Think basketball, think explosive energy. But the athletes make it look graceful, easy even.
At 5’11, Dhruv has overcome the challenge of being “possibly the shortest guy” on every team he has played in. The 26-year-old from Delhi – who has studied kinesiology – believes his fitness and his ability to needle his opponents have given him the edge.
Arvind, meanwhile, is better known in southern India for his acting prowess. The Telugu actor, who started playing basketball as a student in the United States, rediscovered his love for the game two years ago when he participated in 3BL.
Their advice with basketball fitness: Keep it functional. Keep it explosive.
Simply put, it is jump training or adding an explosive element to any exercise. It helps in increasing muscle strength, endurance and power.
“Basketball is a fast-twitch sport,” says Dhruv. “Plyometric training is one of the best ways to get the fast-twitch muscles firing.”
While Arvind has done his due on box jumps, he has started training more functionally for basketball by adding hurdle jumps to his training.
“In basketball, once you jump you are usually going to land on the same plane, unlike in box jumps,” says the 35-year-old. “Hurdle jumps are a more effective exercise, because you jump over something.” He uses variations like seated (starting in a sitting position) or lateral hurdle jumps to make it more challenging.
As measured by HomeCourt AI, Arvind’s standing vertical jump is an incredible 36 inches.
A basketball court measures 94 feet x 50 feet, which means you need short, intense bursts of speed. Not only do sprint intervals mimic this, but it also pushes your cardio training.
“I do sprint training two-three times a week,” says Dhruv. “I don’t aim for 100 metres, because I’m never going to run that much at one go on the court. Rather I run from one end of the court to the other and time myself. In 3x3, I have lesser recovery time, I just need to sprint, put my muscles on and off, because it’s so fast.”
To amp up interval training, Arvind says he adds jump training to sprint intervals.
“I do one set of lateral jumps, I do three jumps then I’ll do three sprints and repeat the process,” the he says. “On the court you are jumping after running a lot. You are not going to be totally fresh while jumping, so you need to simulate that for your muscles.”
Compound upper body exercises
“A lot of people don’t realise that you use a lot of upper body – your shoulders especially – while jumping,” says Arvind. “It is important to strengthen it for that as well as to get past defenders.”
While Dhruv can bench press 105 kgs, he stayed in shape by doing a lot of bodyweight exercises and trained with TRX bands when he could not visit a gym. These exercises are efficient, can be done anywhere, and engage a lot of the core muscles.
“I do a lot of pike push-ups and pull-ups,” says Dhruv. “I usually do 100 of each during my upper body workouts with skipping in between every set.”
Squats and lunges
Oldie but a goodie. Squats and lunges are a staple of a solid workout regimen for a reason – they are still some of the best exercises to build lower body strength. They target the glutes and hamstrings – two of the biggest muscle groups in the body – that ultimately power the jumps. And they are adaptable for any fitness level.
You can start with basic half-squat and split squat, then dial up the intensity by loading weights or make it more dynamic by powering up.
“In order to increase your vertical, you shouldn't be lifting heavy,” says Dhruv. “When I'm working on my jumps, say I'm squatting, I would take off 60% of my one rep max. I will go down slow and explode up. I do split squats and a lot of jump lunges for agility.
“It is very important to work on both legs individually. Performing single leg squat in your training sessions will help you get explosive strength in each leg so you can take off with either feet, rather than always having to jump off with both feet,” adds Dhruv.
There are a variety of lunges as well – front, back, side just to begin with – that focus on different muscles. The lateral lunge is a very functional move for basketball players, since it mirrors the movement while evading defenders.
90/90 hip openers
As important as muscle strength is, flexibility should not be ignored. Basketball is an intense, high-impact game that can take a toll on the body.
“I am 26 years old now,” says Dhruv. “I have realized that flexibility is very important to protect the joints and prevent muscles from stiffening.”
Even as the Delhi-based player practices yoga regularly and begins his day with Surya Namaskar (sun salutation), one of his go-to exercises is the 90/90 hip opener. It not only improves hip mobility but takes away a lot of stress from the lower back.
“Any workout you do should have muscle strength as well as endurance,” says Arvind. “Make sure there are no imbalances, and the body is proportional. You can avoid a lot of injuries by doing that.”