Several years ago, I presented on jump training for injury prevention in women’s basketball players at the Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group conference. Most of the presentation can be seen below:
I also published a paper on the topic in the Strength and Conditioning Journal.
The basic premise was strength coaches needed to incorporate ideas from motor learning into their training to improve performance and reduce injuries. Specifically, I spoke about specificity and variability.
The typical jump training programs, especially a decade ago, included very static, safe jumps, often over barriers like a cone or onto a box. This changes the specificity of the jump: Injuries tend to occur in lengthened positions with eyed directed upward, such as reaching for a rebound. At the time, the prevailing wisdom was that with more training on the perfect landing, we could avoid injuries. My argument was that the sport demands imperfect landings: When I jump for a rebound with the intention to land and score quickly, I do not land in a perfect, soft, toe to heel landing into a quarter to half squat with my eyes fixated on the ground to provide advanced cues for the landing. Instead, my eyes are directed on the rim, I may or may not land on two feet, and I aim to reduce the time on the ground to beat my opponent and create an advantage for the shot.
Basically, the prevailing wisdom was that if we practiced more stationary form shooting from 3-5 feet from the basket, and created a “perfect” shot from there, we would get perfect performance on three-point attempts against defenders when sprinting off a screen and deciding whether or not to shoot. Just as I see form shooting as having limited transfer to game shooting performance, the training for the perfect landing has limited transfer under game demands.
As I worked individually with a player this spring, and constantly tried to vary his shots, I realized that the variability in the jumps and landings actually created a low-intensity jump training program for injury prevention that likely exceeds the benefits of most traditional jump training programs.
In the movement shooting drills above, which essentially are my “Form Shooting Drills” for non-beginners, players use a variety of movements: Jumps and hops, sagittal, frontal and transverse plane movements, rotation in the air, and more. These are the types of variable jumps for which I advocated in my presentation. Furthermore, because the intention is to shoot, not just to land from a jump, the posture is more similar to the posture one uses in a game, and the eyes are directed at the rim, not at the ground, forcing the body to learn to anticipate the landing without visual information.
The Variable Form Shooting Drill is more complex, as it adds catching to the movement. Now, the movements are less predictable, as the timing is dictated to some degree by the pass, although the player controls/plans the movement. Many of these do not challenge the player’s landing skills, but simple cues to encourage greater jump height or length would create another shooting drill that could serve as a low-intensity jump training program for injury prevention.
In terms of injury prevention/reduction, perfect is not the goal. Perfect landings are relatively easy in training: Simply reduce the intensity and the complexity. The same is true with shooting; if the goal is a “perfect shot”, reduce the intensity and complexity: Shoot directly in front of the basket with no defense, no movement, no speed, no decision-making, etc. Games demand more, whether in terms of landing from jumps or making shots. Practicing only the perfect version of the techniques under-prepares players for the game demands; this reduces shooting percentages, and sets up athletes for potential injuries.
The answer is not more repetitions, but better repetitions. Repetitions that are more specific to the game action and that have greater variability from repetition to repetition, like game shots and landings. The goal is not to look better in practice, but to perform better during games, while reducing one’s potential for injury.
These shooting drills are not the cure for non-contact knee injuries. However, these drills present some ideas that can be used to improve shooting and reduce injuries.