As the saying goes, speed kills. Many coaches also say you can’t teach speed, but we respectfully disagree. When talking about improving speed in sports, such as basketball, we are really talking about improving acceleration. In the game of basketball there's not enough time to develop top-end speed, so it's more important to improve your ability to increase velocity as quickly as possible. Similar to improving the vertical jump, an athlete will become faster when they are able to produce more force, call upon that potential force faster, and perform the movement more efficiently. The fastest way to get faster is to improve the efficiency. Below are three tips to improve that breakaway speed.

THE BIG THREE - Sprinter's Workout

Learn To Extend

Sprinting is a complex movement. To master any complicated movement it is beneficial to break it down into a simpler movement in order to understand the mechanics. It is imperative when learning how to sprint that you grasp the concept of triple extension. Triple extension is a simultaneous extending of the hip, knee and ankle joint. When triple extension is achieved the muscles responsible for extending these joints give a coordinated contraction that powerfully moves an athlete in the desired direction. Below is a fundamental drill to teach you how to achieve triple extension similar to it’s application in the sprint. Wall Marches 3 sets x 5 reps each – 60 Seconds Rest Between Sets Find an open wall and stand an arms length + one foot from the wall. From that distance extend your arm and get on the balls of your foot (heels slightly off the floor) and fall into the wall (hands against the wall) Your hand position should be shoulder-width and chest-height. From that position you should have a forward body lean that’s at a 45-degree angle with your chin tucked. Drive one knee up and above the belly button, your heel should be up and under the hips. With your chin remaining tucked, back arched, torso braced, and glute engaged (leg that’s on the floor), hold this position for 5 seconds and then explosively drive your leg back to the start position (extend hip and knee). Alternate to the other leg. NEXT: Get moving! >> [pagebreak]

Focus on Reactive and Explosive Strength

Various activation drills are beneficial to prime the body for explosive movement. The CNS (Central Nervous System) is responsible for sending messages to skeletal muscle to perform a desired movement. By priming the nervous system we are working on the improvement of neuromuscular coordination, or our ability to produce a movement through the coordinated and timely contraction of desired muscles and the relaxation of the muscles that oppose the desired movement. The exercise below is a great way to achieve this and improve your reactive / explosive strength for sprinting. Linear Bounds 3 sets x 5 reps each – 90 seconds rest Start the movement on one leg, from there push off with the leg on the ground and make sure to get triple extension from the ankle, knee, and hip. When bounding you want to make sure your moving forward (horizontally) not upward (vertically). After you jump off the leg on the floor make sure to land on the opposite leg and while landing be sure to keep a soft foot (balls of your foot) and minimize the ground contact time (time on the floor).

Sprint, Sprint, Sprint

If you want to be faster, you want to be a great sprinter. If you want to get better at sprinting then you should you know…sprint! Tying in the basic drill from tip 1 with the activation drill in tip 2 will help you become a technically sound sprinter. The two sprint variations below will help you achieve an advantageous position (forward lean). Lean Fall Run 3–5 sprints each leg – Rest = walk back to start (allow enough time between sprints for full recovery) Start on the baseline of a standard basketball court and get in a 2-point stance (staggered stance and on the balls of the foot). Start the movement by leaning forward until the point you feel like you’re going to fall (if you have a partner they can hold onto the back middle portion of your t-shirt, this will increase the fall forward and at the last second they will let go and you will complete the movement). Right before you fall you will drive into the ground with both legs while maintaining the 45-degree forward body lean. Sprint to the free throw line and then slow-down (give yourself plenty of room to decelerate). While sprinting keep shoulders relaxed and be sure to keep the elbows at a 90-degree angle (drive elbows back and keep close to the body) Greg Robins NASM-CPT, RKC & Jamie Smith C.S.C.S. are trainers with Total Performance Sports in Everett, MA.