The sport of basketball consists of various bio-dynamics and bio-motor abilities. It is quite obvious that in the sport of basketball an athlete needs to improve their speed and power qualities. More specifically the athlete needs to be efficient with their multi-directional speed (changing direction and velocity) and vertical explosiveness.
This can be accomplished through different speed and power drills, but if your in a situation where you have limited space, equipment and/ or if the athlete performs high amounts of volume with the competitive movements (during the off-season) then incorporating the eccentric method would be very beneficial.
It is very important to note that every dynamic movement seen in basketball will always begin with an eccentric action. The eccentric phase of a movement is known as the lengthening or yielding portion caused by the force of a specific load. While increasing an athlete’s eccentric strength, there are two neuromuscular processes that need to be developed. The first is known as the stretch reflex and the second is the stretch shortening cycle (SSC), both are very important for the increase in force production.
The stretch reflex is one of the most powerful responses within the human body. This reflex consist of 2 proprioceptors, muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs (GTO). The muscle spindles primary function is to measure the changes in length and communicating to the brain about the proper amount of muscle contraction to overcome the external load. The GTO is the opposite and tells the brain when the muscle should relax by measuring the change in force. The GTO is very important because it will inhibit and prevent serious muscular damage (autogenic inhibition). But can also be detrimental to an athlete trying to produce high levels of force specific to the sporting demands.
Here are three major reasons an athlete should incorporate the eccentric method:
First, the autogenic inhibition can be decrease via the eccentric method. While focusing on the eccentric phase, the athlete is training both proprioceptors. The primary training effect is to improve the neuromuscular system with the neural pathways between the muscle spindle, CNS and muscle. Simultaneously decreasing the GTO activity, which will allow the athlete to absorb higher levels of force.
Second and often overlooked is the ability to absorb force. In my opinion as coach the athlete needs to efficiently absorb force before producing force. An athlete who can absorb more energy via the eccentric phase will have a greater ability to produce more concentric force. This is accomplished by the stretch shortening cycle. A great analogy is the stretching of a rubber band. As the rubber band is stretched or lengthened, there is an increase in stored elastic energy. The same is true for the an athlete, the more energy absorb eccentrically, the more energy will be applied concentrically. This will teach the athlete how to efficiently decelerate. This will have a greater training effect than some of the common “agility” or “ladder” drills. On a side note, I am not a fan of the so called “speed or agility ladder”. Teaching an athlete to perform different drills in a confined environment will not improve an athlete’s linear and multi-directional speed. It actually reinforces poor technique and limits the athlete’s ability to put enough force into the ground.
Third, increasing the intensity of the movement without having to increase the load. If an athlete is constantly performing a high amount of volume with their competitive exercises, the coach needs to manage the training parameters. Incorporating the eccentric method will allow the athlete to train with sub-maximal loads, but at the same time the relative intensity is increased. Also in my opinion the eccentric method will follow a low to medium volume scheme. A by-product of emphasizing the eccentric phase, is improving the execution of the movement. Controlling the tempo and decreasing the eccentric portion will give the athlete the ability to improve their technique.
The eccentric method is extremely taxing on the athlete, I recommend programming this method for a 2-3 week training block during the athlete’s off-season. This method can be performed with maximal intensity (90% +), but in my opinion the risk to reward is not going to benefit the athlete. I suggest that the intensity stays with in the 50-70% range and volume will be determined by the athlete’s preparedness/ training level. Previously stated, I suggest keeping the volume low to medium. The tempo of the eccentric phase will be determined by the movement, but should be performed with 4-6 seconds count. It’s important to know as a coach if you tell an athlete to perform a 4 second eccentric, the athlete will usually perform a 3 second eccentric. This will primarily occur with novice athletes and/ or when the athlete becomes fatigued. My two recommendations are having the athlete perform the movement with a coach’s command or a clock count. If there is a lack of equipment or if the group is very large, I suggest telling the athlete to perform a 5 second eccentric. By increasing the count by 1 second, this will leave some room for error and then the athlete will perform the correct tempo prescribed. Lastly, each eccentric emphasized repetition should be completed with a dynamic or explosive concentric. This is crucial because the eccentric and concentric phases are used by two different neurological pathways. As a coach it’s imperative to cue the athlete to accelerate the concentric phase as fast and explosive as possible. This will correctly train the athlete’s nervous system and increase a positive transfer to the sport of basketball.
The primary goal with a quality physical preparation program is to increase the athlete’s performance levels with proper training methods/ means that will elicit the correct adaptations. Increasing the athlete’s eccentric strength levels will have an impact on their force production. It is essential that an athlete efficiently transitions from eccentric, isometric and concentric phases. This will allow the athlete to complete movements with greater force and higher velocities on the court.