basketball cross-training is preventing injuries.
Leon and Schaff say that some of that will come naturally as your body gets stronger and more accustomed to the specific movements of basketball. The other key, says Leon, is taking days off to rest, stretch and let your body recover.
The Mayo Clinic Health System says it’s also a good idea to use the offseason as a time to take a break and give your body a chance to rest and recover to prevent overuse injuries. You can also pay a visit to your health care provider to see if any lingering aches and pains need to be addressed in order to avoid more significant problems in the long run.
“Naturally, taking care of your body at home affects injuries,” says Schaff. “Getting proper sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, and proper hydration are all important. When there is an increase in fatigue, whether it’s mental or muscular, your body is more prone to injury.”
Wyatt Myers is a contributor for UHealth’s news service.