Higher jumps and longer careers – how does mobility training benefit basketball players

Basketball is a fast pace sport, where athletes are required to run quickly, jump high, pass, catch, and shoot the ball.

When you think about it, basketball players use their muscles versatilely throughout the game. Thighs and gluteal muscles are involved in sliding to sides, defending and lowering into a squat before shooting. Jumping activates calves, hamstrings and quadriceps. Shooting, defending and passing activates the arms, shoulders, chest and back muscles. The core keeps the whole package together and the player balanced.

However, there are some common body areas where basketball players encounter problems with mobility.

We analyzed the Finnish professional basketball team Kouvot to find out more!

Team: Kouvot
Number of tested players: 13

Average results*: 

7% hypermobility
50% sufficient mobility
43% restricted mobility

 

 



*Compared to reference values that have been gathered from anatomy, biomechanics and physiotherapy literature.

Photo: Tuomo Tulokas

How did professional basketball players do?

Hypermobility was found in hip internal rotators. The overall percentage was 16%.

The muscles with most area for improvement (restricted mobility) were:

  1. Plantar flexors (30%)
  2. Rectus femoris (24%)
  3. Shoulder external rotators (18%)

Movement in basketball is usually in the forefeet, which affects ankle mobility. Also, the hip flexors (incl. rectus femoris) are constantly used to spring the athlete into the air, which makes stiffness common in this area.

Team's average hip internal rotator mobility demonstrated
Team's average ankle mobility demonstrated

Green zone = sufficient mobility
Red zone = restricted mobility
Blue zone = hypermobility

The team had good mobility in hamstrings and hip adductors, which is especially important when thinking about the defense position in basketball.

The middle body mobility was also good, although T-spine rotation was slightly short. Arm mobility was good excluding shoulder external rotators.

Why should basketball players care about body mobility?

Optimal mobility is vital for basketball players to stay injury-free and move efficiently during the season.

Every time a player runs or jumps (which happens a lot), they extend in three places: the ankles, the knees, and the hips. If any one of those three joints can’t go through a full range of motion, then the player won’t be able to run as fast or jump as high as they are capable of.

If we turn this upside down, every time a player lands from running and jumping, the kinetic energy goes through those same three joints. If one or more of those can’t flex to absorb the impact, it creates impact to the joints next to it. For example, insufficient ankle mobility limits the potential to run and jump, but also causes unnecessary impact on the knees.

As the season goes further and, the damage will be cumulative. This is why daily mobility and flexibility drills are important.

3 ways basketball players can benefit from improving body mobility

1. Optimal shooting position

When a basketball player is catching the ball, the goal is to be in an optimal shooting position. Shoulders should be back, chest out, eyes up and hands ready. If a player has rounded shoulders and lack of mobility in the upper body, they need to reposition to get into the shooting position. As basketball is a rapid pace sport, the time used for straightening up makes a huge difference in the final score. 

Photo: Tuomo Tulokas

2. Improved overall performance

Improving body mobility can improve sprinting speed, agility and jump height through a better range of motion. For example, tight hip flexors can limit the jump height (due to restricted hip extension), running speed and changing direction quickly.

Photo: Tuomo Tulokas

3. Less injuries & longer careers

As said, lack of mobility creates unwanted pressure on joints and muscles and exposes basketball players on injuries. To ensure optimal performance and a healthy, long career, basketball players should take care of their body mobility.

Photo: Tuomo Tulokas

Recommended mobility exercises for basketball players

Increase mobility in plantar flexors
  1. Stand in a stable upright position
  2. Take a step forward and backward
  3. Make sure you reach maximum range in the ankle joint (let the knee go over the ankle line)
  4. Repeat for 30-40 seconds on each side
Increase strength in hip internal rotators
  1. Sit down in a stable upright position
  2. Below your knee, bend your leg away from the midline of your body and back
  3. Keep your back straight 
  4. Repeat for 30-40 seconds on each side

More results and stories about body mobility & sports:

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