Ditch the Agility Ladder: Exercises To Develop Basketball Speed And Explosiveness

October 1, 2012 | Soji James

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Unlike track and field and other traditional speed events, basketball speed is multidirectional and occurs in multiple planes. The difference between winning and losing a basketball game could be determined by a 50-50 ball, getting beat off a back door cut, or pulling down a rebound for an extra possession. The fastest, most explosive players are usually the most successful, because they can decelerate/accelerate quickly in a five- to 20-yard radius for total game domination. (See why it's so important.)

If you're relying on agility ladders to develop basketball quickness, you're losing valuable potential. Although ladders have their place in a program, when it comes to developing true speed, improving ground-force generation is what will really improve your abilities. In addition, perfecting movement mechanics—honing your ability to decelerate and re-accelerate in multiple directions—will allow you to make quicker cuts and more plays. It will also reduce the chance of injury when you attempt to rapidly come to a stop. The following two exercises will develop both lower body strength and movement efficiency to get you moving quicker than the competition.

Box Jumps

Sets/Reps: 4x5

When selecting a box, you want it to be a challenging height, but not so high that it threatens your safety. Focus on landing softly with your hips and knees flexed.

  • Basic Box Jump. Start in athletic stance with feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Perform a counter movement: push back at your hips, dip your knees and explosively jump up onto the box.
  • Lateral Box Jump. Create a path of smaller boxes to lead back to the starting position. Begin in athletic position at side of box and explosively jump laterally on top of it.
  • Transverse Box Jump. Use same box path as for Lateral. Begin in athletic position beside box. Perform a quarter twist in the air as you explosively jump up onto the box.

Crossover Plate/Sled Pull

Sets/Distance: 3x30-40 yds.

This exercise helps you develop power in the frontal and transverse planes for basketball.

  • Using a TRX/jungle gym suspension trainer (or a sturdy rope of your choice), wrap apparatus around the weighted plates and place some towels underneath it—or attach the apparatus to a sled.
  • Grasp the handles with one hand. Focus on keeping hips and shoulders squared forward, shoulder blades pinched and shoulders compact to body.
  • Perform a crossover run, dragging the sled/plates along with you.

Soji James
- Soji James, CSCS, is a strength and conditioning coach and basketball trainer based in New York City. He is the owner of SojiFit, a company...
Soji James
- Soji James, CSCS, is a strength and conditioning coach and basketball trainer based in New York City. He is the owner of SojiFit, a company...
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