How to Get Strong Basketball Legs

It’s not the right shoes, it’s the right legs – Basketball Legs

We spend a lot of time looking at shoes for the various sports we enjoy, often sacrificing stability, support and endurance for color, popularity and style.   While the best shoes are built for protection, support, stability and endurance, it is how we strengthen and train our legs that makes the difference.  Strong legs help us move quickly down the court, dodge and fake opponents, jump impossibly high and sometimes seem to fly.  Here are a few strengthening exercises which should be used in moderation at first, gradually building up repetitions and sets over months and always remembering to stretch-out after a workout and warm-up before the next.  Stretching after the work-out is one of the best ways to help your muscles relax and rebound after a good work-out and avoid the pains of improvement as well as injury when they are put back into heavy use later.
All exercises below are designed for young people and those in good health and approved by a physician to begin a work-out program.
Lunges: This exercise works almost all the muscles in your legs with one simple move as well as strengthening the knees and avoiding any impact to the joints.  Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart comfortably and then take a large step forward with your left  foot.  Keep your hands on your hips or out to each side to help you maintain balance.   Then, lower your body straight down until your back legs is at a right angle at the knee.  Raise yourself up slowly using your leg muscles and repeat the movement with your right  foot.  You can start with as little as 3 sets of ten repetitions each and build up by adding 5 more repetitions each week until you reach 40 repetitions.  Try to walk around the block doing lunges.  When you can do that, you have truly grown stronger.
If you have knee pain, take smaller steps forward and drop down as far as comfortable.  If you are still having pain then you may have some knee issues and there are other exercises which can strengthen the leg without putting as much stress on your knees.   When finished, sit on the floor and stretch out each leg by keeping it flat on the floor as you touch your ankles and toes, if possible.  If you can reach your shoes then gently pull back on the top of your shoe at the same time to stretch your ankles and calf muscles.
Heel raises: Heel raises are a great exercise which strengthen the calf muscles and ankles.  Sprained ankles are one of the most common injuries in basketball, so this is a defensive exercise to strengthen this part of your leg.   Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips and raise yourself on your toes and hold for a count of five (101, 102, 103, 104, 105).  Do 30 repetitions with your toes points inward comfortably, then 30 repetitions with your toes pointed out to the side of your body.  Learn to gently stretch our your calf muscles and strengthen them by standing on a stair with your toes and lowering your heels to stretch the calf muscles, then stand on your toes for a count of five, lower, then raise, etc.  Don’t overdo either exercise but gradually build up your repetitions as your strength increases.
Stairs, Trails and Cross Country:  Going up and down stairs is a great exercise for your legs and gets your heart going as well.  Running stairs on an athletic field or in an auditorium is a great way to strengthen your legs as well as improve your aerobic conditioning for cardiovascular health.    Jogging up and down hills or trails is great exercise and lets you enjoy being outdoors.  When you run on slightly uneven ground instead of cement sidewalks you reduce the impact on joints and so strengthen your ankles and legs which have to respond to the uneven surfaces.  Running “Cross Country” is a great way to build up aerobic conditioning, endurance and strength in your legs.  However, try to avoid running on hard pavement unless you have on great shock-absorbing shoes, as it produces excessive vibrations and over time may lead to a variety of joint complaints.

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