6 Often-Overlooked Performance Attributes and How to Address Them to Become a Playmaker | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

6 Often-Overlooked Performance Attributes and How to Address Them to Become a Playmaker

May 16, 2013 | J.R. Niklos

Must See Strength Training Videos

It takes more than speed and strength to be a playmaker on the field or court. You train for countless hours to be a standout in your game, but you might be overlooking six athletic attributes that can make a difference between a highlight play and a missed opportunity. (Read 4 Ways to Turn a Weakness into a Strength.) Review them all to identify any weaknesses, and address them with the exercises provided.

1. Lateral Strength

In almost every sport, you move at angles more than you move straight ahead. Be sure your training hits all parts of the muscles required for your sport.

Messier Squats

Sets/Reps: 3x8 each leg

  • Position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width with your toes pointed slightly out.
  • Keeping your chest up, sit your hips back and lunge to the side until your thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Straighten your opposite leg and point your toes toward the ceiling.
  • Perform with your opposite leg, return to center and rise up out of the squat.

Variation 1: Hold a kettlebell in a front squat position for an added load (pictured).

Variation 2: Slow down the motion of the exercise by lowering into and rising up out of the Squat over three seconds.

2. Balance

Your body is strongest in a balanced state. However, during games, you often find yourself in an unstable position. Training for balance will help you make the play, even when you are in an uncomfortable position.

Single-Leg Cross-Body Squat

Sets/Reps: 3x10 each leg

  • Stand on your right leg with your left hand reaching to the sky.
  • Perform a Single-Leg Squat by sitting your hips back and keeping your knee aligned with your hips and toes.
  • Do 10 reps and repeat with your opposite leg and hand.

Variation 1: Stand on a BOSU ball (pictured).

Variation 2: Never take your eyes off your hand (pictured). It will throw off your awareness and force your body to stabilize even more.

3. Deceleration

Making a winning play is not always about top speed. How fast you can stop is often more important. For example, a wide receiver may have to stop on a dime to fake out a defensive back, or a soccer player may quick-stop to dribble behind a defender.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Set/Reps: 3x8 each leg

  • Place your right foot on a box or bench slightly higher than knee height.
  • Take an exaggerated step forward with your left leg to assume a split stance.
  • Keeping your chest up, bend your front leg and lower until your thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Straighten your front leg to drive up out of the squat.

Variation 1: Hold a dumbbell in each hand (pictured). Keep dumbbells aligned with your spine as you lower down.

Variation 2: Hold a dumbbell in the hand opposite your front leg. This will force your core to balance out the uneven weight between the two sides of your body.

Watch how to perform the Bulgarian Split Squat.

4. Mobility

The definition of mobility is "the ability to move freely and easily." Athletes who are highly mobile are more likely to be at the right place at the right time to make a game-changing play.

Hip Swivels

Sets/Reps: 2x30 seconds each leg

  • Standing on your right foot, raise your arms out to the side and bend your elbows to 90 degrees.
  • Raise your left knee so that your thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Swivel your hips from side to side, going for as large a range of motion as possible.
  • Try to keep your right foot in the same spot and stay on the ball of your foot.
  • Keep your eyes and shoulders forward the entire time.

Variation: Hold a one- to five-pound dumbbell in each hand (pictured) to improve shoulder stability and help anchor the shoulders to stay square.

5. Full-Body Explosiveness

To be a playmaker, you must be able to control your entire body while you move in an explosive manner. One of the main reasons strength coaches recommend Olympic lifts is that they train athletes to do just that. Problem is, Olympic lifts should be avoided if they aren't done correctly. Bodyweight exercises like the one below improve explosiveness and minimize the risk of injury.

Push-Ups to Pull-Ups

Sets/Reps: 3x15

  • Start in push-up position with your chest on the floor.
  • Hop your feet up past your hands.
  • Jump up to a bar and do a Pull-Up.
  • Hold your chin above the bar for two seconds.
  • Drop back to the floor and do a Push-Up.

Variation: Have a partner signal when to hop out of the Push-Up.

Try these Push-Up variations.

Push-Up to Pull-Up

6. Hand Quickness

Sports like basketball, lacrosse, baseball and football require quick, reactive, and coordinated hands. Yet hand quickness is often ignored in favor of foot quickness. Many professional athletes hit a boxing speed bag to enhance their hand quickness; however, I recommend Bar Flips to get the same benefit.

Bar Flips

Sets/Reps: 3x20 seconds

  • Grab a bar that you can hold in front of you for at least 60 seconds (most high school athletes should use a 15- to 25- pound bar).
  • Hold the bar vertically with your right hand on top and your left hand 8 inches below.
  • Flip both your hands as fast as possible so that your left hand is on top and your right hand on the bottom.
  • Repeat back and forth; the closer the bar is to your body, the easier it will be.

Variation: Stare at the top of the bar instead of your hands. This forces you to use your peripheral vision.

Bar Flips

J.R. Niklos
- J.R. Niklos is the owner of Acceleration Sports Performance, located near Chicago. A former All-American football player at Western Illinois and a veteran of the...
J.R. Niklos
- J.R. Niklos is the owner of Acceleration Sports Performance, located near Chicago. A former All-American football player at Western Illinois and a veteran of the...
Must See
Dwyane Wade Leads by Example
Views: 4,327,938
How to Perform the Euro Step With Iman Shumpert
Views: 83,168
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,295

Featured Videos

Dwight Howard Ab Workout Views: 62,466
John Wall Elbow-to-Elbow Shooting Drill Views: 186,408
Elite Performance with Mike Boyle: Build Explosive Power With Contrast Training Views: 17,723
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Colby Lewis's Post-Game Band Splitter Routine
Views: 8,349,368
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,988,602
Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach
Views: 8,690,610
Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,504
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,175,033

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Evan Longoria's Off-Season Strength and Resistance Workout

Build Wrestling Strength With the Gable Lock Isometric Hold

6 Gym Machines That Are Actually Worth Your Time

Todd Durkin's Complete Football Strength Training Program

Deadlift Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

Get a Full-Body Workout With Just 2 Exercises

3 Habits of Highly Successful Coaches

Train Like a Pro: Los Angeles Lakers Strength Training Program

Prevent Volleyball Shoulder Injuries With These Exercises

What Happens When You Do The Same Exercise Every Day?

Build Bulletproof Chest Strength With This Unconventional Method

12 Strength Moves from NFL WR Harry Douglas's Full-Body Workout

Jump Higher After a Month With These 3 Exercises

The Best Lower-Body Landmine Exercises

3 Keys to In-Season Baseball Training

Todd Durkin

5 Ways to Get a Higher Vertical Jump

3 Tricks for a Stronger Front Squat

Build Awesome Arms With This 15-Minute Workout

Putting Together an Off-Season Workout for Point Guards

5 Quick Workout Fixes for Faster Muscle Growth

3 Simple Strategies for a Better Workout

Posterior Chain Fixes to Improve Your Game

How to Improve Shoulder Strength and Flexibility

How Strength Training Changed Rory McIlroy's Game

How You Can Olympic Lift With an Injury

When Not to Try Unstable Hockey Training

Train Like a Pro: Dustin Pedroia's Baseball Power Workout

7 Farmer's Walk Variations for Improved Core Strength

Train Like a Pro: Henrik Zetterberg's Hockey Strength Workout

Build Strong Legs with the Leg Press Lockdown Workout

Use Eccentric Lifts to Increase Size and Strength

Can You Survive This Insane 100-Rep Push-Up Challenge?

Add Surprise Sets for a Great Workout Finisher

Train Like a Pro: MLS Soccer Strength Program

The 4 Best and Worst Cable Machine Exercises

Abby Wambach's Soccer Power Workout

Train Like a Pro: Damian Lillard's Basketball Core Workout

Grab a Broom for This Fast-Paced, Full-Body Workout

4 Exercises From NFL Players to Build True Game Speed

The Top 10 Mistakes Athletes Make in the Weight Room

3 Keys to Better Softball Workouts

Save Your Shoulders With These Barbell Landmine Exercises

The 3-Minute Total Arm Pump

Train Like a Pro: Peyton Manning's Core Workout

3 Tips to Blast Through Training Plateaus