Sprints are a powerful tool in an NBA player’s arsenal, being the force that drives perfect breakaways that can leave you feeling like you’re the only man on the court. But increasing sprint speed is more than just logging as many laps around the stadium as you can—short, targeted exercises are what’s really important if you want to improve your explosive movement. An added bonus is that some subjects who push their sprint speeds up may experience up to a 100 per cent increase in their endurance capacity, so say goodbye to those lazy fourth quarters. Here are three exercises that will help you hit your top speed on the court.
Alternating one-footed bounds
The simultaneous extension of the knee, hip and ankle is what gives sprints their explosive movement. To improve your coordination and strength during this action, you can perform alternating one-footed bounds. Begin standing on one foot, with your other leg elevated. Jump forward using your supporting limb, making sure to activate all three parts of your leg (it’s easy to forget the ankle extension). Land on your opposite foot, trying to minimize impact—if done correctly, you’d have barely made a sound—as well as time actually touching the ground before performing the same action with your other foot. Alternate this exercise 5-10 times per foot, performing a total of three sets.
30-second pyramid sprints
Performing sprints themselves may seem like a no-brainer, but it works best when varying intensities throughout your workout. This is because sprints can be broken down into stages, with most athletes hitting their fastest speed after about 50-60 metres into their run. Complete a thorough warmup, necessary to remove muscle tightness before you begin any anaerobic exercise such as sprints (or even weight-lifting), and also boost your heart rate so they’re less of a shock to the system. For your first sprint, take it relatively at around 50-60 per cent of your maximum sprint intensity for a full 30 seconds, followed by a cooler jogging pace for about two minutes. After using the jog to recover, spring another 30 seconds at 70-80 per cent of your max, followed by a slightly longer recovery jog of about three minutes. Finally, top off your “pyramid” with a full-on, 100 per cent effort, followed by a three to four-minute breather. Now, work your way down by sprinting at your second set pace, cooling off, and finishing at your initial intensity. Perform three pyramids to hit the muscles that activate at each stage of your sprint.
High-load, low-rep squats
If you find yourself at the gym instead of on the track or at the basketball court, it’s good to know there are still ways you can increase your sprints on top of your usual workout. Much like jumping exercises or sprinting very short distances at maximum intensity, alactic anaerobic exercises such as lifting heavier than usual loads—safely—at the gym can work the same types of muscles that improve your sprints. Rather than concentrating on your usual mass-building squat regimen (typically doing 10 reps over three sets), safely increase your lifting weight to just around 80 per cent of your one-rep max. The goal is to do three reps for five sets, completely exhausting your muscles by the third each time. It won’t increase your mass, but it will give you more strength.