The game of basketball is a true test of an athlete’s ability to think on their feet. Due to its incredibly fast pace and the nature of the sport, it calls for speed both linearly and laterally. In order to improve your change of direction and lateral speed it's critical to have great overall body awareness, stability and learn proper deceleration/acceleration mechanics. Improvements in strength and conditioning are beneficial but pale in comparison to learning the technical aspects of lateral movement. Below is a three-step progression to develop incredible change of direction and lateral capabilities.

Master The Fundamentals

In order to move quickly in different directions you must first be able to decelerate correctly. Proper deceleration mechanics allow an athlete to absorb force efficiently so that it may be released quickly in the opposite direction. The drill below will teach you how to stop correctly so that the body is in the best position to reverse directions.

1-2 Shuffle with Stick

Sets: 3 x 5 Reps each direction. Rest: 60–90 sec. Stance: 1. Start with right foot on one of the lane lines of a standard basketball court (facing the baseline) 2. Get in the athletic position 3. Feet shoulder-width, soft and springy (on the balls of your feet) 4. Knees slightly bent and rotated outward 5. Hips back (Hip hinge) 6. Lower and upper back arched 7. Arms back and aligned with the torso Push off: 1. Stay in the athletic position 2. Then stand on your left leg 3. Push off the left leg 4. Get triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip 5. Then land on the right leg (modified athletic position) 6. Immediately after landing, the left leg will follow with a push off (triple extension) 7. Make sure the left leg stays shoulder width (any closer will cause a poor movement pattern) 8. Cover the entire width of the paint Stick: 1. After the second push off (left leg), stick on the right leg 2. The right leg should be on the opposite lane line 2. Push the hips back 3. Knee slightly bent and rotated outward 4. Land on a soft flat foot (land quietly) Note: Repeat the movement in the opposite direction. NEXT: Drill #2 >> [pagebreak]

Prime the Central Nervous System With Lateral Plyometrics

Similar to what we discussed with linear acceleration, priming the CNS will be beneficial to helping an athlete improve his ability to perform explosive movements. The drill below will help athletes become more efficient moving laterally, as opposed to linearly. Lateral movement places a different set of demands on the body so it's important to train the CNS to execute this movement pattern correctly.

Lateral Bounds for Height with Stick

Sets: 3 x 5 Reps each leg - Rest: 60–90 sec. Stance: 1. Get in the jump stance 2. Feet hip width, soft and springy (on the balls of your foot) 3. Knees slightly bent and rotated outward 4. Hips back (Hip hinge) 5. Lower and upper back arched 6. Then stand on one leg and maintain that position (modified jump stance) Push off: 1. Push off the leg that’s on the ground 2. Get triple extension of the ankle, knee and hip 3. Try to jump as high as you can (under control) Landing: 1. Land on the opposite leg in the modified jump stance (previously mentioned) 2. The only difference is land with a soft flat foot and quietly Note: Repeat this movement in the opposite direction. NEXT: Tie it all together >> [pagebreak]

Tie It All Together

During competition, very little is predictable. Learning the fundamentals and becoming comfortable with the correct movements through activation will lead to the realization of the proper mechanics when things are put into a full speed scenario. The “pro agility” drill is a great way to work on improving an athlete’s change of direction and lateral movement skills. Below is a description of how to perform the drill correctly.

5-10-5 Shuffle “Pro Agility”

Sets: 3-5 Rest: 2–3 min. Stance: 1. 3-point stance with one hand (Right hand) on the line, feet on opposite side of the line, make sure your on the balls of your feet (heel about 2-3 inches off the ground) 2. Going to the right side, so stagger the right foot back 3. Slight knee flexion and more flexion at the hips 4. No weight on the front hand (Right hand) because the movement is lateral (Left hand or opposite hand 90 degree at hip) 5. All pressure on inside left foot (big toe) and on outside right foot (little toe) First 5 yards: 1. Cross over with left foot over right foot (Make sure the hand is the last to move) 2. Pressure on right foot (Push off) 3. Then shuffle and then turn your heels to the line (Hockey stop, with pressure in inside foot) 4. Touch the line with right hand (Feet do not have to touch the line, just your hand has to) 5. From the initial movement from the stance think about coming down to the line 10- yard sprint: 1. Horizontal body lean 2. Turn the heels towards the line and all the weight on the inside foot (hockey stop) 3. Touch the line with the left hand Final 5 yards: 1. Excessive horizontal body lean 2. Run through the line (Time will stop when full body is passed the line) Greg Robins NASM-CPT, RKC & Jamie Smith C.S.C.S. are trainers with Total Performance Sports in Everett, MA.