No doubt, the game of basketball has evolved over the last 20 years. Players are bigger, stronger, faster, and more powerful. Play is much more physical. And longer seasons mean more games.
As the game has become more physically demanding, the number of injuries has increased. Some athletes can jump out of the gym, but can't land without their knees caving in. Even many elite-level players lack decent core stability.
Proper conditioning can significantly reduce the risk of injury and improve performance, but the most critical areas to develop are often the ones nobody wants to train. What follows is a primer on how to improve one of the most essential elements to basketball performance—your core strength.
One of the best ways basketball players can help protect themselves from the physical punishment of the game is to focus on the core, or more importantly, the pillar. Your pillar encompasses the muscles of the hip, shoulder, and torso, all working together as a functional unit. The core, in the center of your pillar, is the foundation upon which all movement occurs. When the core muscles work in a smooth and synchronized manner, they help maintain correct spinal and pelvic alignment while the arms and legs are moving. Core stability also allows the body to prevent collapse and return to symmetrical balance after movement. In other words, strengthening this area can help a player develop greater body control on the court, hopefully decreasing their potential for injury.
Why it's often overlooked: Training the core is typically not something basketball players feel will affect their game. It’s not like performing plyometrics to improve jumping ability, where it’s easy to see how the exercise relates to performance on the court.
How to improve it: A common misconception is that doing sit-ups and crunches is all you need to train your core, but that only trains one portion of the core in one plane of movement. Here’s a sampling of exercises that develop all muscles from the hips to shoulders. Click on each link for video demos and exercise instructions.
-Front Pillar Bridge
-Lateral Pillar Bridge
-Parallel Medicine Ball Throws
Incorporate these exercises into your workout routine, and then apply the same principles used in the weight room to practice during movement skill drills—moving without the ball, shuffling, sprinting, and so on. That way, you'll improve awareness of proper back and hip position on the court as well.