Last week we screened all 12 boys of the youth basketball team we're guiding. In about 10-15 minutes per player we had a look at all their major joints, noted down their aches and pains over the season and finally as an experiment had them do a 10 minute standing practice session.

Below we'll share what we found and what our objectives will be throughout their off-season movement training:

Screening Results

  • Toes/Feet

If you don't have good roots, you will not have good fruits! 

Last off-season we learnt through off-season screenings that there was quite the correlation between inability to move the big toe separately and anterior knee pain so all of the guys of the team knew about the toe and foot work we recommend them to do. Still there were a couple of guys who could not move their toes as shown in Andreo Spina's video. Also a couple of boys had collapsing arches that needed some strengthening and big toe mobility tested through sitting kneeled down with the big toe on the floor was nerve wrecking for some. We had a semi-pro player last year miss half of the season because of his inability to move his big toe (could not even stand in split squat position), so please don't overlook this! Overall, much better this year than last. 

  • Ankles

Most players sprain their ankle multiple times during the season. We've noticed that the boys who did had a little imbalance between left and right. Also actively moving their knee outside diagonally was nearly impossible for some, mostly the ones with knee inflammation issues. For 2 guys medial and lateral rotation of the ankle was very limited. 

  • Knees

Tight quadriceps and knee instability in one leg squats or lateral squatting variations. 

  • Hips

​Imbalance between left and right hip internal rotation: with almost all of them the side of the jumping leg had a bit or a lot less internal rotation. External rotation was really shitty with almost 100% of them so this will be addressed daily in their training and warmups. Hip flexors were also a bit more tight on the dominant leg.

  • Spine

One player had a small spine injury because of a confrontation during an in-game layup so we took a look at their spine control as well. Most of them had a bit of difficulty ariculating their lower back in a "peel away from the floor"-test but with some practice they will probably get it. We think, especially after learning more about coordination and rhythm from Jozef Frucek, that working daily hand/feet coordinations on both sides will be healthy work for them as well.

  • Shoulders

Actually much much worse than expected after reviewing basic shoulder circles and rotations. 

  • Standing Practice

As an experiment, we basically told players to stand for 10 minutes without moving, then tell us what they felt during the 10 minutes. "60% weight on your heals, 40% on your toes. Relax the knees and sink into it." 

To our surprise, most of them just did it without any complaining. Some of the feedback:

"The inside of my right knee started shaking."

"The back of my neck feels sore."

"My lower back felt frustrated."

"My lower back hurt."

"Feet were collapsing in."

"It was nice."


Off-Season Movement Objectives & Programming

Throughout the off-season we will try to work on the following elements. All of the players will have access to our facility to train when they want and as often as they want so it doesn't become a drag. We believe the off-season should also have an OFF-part to relax and do other stuff they like. We recommend 3 times per week, but we actually notice most of them come over more. 

  • Strong feet. Intrinsic foot strengthening drills, amazing big toe mobility/strength and working on building a strong arch. Gripping a sock and towel (or clay!) with the feet is great for this, as are one leg balance situations for longer sets of time - which as a plus builds very strong glutes and better knee stability.
  • Building "Shmiegel Ankles." If you look at how most ankle injuries happen, then we should load the tissues in the direction of risk. This means walking eccentrically loading ankle inversion and eversion, ankle walks, etc.

  • Building the "Athletic Leg" through mostly unilateral squat variations, both loaded and bodyweight, both regular and irregular variations to prepare for when shit happens.

Focusing here on the ability to flex deep into the hip and building a "long achilles" through knee-over-toes unilateral squats such as can be seen in the picture below. The still prevalent thought that the knee should not move over the toes can be dismissed as soon as you observe any athletic movement situations, it should be trained as it is part of the reality of sports and human movement. 

Athletic Leg Fighting Monkey.jpg

Athletic Leg/ Fighting Monkey

We like to vary our squat progressions with eccentric/isometric/concentric emphasis in different phases of their off-season, especially for the more strength oriented work. Right now in the first phase of their program we are working with 1+1/4 Split Squats (controlled double bounce in the bottom 1/4 of the lift to build stability and range in the deepest ROM). If they get to Bulgarian Split Squats, or even better Front Foot Elevated Bulgarian Split Squats, at the end of the off-season we will be very happy with their progress and they will have a quicker first step as they say in basketball - which actually really is a strong first PUSH because their ability to push themselves explosively towards the hoop is what makes it look like they have a quick first step.

  • Landing mechanics first, and then jumping variations. They already jump around a lot throughout their basketball practice so we do not overdo this in the movement training and focusing mostly on good landing skills in jumps, hops and bounces instead of doing a lot of extra jumping volume that would make them more prone to knee inflammation.
  • Explosiveness with either one arm dumbbell snatches, hang cleans or hang pulls - getting in explosive hip extension simple and efficient. 
  • Movement situations and coordination patterns for full-body hand/feet coordination for more efficient movement: "when one part moves, everything moves." In Martial Arts they talk about the 6 harmonies: hands move with feet, elbows/knees, shoulders/hips. Fighting Monkey research again has taught us a lot of applications for this.

  • Basic upper body pulling, pushing and grip strength through simple gymnastics work with rings and bars - not really any added weight used here. Here we basically let them play. Some of the guys are doing muscle ups and archer chin ups. Some regular chin ups and dips. We don't really care here as long as they are not weaklings, and as long as their legs are superstrong and mobile.
  • Stillness with functionality: seiza sitting, standing practice, resilience tests.
  • Conditioning mostly through basketball skill work.

In Short

  1. Get strong through basic strength/power training
  2. Move better through more efficient hand/feet coordination
  3. Wake up weak links, release overtrained/strained areas with isolated work first, then maintain through movement situations

What we learn through research and experience will continuously be implemented in our group basketball camps and how we work in our training facility. However if you're interested in a screening and personal program yourself, they are now an optional part of our off-season 18+ and youth basketball programs.