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Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to train basketball players of all ages, skill levels and performance profiles. Looking back at the players I have trained, I see they all had one thing in common: they did not know how to adequately prepare and regenerate their bodies before and after practices, games or training sessions.
Every basketball-specific move you make on the court [jab step, sprint, shuffle] uses the capabilities of your soft tissue system—i.e., your muscles. Keeping your muscular system healthy throughout the season will improve your performance exponentially.
Every player has experienced the harsh physical realities of a long season—fatigued legs, muscle strains, sluggish movement. However, these problems can be alleviated by focusing on soft tissue quality. You might be a bit skeptical, so listed below are a few benefits of implementing a soft tissue treatment regimen as part of your training program.
- Correcting muscle imbalances → Greater resistance to injury
- Increasing joint range of motion → Improved strength, force production and injury prevention
- Decreasing muscle soreness → Faster recovery
- Increasing neuromuscular function → Improved muscle activation, strength, explosion, speed, agility and quickness
I approach training in a science-based yet practical manner. I implement what works, so rest assured: attending to the health of your body’s soft tissue will elevate your game to the next level.
Self myofascial release, or foam rolling, is a self massage method. At Montrose Christian, we perform a foam rolling program before and after each training session, practice or game. At first, our guys were skeptical. But after performing the following program twice a day for three days a week, our players unanimously incorporated it into their daily routines.
For each exercise, perform 12 to 15 repetitions, continuing for between one and two minutes. When foam rolling, adhere to the following guidelines:
1. Position your body properly on the roller. Poor body alignment will prevent isolating the intended muscle or muscle group during exercises.
2. Treat the muscle along its entire length to restore tissue length and balance. Spend additional time on a specific area only if you feel an abnormal amount of tightness or soreness. Spending too much time on an area that does not contain scar tissue, adhesions or knotting/tightness will result in poor tissue balance and untreated muscle segments.
3. Foam rolling is an exercise. You should be sweating. Like other aspects of your training, it should be approached in a methodical manner. If you do not exert the effort, focus and consistency form rolling requires, you will not realize its benefits.
4. If you experience pain while rolling, rest on the painful area for 30 to 45 seconds. If you continue to roll while feeling pain, you will experience an increased level of tightness/pain in the associated muscle group.
Position 1: Gluteus Maximus
Set-Up: Sit on the roller with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands behind your body.
How: Lean to one side, then the other, applying pressure. When rolling, each rep should travel from the low back to the glute/hamstring insertion.
Set/Reps: 1x12-15 each side
Position 2: Piriformis
Set-Up: Sit on the roller and lean to the left. Place your left foot on your right knee [or brace your left foot with your right hand]. Repeat on opposite side.
How: Lean to one side to apply pressure to the muscle unit. When rolling, each rep should travel from the low back to the middle of the glute complex. Since the piriformis is difficult to target, try rolling at different angles. This should improve your ability to isolate the area.
Set/Reps: 1x12-15 each side
Position 3: Hamstring
Toe 12 o’clock
Set-Up: Sit placing the foam roller in the middle of the hamstring muscle group. Extend the leg being treated, and bend the opposite leg, placing the foot flat on the ground. Place hands flat on the ground behind the body.
How: When rolling the hamstring, use different toe angles to target each muscle in the hamstring complex. Each rep should travel from the glute/hamstring insertion to the posterior knee. The three positions we use at Montrose are:
1. Toe up at 12 o’clock.
2. Toe in [hip internally rotated] at approximately 2 o’clock on the left leg and 10 o’clock on the right leg.
3. Toe out [hip externally rotated] at approximately 10 o’clock on the left leg and 2 o’clock on the right leg.
Set/Reps: 1x8-12 at each toe angle on each side of the body. Each hamstring is done when 24 to 36 reps have been administered to each leg.
Position 4: Iliotibial Band [IT Band]
Set-Up: Lie on the foam roller, placing it in the middle of the lateral thigh. Straighten and fully extend the leg being treated. Cross the opposite leg over in front of the body with the foot flat and toe pointed straight.
How: Internally rotate the toe of the treated leg at 10 to15 degrees. When rolling the IT band, each repetition should travel from the lateral hip to the lateral knee.
Set/Reps: 1x12-15 each leg; but since this is a tight area on most basketball players, additional repetitions may be required. For players who have lateral knee pain, treating this area is essential.
Position 5: Quadricep [3 Toe Positions]
Set- Up: Lie face down and place the roller in the middle of the quadricep. Straighten the leg being treated and bend the opposite leg with the toe contacting the ground.
How: Similar to the hamstring, use different toe angles to target each muscle in the quadricep complex. Each rep should travel from the anterior hip [hip flexor] to the anterior knee. The three toe positions are:
1. Toe down at 6 o’clock
2. Toe in [hip internally rotated] at approximately 4 o’clock on the left leg and 8 o’clock on the right leg
3. Toe out [hip externally rotated] at approximately 8 o’clock on the left leg and 4 o’clock on the right leg
Set/Reps: 1x8-12 at each toe angle on each side of the body. Each quadricep is done when 24 to 36 reps have been administered to each leg.
Position 6: Adductor Complex
Set-Up: Lie face down and place the roller in the middle of the inner thigh. Bend the treated leg at a 90-degree angle, keeping the opposite leg straight. Bend your arms and support your bodyweight on your forearms, with your chin directly over your hands. Raise your stomach off the ground during each rep.
How: Each rep should travel from the groin to the medial knee.
Set/Reps: 1x12-15 each leg
Position 7: Latissimus Dorsi
Set-Up: Lie on your side with the roller placed in the middle of the latissimus dorsi. Elevate and extend your bottom arm.
How: When rolling the latissimus dorsi, the roller should travel from the armpit to the lateral hip/lumbar region. To improve treatment of this area, externally rotate your arm. On the left hand, your thumb should be pointed at 10 o’clock. When treating the right side, your thumb should be pointed at approximately 2 o’clock.
Set/Reps: 1x12-15 each side
To purchase a foam roller, visit PerformBetter.com. The foam roller pictured in this post is a 12” roller, which is great for travel, storage and use in a team training setting.
If you have any questions regarding soft tissue treatment, corrective exercise or basketball performance enhancement, feel free to contact me via email or visit strengthcoachconcepts.com for monthly blogs, articles and videos.
Photo: nytimes.com; exercise images provided by Matthew Johnson; athlete featured is Justin Anderson [Montrose Christian School], ESPN Class 2012 Super 60
Matthew Johnson currently serves as head strength coach for men's basketball at nationally ranked [#2] Montrose Christian School [Rockville, Md.], the 2011 ESPN Rise National Champions. He also owns and operates StrengthCoachConcepts.com. His prior work experience includes stints at Boston College, Bryant University, Velocity Sports Performance and Evolution Sports Performance. He was trained by Lee Taft of Sportsspeedetc.com, a nationally recognized speed and movement expert.
Johnson earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Marywood University and his master’s degree in strength and conditioning from Bridgewater State College. He recently completed a research study on acute strength responses exhibited after training with chain variable resistance. He’s also done research on lactic acid production, aerobic capacity and neuromuscular efficiency; and he is currently investigating common basketball injuries to help design an effective injury prevention program. He can be reached at facebook.com/coachmatthewjohnson or twitter.com/strengthcoachmj.