Strength and Speed Drills with the New Jersey Nets

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Rich Dalatri—the NBA's first full-time strength and conditioning coach—gets the New Jersey Nets quick, strong and explosive with his on-court training. Use his tools to improve your athleticism and raise your game without leaving the hardwood.

Click here for a complete list and description of the Nets' footwork drills.

By Josh Staph

Although the Nets' training program has many elements—weight training, flexibility and Pilates included— Dalatri has a proclivity for working the players within the confines of their 94' x 50' playing surface.

He explains, "For any sport, the key to training is being as specific to the sport as possible. When you work things specific to the game, you see an immediate transfer. Once the guys see that carryover, they ask me to get back out on the court with them."

The Nets also reap psychological benefits from basketball-specific drills, because they maintain interest and stay mentally fresh. "These guys master low level things very quickly, so they get bored easily," Dalatri says. "I like to challenge them and keep their attention to get them to really work hard. All the things that happen in games are what really get these guys going. So we set up their training to include those elements."

Improvements are broad ranging for Dalatri's disciples—beginners and veterans alike. "We have guys who have never trained and others who need that last bit of development to get the most out of themselves. But they are all in the same boat when they get here," he says. "They're all incredible athletes, and the only way to stand out is to put in the time. Some guys might be playing at 60 percent of their natural athletic potential. But if I can get them to realize 80-90 percent, then their basketball will improve no matter what."

The Nets play up to their potential by improving court movement—first by working foot speed and efficiency, and then through defensive-minded agility drills. Finally, they stimulate fast twitch muscle fibers with functional strength work to gain explosiveness and get above the rim. Net gains have included yearly berths in the NBA Playoffs.

Keep your training on the floor with the NBA's original strength and conditioning coach.

1. Court Movement

Dalatri considers footwork and agility the two most important aspects of athletic development for a hoopster, and he recognizes their inextricable link.

"When you are developing agility, the first thing you have to work on is foot speed and the efficiency of the feet moving in all directions and movement patterns," Dalatri says. "Once this becomes second nature, you are ready for agility training. Your feet are faster, so you can go through the agility movement patterns with increased efficiency."

FOOTWORK

Although many use hopping drills to improve footwork, Dalatri prefers stepping drills to keep the Nets' feet moving fast. "I got away from hopping a number of years ago," he says. "I like stepping drills a lot more. It's the same principle as hopping, but we step one foot at a time. One foot is always on the ground, so it's more like running—more of the movement you use while playing. Stepping is also less ballistic, decreasing the stress on joints."

AGILITY—DEFENSIVE MOVEMENT

Because agility is used more on defense, Dalatri considers agility and defensive drills one and the same. He explains, "Offense is mostly a series of predetermined movements. On the other hand, defense is all about reactive movements. You don't know what is going to happen, so you have to move and react to any situation. This is where agility comes into play."

The Nets get specific with their defensive agility drills by simulating game scenarios, forcing reactions and changes of direction on the fly. Use these drills to stay on your man like a glove.

Star Slide
(See Diagram for Set-up)

• Begin at center cone with one hand toward it

• Keeping that hand toward cone, slide to and from each outer cone as fast as possible. Make sure to stay in good, low defensive stance

Reps: 4-6 (Alternate inside hand each rep)

Benefits: This simulates defensive help and recovery in all directions.

Backside Help
(See Diagram for Set-up)

• Begin on low block with offensive player on opposite block

• When offensive player begins dribble, sprint to him and close him out with active feet to cut off penetration

• When he kicks ball out to coach at top of key, change direction and sprint to coach. Close out again with active feet.

• React and cut off path to lane as he tries to penetrate to right or left, or defend attempted shots

Reps: 4-6

Benefits: This is all agility work; it's a sprint, quick feet and change of direction; sprint, quick feet and another change of direction to defend and react. It's all about getting in good position to cut off penetration and close out the guy wherever the ball is passed.

Lane Help
(See Diagram for Set-up)

• Four players start outside lane—two on elbows and two on blocks

• Players begin chopping feet until coach yells "help," at which time they sprint to cones

• Without hesitation, players touch cone, change direction and sprint back to starting points

• With feet chopping, players trace ball as a coach simulates feeding it inside

• After a few reps, players will defend coach's dribble instead of pass

Reps: 4-6 reps

Benefits: This trains players to give defensive help and recover in all directions. Defending against an inside pass or lane penetration simulates the reactive movements needed to play defense in a game.

2. On-Court Functional Strength—Overloaded Basketball Movement

The Nets work functional strength on the court by providing an overload with elastic cords or med balls while performing basketball movements.

"This is all fast twitch muscle fiber training. The more you can train fast twitch fibers, the more your body becomes accustomed to using them, and the more you can elicit that during competition," Dalatri says. "You've got to train fast to play fast. Training slow takes you nowhere fast."

Wake up your fast twitch fibers and learn to drive, elevate and defend like Kidd, Vince and RJ.

Resisted Penetration
(A.K.A. The Lane Slasher)

• Begin at three-point line with coach providing resistance by holding elastic cord around your waist

• Dribble toward hoop for three dribbles, and then quickly return to starting point under control

• After three resisted penetrations, coach drops cord. Drive as fast as possible to hoop and dunk or lay ball in

Reps: 3-5 on each side

Benefits: "Let's use Jason Kidd as an example. Say I have the cord around his waist. On the fourth penetration, his body is used to penetrating through resistance, so he has stored energy. That is when the fast twitch muscle fibers really kick in. When I let him go, he feels like he is flying; and when he goes up to dunk, he feels like he is floating."

Med Ball Throw and Dunk/Lay-up
(A.K.A. The Rim 'Recker)

• Begin on block facing away from hoop and toward coach, who has three eight-kilo med balls and one basketball

• As coach hands you med ball at chest level, pivot on inside foot and use entire body to throw ball as high as possible over rim

• Repeat with final two med balls as quickly as possible

• When coach hands you basketball, pivot and dunk it or lay it in with the same speed and explosiveness

Reps: 3-5 to each side of basket

Coaching Point: "The throw has to be a full-body throw. If you can hit the ceiling with the ball, great. Throw the med ball with equal force from both hands so you're not off-balance or in an awkward position. Never let the ball come below shoulder level, because everyone—big men, especially—should get in the habit of getting a rebound and keeping the ball high to go back up with it."

Benefits: When you get the basketball, you will feel like you can jump out of the gym because you were just overloaded with med balls.

Med Ball Zigzag with Closeout and Cutoff
(A.K.A. The Lockdown)

• Begin at baseline in good, defensive stance holding eight-kilo med ball between legs

• With strong defensive technique, shuffle in zigzag fashion—two slides to left, two slides to right—to half court

• Upon reaching half court, drop med ball and sprint to starting point, arriving with active feet

• Close out coach at baseline and react to cut off his penetration as he steps right or left

Reps: 4-6

Benefits: "This works the same principle as the Med Ball Throw—we overload them with an eight-kilo med ball and then work the fast twitch muscle fibers with the sprint and cut off. It also trains them to stay in a good, low stance and react to an offensive player's movement when their thighs are burning."


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASKETBALL TRAINING | STRENGTH TRAINING | SPEED TRAINING | FIBER | COACH | TRAIN | MED BALL | SPRINT | THROW | FAST TWITCH | STANCE