No matter if you’re a lifter, swimmer, runner, or cyclist, cross-training is essential to keep your fitness journey exciting, train new muscles and become an all-around better athlete. While many lifters might choose running as their cross-training activity and vice versa, lacing up a pair of basketball shoes and shooting hoops can be a great way to burn off some energy and become more fit.
Still not convinced that basketball is more than a game, but a serious workout? Here are a few reasons why it’s arguably one of the best cross-training activities and how you can improve your skills to make your workouts more fun.
Basketball Can Make You More Explosive
While some people are naturally more explosive than others, it’s a trainable skill that can significantly impact your main workout routine. For example, when you’re deadlifting you need explosiveness to rip the bar off the ground and lock it out at the top without hitting a hitch along the way. If you’re sprinting or trail running, explosiveness helps you get off of the line quicker and allows you to hurdle boulders, logs, and more with ease.
In basketball, you must be explosive to be competitive. This explosiveness allows players to leap high into the air to catch a rebound or chase down a missed shot. Whether you’re planning to shoot hoops by yourself or with friends, the more that you play, the quicker you’ll start to build that agility in your legs that power you towards the rim.
Basketball Requires Mental Agility
There’s much more to basketball than dribbling, shooting, and rebounding. It requires mental agility as well as mental agility. You must be quick on your feet, figuratively and literally, to go after the ball, make split-second decisions on when to shoot and when to drive, and chase after the ball as Michael Jordan did.
Because you have to think about these elements while playing, basketball can help take your mind off of the stress and happenings of daily life. Runners, in particular, know this sensation, but you can also get that same type of “high” from basketball as well. Learning a new activity could be what you need to clear your head if you’re finding your stress and worries leaching into your other workouts.
Basketball Builds Hand-Eye Coordination
There’s a lot that goes into basketball and it’s a full-body workout. You must sprint, dribble and jump, sometimes all at the same time. Perhaps the most significant differentiating factor between basketball and other fitness routines is your hand-eye coordination. When you’re running, you don’t necessarily need to touch or grab anything. Even while lifting, although you’re touching the barbell or kettlebell, you don’t necessarily need to interact with it much beyond picking it up, pushing it away, or swinging it.
Basketball, on the other hand, requires you to snatch the ball from the air, dribble it while running, aim, and shoot precisely for that perfect swoosh. Much like explosiveness, hand-eye coordination is a natural ability some people have, but it’s also totally trainable. The more you shoot hoops, the better you’ll get at controlling the ball, passing it, and making it float through the net with ease. You might even notice that enhanced hand-eye coordination affects other areas of life too, like catching that rolling tomato off the counter before it hits the floor.
Basketball Keeps Your Training Exciting
Finally, basketball can help keep your training regimen from getting stale. While the point of lacing up your gym shoes day after day is to be consistent, if it gets boring, you might lose track of your end goal. Being a game, basketball can help satisfy your craving for competition, even if you’re just competing with your shots made from the previous week.
How To Get Better At Basketball
Now that we’ve covered why basketball is such an excellent cross-training activity, you might as well learn how to be good at it, right? Here are a few tips that can significantly improve your game so you can impress your friends and yourself every time you hit the court.
Learn Proper Technique
Chances are you’ve played basketball at some point in your life. Whether it was high school P.E. or a pick-up league back in college, the act of dribbling a ball and shooting isn’t exactly foreign to most. That being said, there are right and wrong ways to shoot hoops. First, it starts with your dribbling technique.
You don’t want to bounce the ball off of the ground as hard as you can or as high as you can either. If you do this, you’re sacrificing control for being louder. Instead, aim to bounce the ball just a little above your knees, keeping them bent and your back straight. Also, ensure you’re practising dribbling with both hands too. These are only a few of many technique tips that can go a long way. Along with practising, read a few guides or talk with an experienced player to really hone your technique.
Shoot Around as Often as You Can
You can read as many guides as you want about proper technique, however, none of it matters unless you put these tips into practice. You’ll only get better the more often you hit the court and that’s where the real work happens. Bring a water bottle, make sure your ball is properly inflated, and get to work. Practice hitting shots from short and long-range and for a real cardio workout, try not to stop moving, cutting, and crossing over imaginary opponents.
Study the Greats
If you’ve decided that you want to take basketball more seriously than just for fitness, it helps to study the greats. Watch old clips of your favourite NBA players such as Allen Iverson or Shaquille O’Neal and check for the signature moves and details that separated them from their peers. Or, if you have plans on joining a league, you might benefit from one-on-one training with a coach or trainer that can take your game to the next level.
Make Sure You Have the Right Gear
Just like you wouldn’t be caught deadlifting without your gym shoes or running a 5K without your running shoes, having a pair of dedicated basketball shoes is crucial. These kicks are designed to absorb impact and provide ankle support as you run around the court to help prevent strain. Typically, you have the choice of high-tops and mid-tops. High-tops are the gold standard with optimal ankle support. However, some people prefer the lightness of mid-top basketball shoes. Try a few pairs out from a legacy brand like Reebok, lace them up, and get to work.