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“Every player wants to increase their vertical and be a better athlete. The key is to understand why you are doing what you are doing and work hard toward your goal. There are no short-cuts.”
- Coach Chase
The first step to being a better athlete is to improve control over your movement. Every player has a certain amount of strength and power that can be produced by their current musculature, but much of strength is lost by unstable and inefficient motion. When an unstable athlete goes to jump, excessive movement of the knee inwards will reduce the total amount of force that can be produced and limit the resulting jump height.
The exercsies used to improve stability focus on three key joints: the ankle, the hip and the core. Other than connecting the hip and ankle, the knee is not a primary focus because it doesn’t constribute significantly to loss of efficiency. The action of the knee moving inward during a jumping movement is actually a lack of stability at the hip.
Flexibility is critical to generating force and reducing the risk of injury. When muscles are tight, you can’t produce as much force. Muscle tightness comes from adhesions, which are areas of the muscle stuck in a contracted state. Properly working muscle tissue will contract (shorten) when needed to generate force and then relax (lengthen) when force is no longer needed. But muscle fibers that are dehydrated, overused or in the same position for long periods of time without movement (such as sitting at a desk), can get stuck in a contracted state. When lots of muscle fibers are stuck in a contracted state it shortens the length of the whole muscle and prevents you from creating adequate force.
The focus of foam rolling and dynamic stretching exercises is to release areas with adhesions in order to lengthen the muscle and improve range of motion. Releasing adhesions will also increase the number of muscle fibers generating force and is one of the best ways to quickly increase your vertical jump height.
When you think of strength, you likely think of building bigger muscles. There is some value in training the muscles to increase muscle size to produce more force, but the significant strength gains that happen in the first four weeks of training are due to better activation and coordination of the muscle fibers you ablready have. The first four weeks will be the quickest gains in strength, followed by small improvements as muscle mass slowly increases over time.
There are two types of strength exercises that we use:
Activating specific muscle groups through isolation exercises is important to getting the right muscles working ahead of more complex movements like squats or lunges. In the video below, side-lying leg circles are being performed to engage the gluteus medius muscle, a key hip stabilizer.
The key to acheiving strength gains that will translate to the court, is focusing on movements that are similar to those occuring in a real game. We call this training specificity. Bicep curls provide very little specificity to the game of basketball, but squats provide a high level of specificity since it is the same movement as a two foot jump.
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