Get hops: If your main source of exercise is regular pickup games with your buddies, we’re going to guess that basketball is the one you play most often, given its year-round accessibility. While the tips that follow are geared primarily for increased performance on the court, boosting speed and explosiveness will change any athlete’s game for the better. These skills begin with your vertical jump. “Do box jumps once a week,” says Jason Ferruggia, a strength coach in Los Angeles who’s worked with more than 500 athletes. Find a stable box or platform that’s challenging to jump up onto and perform three to five sets of one to three reps. Rest up to two minutes between sets. Swing your arms back to begin each rep, dip your hips, and then reverse the motions quickly and use the momentum tohelp propel you onto the box. Land softly (try to make your landing quiet). If you already weight train, place the box jumps at the beginning of your lower-body workout. However, “if you’re playing basketball four times per week or more, don’t bother with them, ” says Ferruggia—you’re getting plenty of practice jumping as it is, and may risk injury by doing more.
Play your heart out: To build court-specific speed, sprint from baseline to half-court and then rest two minutes. Repeat for 10–12 total sprints. “As far as conditioning goes,” says Ferruggia, “I’ve always been a believer in playing yourself into shape.” Competing in your sport two to three times per week for at least 30 minutes should be enough to build your endurance.
Go low: High-top sneakers that provide extra ankle support were popular in the ’80s and ’90s but are giving way to low-tops or mid-range sneakers now. “When you essentially put a cast around your ankle, the stress of running and turning gets transferred elsewhere,” says Ferruggia. Namely, your knees, hips, and lower back. Less-supportive sneakers like a Converse Chuck Taylor allow your ankles to work at stabilizing themselves.