Stevo is still pretty under the weather. So, in his place on this fine Monday, Ryan Wood will make his blog post debut! Enjoy: I was recently talking to a friend of mine who is a former collegiate basketball player about strength and conditioning for basketball. Our conversation was centered on getting faster in the change of direction aspect of defensive slides. He asked me what he should do and I began thinking about what I used to do or what coaches would make me do in order to get better at this same exact thing. Endless amounts of wall sits, shuttles, and defensive slide drills flooded back into the forefront of my mind as well as stomach acid in my esophagus. After the thoughts and stomach acid dissipated I began thinking as a professional strength coach and not as a high school basketball player. Because of my troubles playing defense when I was younger I wanted to give him good sound advice.
I was always told when my man got by me that I had to be faster changing direction. Well 10 years later after no one was able to tell me exactly how to do that, I found out for myself. When a ball-handler decides to cross over with the basketball it is up to the defender to suddenly stop a full speed slide, plant, push off their outside foot to switch directions, and continue into another full speed slide. Sounds like a lot right? Now you can see why defenders get beat so much off the dribble and why things like help defense exist.
In the scenario I described what you see is the product of the defenders ability to start and stop. This may seem easy but it’s really quite hard, especially when you are not genetically gifted. In order for a defender to stop they have to be able to absorb the force of their own body against the floor while almost instantaneously using the same side of the body to produce force into the floor to start their movement again. Now if this still seems easy let me throw another wrench into the equation. Not only do you have to absorb and produce force in order to change directions you have to be able to do it fast (high velocity). If there lacks an ability to perform this change of direction quickly, then you just got beat by your man.
Can anyone pick out the two key words that are extremely important to this whole defense thing? If you guessed “wrench” or “easy” then take another guess. The two key words are force and velocity. And what do we get when we multiply force times velocity? POWER! Power is the key to being an excellent defender. Now I’m sure you’re asking how you can increase your power output in order to become a better defender. I could write something lengthy on this subject but I’ll just give you a couple key exercises to use. These exercises will help you produce more power and provide specificity to the change of direction aspect of defensive slides.
First, dynamic effort squats to depth. This type of squat is performed at maximal speeds with submaximal weight (50-65% of a 1RM). This type squat will allow you to switch from the eccentric to the concentric phase at high speeds not unlike the change of direction that occurs during a defensive slide. This exercise will call on the same main musculature that is required when playing defense (knee and hip extensors).
Second, lateral bounds and stick. This exercise is extremely important for players looking to better their man-to-man defense. The reason being is that it improves power output by working on your ability to absorb and produce force unilaterally (one side of the body). I would argue that during the change of direction phase of defense that it is predominantly a unilateral movement rather than bilateral. However, that whole argument is a different topic for a different day. This exercise will also help in ACL injury prevention by improving the musculature and connective tissue of the knee.
Third, banded monster walks. This exercise provides some great activation and strengthening of the glutes. Considering most people are very quad dominant, especially basketball players, the ability to properly activate your glutes is vital to being able to produce force at high velocities. Defense is as easy as Power = Force X Velocity. It’s a bad joke; but you’ll remember it.