Many basketball athletes have weak hamstrings and weak glutes, since the demands of the sport place a higher emphasis on jumping, quick burst running, and abrupt stopping—all these movements are very quad dominant. It is vital, especially for basketball players, to target both the hamstrings and glutes when strength training to balance out that asymmetry. Both the hamstrings and glutes play a major role in protecting the ACL when landing from a jump and when planting and cutting.
One of my favorite exercises to train the posterior chain is the Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL). This exercise trains hamstrings and glutes, and because it is a single leg movement, it also trains balance and can help eliminate any asymmetries in the body from right leg to left leg. Additionally, when athletes perform the exercise with one dumbbell, it trains the core in anti-rotation.
Before an athlete progresses to the Single Leg RDL, they should first be proficient in the conventional Double-Legged RDL. The RDL is a hip hinge movement, which is critical for maximizing performance on the field and in the weight room. Finally, it is a great movement to strengthen the hamstrings and glutes to help prevent injury on the basketball court.
The cues for the Barbell Romanian Deadlift are:
- The feet should be about hip width apart
- The knees should be slightly flexed
- As you descend your back should stay flat and the shoulders should be pulled back
- The hips should hinge and be pushed back as you go down while the knees stay slightly flexed
- The barbell should stay close to the body during the entire movement and should be lowered to just below the knee
- As you bring the bar back to starting position focus on squeezing the glutes
The cues for the Single-Leg RDL are:
The cues are very much the same as the Barbell RDL however the hip hinge occurs while standing on one leg. This movement is much more difficult to perform but it is great for basketball players as they are on one leg a lot of the time in their sport.
- The rear leg should stay in line with the torso. So you should lock in that rear leg by squeezing and extending the glute.
- Hinge at the hips and feel a stretch in the hamstrings of the leg that you are standing on.
- The athlete should first practice the movement with no weight.
- When they add weight, I like to use a contra-lateral load. That means the weight is in the opposite hand so the exercise is also working the anti-rotation of the core.
Micah Kurtz, MS, CSCS, RSCC*D, USAW, FMS, NASE, is in his eighth year as Director of Strength and Conditioning at AC Flora High School., which has won 12 state championships in the past five years, including the 2016 boys’ basketball state championship. He also serves as Strength and Conditioning Consultant Coach to nine-time high school basketball national champion Oak Hill Academy, which won the Dick’s High School National Basketball Tournament in 2016. Kurtz was named the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Strength Coach of the Year in 2016. He was also named the South Carolina High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in both 2013 and 2014 and is part of the NSCA’s Subject Matter Expert Committee. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @KurtzM3.