Basketball Conditioning: The Importance of Lateral Resistance Training

Basketball Conditioning: The Importance of Lateral Resistance Training

By Dan Hutchison, MS, ATC, CSCS

Lateral movement in the game of basketball is essential for defending ones opponent both on and off the ball.  The ability to anticipate and ‘beat’ the dribbler to a specific spot requires conditioning, technical repetition, and court awareness.  Basketball coaches usually cover the latter two aspects by consistently implementing defensive drills into practice and teaching athletes strategies for court awareness.  The conditioning end of lateral movement training is typically done through these strategies alone, but can be magnified through small applications of resistance on the court.

From a training and conditioning perspective, lateral training is beneficial for improving specific muscle areas and can be very conducive to reducing the chances of injury, especially in the ankle area which is most often injured in the sport of basketball.  The Gluteus Medius (GM) muscle functions to stabilize the pelvis during the support/stance phase of walking and running.  Static and dynamic lateral movement drills adequately stimulate the GM and allow the surrounding muscles to properly stabilize the pelvis during loaded situations.  By adding resisted movement laterally conditions the muscles of the hip, i.e., GM, by not only providing a strength stimulus to that area, but also by providing a conditioning application to augment fatigue during practices and game situations.  Defensive play involves over 50% of the physical activity within a competitive game, and when athletes get fatigued, technique is compromised and injury is more likely to occur.

Kinetically, by strengthening the hip area, the ankle joint will adapt through ancillary muscle feedback, and be better ‘protected’ during athletic movement.  The ankle joint has four distinct movements – plantar flexion, dorsi flexion, inversion and eversion.  The movements of inversion and eversion are very small but provide medial-lateral stability to the ankle throughout lateral movement.  Inversion is the sole of the foot turning inward (medial); eversion is the sole of the foot turning outward (lateral).  Lateral training applications improve the stability of the ankle by challenging these movements under a specific load (e.g., bodyweight, dynamic movements, resistance training).  As mentioned above, by loading lateral movement ankle stability is challenged with corresponding strengthening and conditioning of the hip via the kinetic chain.  Some examples of lateral training applications:

  • Dynamic lateral movement drills – Resistance cord applications (Flex-X™ Lower body trainer/Speed-X™ Lower Body Training System), lateral shuffles, Carioca, lateral bounding.
  • Plyometric drills (double-leg to single-leg) – Pattern drills, barrier and box jumps, cord-loaded applications (*emphasis on lateral applications).

Lateral training in the sport of basketball can be a very important factor for improving defensive play, enhancing strength capacities in the lateral hip region and below, and injury reduction through sport-specific conditioning.  Loaded lateral movement applications using the above mentioned devices, can be easily implemented into practice situations where not only is the athletes conditioning in a sport-specific manner, they are also reaping the benefits of both technical and tactical preparation.  This concept may be used to improve conditioning through dedicated drills which can improve the psychological component of practice as well.  By implementing drills and routines into practice to improve aerobic capacity and strength, coaches can be more productive and efficient.


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Hall, S.  (2007). Basic Biomechanics.  McGraw-Hill Higher Education

Powers, S.K. and Howley, E.T.  Exercise Physiology:  Theory ad Application to Fitness and Performance (7th Ed.).  Boston, MA.  2009.