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7 Basketball Training Myths...Exposed

  • Author:
    By Shelby Turcotte
  • Date:
    Jun 15, 2011

I hear it all the time, a bunch of baloney about how training negatively affects your basketball skill:

  • Lifting will hurt my sons jump shot (really? do you think NBA players don't work out?)
  • My son needs plyometrics only to improve his jumping (are you sure that's his limitation?)
  • My daughter doesn't want to work legs because she runs all the time as it is.

Look, I hate to be the messenger of bad news, but all of the above are false. That's right, people have been telling you a bunch of lies about how you should train and what you should do to become a better basketball player.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time parents and players assume that what they hear is true that they actually start to believe it's true themselves. Maybe you believe the above statements are true? Well, I'm here and I'm ready to change your mind! Let's do some myth-busting!

Myth No. 1: Getting Low on Defense is About Effort

Look, I'm in 100 percent agreement that playing defense is mostly about effort. BUT, getting low on defense has nothing to do with effort and everything to do with proper mobility. Your ability to get into an "athletic" stance is based on your mobility. Mobility, in simple terms, is nothing more than the ability for your joint (not just muscle or soft tissue, i.e. flexibility) to move through a motion.

In order to get into an athletic position you must have proper ankle, hip, and upper back mobility. If you've had multiple ankle sprains; sit in class with poor posture all day; and find yourself not being able to touch your toes, you probably have restricted mobility in at least one of the three joints.

Myth No. 2: Jumping is All About Plyometrics

Here's the deal: jumping is about plyometrics, but only for those people who need to improve their neural efficiency. What you say? Plyos take advantage of the strength that your body already possesses--basically plyo's allow you to "express" that strength quicker and faster than you previously could.

The issue here, is that while everyone needs plyos, more athletes' weak link in jumping is strength! If you haven't touched a weight before, it's time to start training now and watch your vertical continue to go up.

Myth No. 3: Lifting Will Affect my Shooting Ability and My Shot

Look, I've never seen a person's shot get worse from lifting. Shooting is a basketball skill (a fine motor skill at that) which requires thousands of hours and repetitions of practice to develop; and it doesn't just go away from a few weeks of lifting.

If you're a serious basketball player you should be shooting regularly anyway. As long as you continue to shoot regularly, the extra strength will do nothing but help your shot improve by making it easier and more effortless.

Myth No. 4: Run Distance to Improve your Conditioning

No, it doesn't have anything to do with improving your aerobic capacity. I know, I've heard it all's always one of the first questions I have to answer for basketball players. I like you, therefore I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: there is not such thing as a true "aerobic base."

Back in the day (think old school) people used to believe that improving aerobic capacity was the first thing you should do to increase endurance. The problem with this belief is that research now shows it to not be true. "Conditioning," is muscle and movement specific, meaning that if you never train moving laterally you will never condition the muscles that move you side to side. Conditioning also consists of improving your body's specific tolerance to certain work:rest periods.

Bottom line, train how you play: short explosive intervals (5-30 seconds), and in all planes of motion (straight, shuffle, jumping, etc.).


Myth No. 5: I Don't Need to Lift With My Lower Body Because I Already Run

Lifting and running are two completely different elements. Lifting with the lower body allows improvement of strength, power, and endurance. Running, on the contrary, improves at most only endurance (and that's not completely true either, see above myth).

Strength by definition is simply being able to lift a given amount of weight over a given distance. Strength becomes a very important factor in the game of basketball because it allows you to be strong with the basketball, on balance, and make the moves to create the space you need to play.

Give me a player with lots of skill and athleticism, then give me the same player with lots of strength, skill, and athleticism. Who do you think is going to win that battle?

Myth No. 6: Calf Raises Will Improve My Vertical

Yes, your calves do factor into your jumping. I'm not here to tell you not to do them, but I am here to tell you that they need less focus. If you've been doing calf raises but haven't been lifting weights, start adding weight training to your regular routine.

If you've watched a basketball player jump, it's an explosive total-body movement. It's not simply a lower-leg movement. Don't believe me? Try jumping without your arms and without bending your knees.

Bottom line: make sure the majority of your jump training incorporates your entire body.

Myth No. 7: Agility Ladders Improve Your Foot Speed

I like agility ladders; as a matter of fact, we use them nearly every day that we train. We don't use them to improve foot speed, we use them to improve your elasticity in your lower legs and feet. There is no such thing as "foot speed." Having "quick feet" is as a result of good hip strength (think legs and glutes) and good elasticity in your lower legs.

Think about this: in order to move your foot quickly, what body part/area must move the foot to position it for the ground? The hip. Your foot goes where your hip/leg tell it to go. The feet can't move without hips and legs helping to direct it.

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