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3 Drills for an Explosive First Step

  • Author:
    Alan Stein, CCS, CSCS
  • Date:
    Aug 23, 2010

When you have the ball, you control the game. The defense is at your mercy. You know exactly where you want to go and when you want to go there. This alone gives you a decided advantage over the defense. But adding an explosive first step to your arsenal can give you an even bigger advantage. Quickness is one of the top three traits for a basketball player. The quicker you are with the ball, the more of a threat you are as an offensive player. In order to be quicker with the ball you need to utilize game speed ball handling drills and quickness/reaction drills in your training program.

These drills add an element of reaction. The ability to read and react to visual and audible cues is important in the game of basketball.

The following three drills will improve your quickness, agility and reaction time. Perform two to three of these drills twice a week during the offseason. The time each drill is performed and the rest time between sets can transform each drill from a quickness drill to a conditioning drill. Because there’s a time and place for conditioning, make sure to stick to the prescribed times to keep these drills improving your quickness so you can achieve the most benefit for your first-step and scoring ability.

Ball Drop

Benefits: Footwork, hand quickness, eye-hand coordination

Reps: 30 seconds

Sets: 4-6

Rest: 60-90 seconds


  • Stand arms length away from partner in defensive stance
  • Partner holds tennis ball in each hand
  • Sprint to ball after partner’s throw
  • Catch ball before second bounce
  • Toss back to partner and sprint back to starting position
  • React and sprint to next throw from partner
  • Partner should vary distance, direction and speed of throws

Coaching Point: Your partner should vary the hand he uses on throws and constantly change-up the pattern. For example, throw left hand, left hand, left hand and then right hand because it’s much more unpredictable then throwing left hand, right hand, left hand. This forces you to react faster and improve your first-step.

Block to Block

Benefits: Lateral quickness and agility

Reps: 12-15 seconds

Sets: 4-6

Rest: 60-90 seconds


  • Stand in lane in athletic position between the blocks
  • Partners kneels at top of key behind three point line with two tennis balls
  • Partner rolls one ball to either block
  • Defensive slide to block, tap ball back to partner, slide back to starting position
  • React to next roll and repeat

Coaching Point: Don’t ever cross your feet and make sure to stay low with your chest up and your hands up and active. You have to stay low to the ground so you can reach the ball and tap it back to your partner. Your hands should be in front and active like they are in a game so you can catch a pass or grab a rebound. If your hands are in by your sides you can’t do these things in a game and you can’t perform this drill. And most importantly, work hard. Your intensity of effort during this drill is crucial.

Star Drill

Benefits: Reaction and short burst quickness

Reps: 15 seconds

Sets: 4-6

Rest: 60-90 seconds


  • Place five cones around three point line
  • Perform athletic movement such as backboard taps, or defensive slides from block to block
  • When partner calls number of cone, sprint to cone, challenge an imaginary shot, and back pedal back to starting spot
  • Continue performing original movement
  • React to partner’s next call and sprint to and from cone
  • Repeat

Coaching Point: Adjust the drill by sprinting to the cone as if you are closing out on a shooter. Chop your feet as you get close to the cone, get low and keep a hand up to put a hand in the imaginary shooters face. Then sprint back to the start. You can also change the movement pattern used such as sprinting to the cone and then backpedaling back to the start. Each different movement helps work another part of your game.

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    Nov 4, 2020

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