Pilates is a game changer for basketball players
Multiple components are required to become an elite basketball player. Being a great basketball player takes sound technique, toughness, strength and endurance to last through the entire game. Having a foundation of strength will help a player in any position. A lot of NBA players swear by Pilates for their training. Here’s how Pilates can be a game-changer for basketball players.
Basketball as a sport
Basketball is one of the most explosive sports. It is mesmerizing to watch an athlete leaping from near the free throw line to slam dunk the ball or watch a great shooter score from thirty feet away from the basket. It is majorly a non-contact sport. However, it is anything but non-contact with players, pushing, pulling and dashing into each other.
Whether you are a guard or a forward, the essence of your training is core strength and stability. Apart from that, quick reflexes with an ability to balance in dynamic movements and amazing coordination are some of the skills you need to train for. Pilates is a full-body regime that can challenge you to move your body into positions that you wouldn’t normally be able to do in other workouts, helping you to become more flexible, stronger and avoid injuries in the long run.
Pilates for Basketball players
Every skill required in basketball can be aided by different Pilates routines:
Dribbling is the act of bouncing the ball up and down off the floor with one hand, in order to advance the ball up the court. While dribbling, the player has to protect them to prevent the defender from stealing it. While dribbling, the player does not look at the ball, continues pounding the ball hard, and uses the free arm as a shield. There is a general assumption that basketball players require only upper body strength. However, a major part of dribbling and running has got to do with lower body strength. You need to work on hip, knee, ankle alignment and strengthening as dribbling requires a lot of squatting action. Some of the standing Barre exercises and side-lying matwork Pilates works spectacularly on the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. With Pilates, the lower limbs not only get stronger but also more flexible, allowing for bigger strides while moving.
Shooting consists of launching the ball toward the basket in an arcing motion with the purpose of it going in and scoring points. As it is an overhead ball throwing action, shooting requires a lot of upper body and arm strength, along with strong back muscles and shoulder joint mobility. Since it is a precise and swift movement, the force of the throw comes predominantly from the core and the speed from the mobility in the shoulder scapular region. For those athletes who do heavy weight lifting in the gym, Pilates hones in on small muscle groups and movements in the upper limbs and back, that are often neglected and underdeveloped. Working eccentrically, as well and concentrically, Pilates exercise with the resistance bands and on the equipment help in building leaner and longer muscles. It is these smaller muscles that help in stabilising the joint, adding precision of movement and preventing injury in the throwing action of the ball.
A pass happens when one player throws the ball to another player with the purpose of setting up play or taking a shot. There are bounce passes that hit the floor one time, chest passes that are thrown from the player’s upper body, and the spectacular alley-oop pass where one player lobs the ball above the rim and a second player grabs it out of mid-air and slam dunks.
As they pass with their hands, players require the ability to sprint, cut, jump, and change directions with their legs with a split-second notice. It requires a tremendous amount of coordination and agility. The multi-directional nature of Pilates aids in building hand-leg coordination, while maintaining a strong neutral core. Exercises like Swimming, Dead bug, and Double Leg Stretch will challenge the coordination, whether you do them on the mat or reformer. We change the pace of exercises to accustom the body to the dynamic speeds of the game. Moreover, the concentration on breathing in Pilates brings about efficiency in movement, leading to optimum use of energy while running on the feet and passing the ball to their teammates.
Blocking and Stealing:
A block occurs when the offensive player shoots and the defender swats the ball away, blocking its trajectory to the basket and preventing any points from being scored. A steal is taking away the ball from another player mid-air or while dribbling. These are both defensive moves. While guarding or defending, players usually position themselves on the balls of their feet, hip-width wide and are ready to turn sideways or forward to deflect the ball.
Defence majorly requires a lot of core strength and of course, great timing. Being able to resist the force of other players throw while maintaining your own position challenges the lumbopelvic stability the most. Pilates is widely renowned as the best core-strengthening workout regime. And it is true, the importance given to the protection of the lumbar spine, in particular, is unparalleled. The controlled movements on the reformer, with varied spring tensions, helps challenge the core strength while working on stabilising the spine over the hips. This makes the defensive players ready for the impact and helps them maintain quality defence while preventing major injuries.
One of the most amazing moves to watch, a rebound is when one player misses a shot, and the ball bounces back from the board or the hoop, and another player jumps up to grab the ball either to shoot (offensive) or the deflect (defensive). For rebounding, basketball players require powerful jumping ability and also, the ability to land safely back on their feet. Plyometrics are a vital piece in this puzzle for improving jumping power and muscular reaction timing. Jump board Pilates exercises are the best place to train for this. It will allow basketball players to train and focus on the alignment of the knee and ankle while landing in a controlled environment. And the addition of the spring loads, with various levels of resistance, will help them improve their jump power. We work on conditioning our athletes with not only double leg but also single leg explosions.
In addition to this, training the balance on different unstable surfaces like the MOTR, wobble board and foam roller can improve the proprioception of basketball players.
Over the last few years, many athletes are realising that they are missing out on holistic training in traditional workouts. There is no shortage of research backing up Pilates’ ability to help athletes improve dynamic balance, trunk strengthen, postural awareness, flexibility and gait pattern. A 2018 study by the Saudi J Sports Med shows a significant effect of standing Pilates on the balance of basketball players as there are statistically tall and lean. It was favourable in increasing the confidence of young basketball players to perform on the basketball court.
Chicago Bulls player Jimmy Butler loves Pilates. He recently said, “Pilates is something different. It doesn’t involve a basketball. You don’t have to run a million sprints, and you still can get a full-body workout from it. I think Pilates is an incredible workout. I come out drenched every single time!”
If it is good enough for players like LeBron James and Jason Kidd, it is good enough for you! If you are a basketball player looking to step up your game, correct muscle imbalance and enhance your strength, get in touch with us.
Until then, check out this beginner Pilates workout for basketball players:
Written with Devarshi Susania
A writer and Pilates instructor by profession, and a lawyer by education, Tarannum is passionate about art, travel, fitness and food. She has been practicing Pilates for the past five years at Moushu’s Pilates Studio and has experienced the transforming effects of it on her body, firsthand.