Why Speed is Important in Basketball

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I have the pleasure to introduce Jason of Workout HQ, who wrote a great article for Inspirational Basketball on why speed is important in basketball.

Without further ado, enjoy…

What if your lack of success in basketball isn’t due to a lack of basic skills like shooting, dribbling, or passing, but due to a lack of speed?

I was a pretty good player as a high school sophomore. I could shoot as well as our shooting guard, had handles on par with our point guard, and had the height to play as a small forward.  

However, I never got much playing time because our coaches offense revolved around pushing the ball and I didn’t have enough speed and endurance to run with the team.

Our offense basically consisted of cherry-picking and outrunning our opponents to the point they would rather let us score instead of trying to keep up.

I knew that no matter how hard I worked on improving my skills, I could never play on this team unless I improved my speed, so that summer I did some research and got to work.

After an incredibly difficult summer my coach barely recognized me at tryouts. My handles shined as I could now push the ball up the court with ease, score nearly at will, and run the offense that our coach wanted to run. (Pro tip: figure out what your coach wants and do it. You’ll get a lot of playing time that way.)

I started in 19 out of 20 games and we won 80% of our total games that season.

Before I tell you how I increased my speed, let’s talk about why increasing your speed will be beneficial to you even if you coach doesn’t run a cherry-picking offense.

Don’t worry.

The training that’s required for this won’t take a ton of time away from improving your game, and it’s nearly guaranteed to increase your playing time.


Increasing your Speed on the Court also Means Having a Healthy Diet!

Learn More!


Why Should You Care About Speed?

The funny thing about improving your speed is that it will improve many other aspects of your game also.

Jump Higher

kevin durant dunking

Every basketball players wants to dunk and increasing your speed can help you get there.


The training for increasing your speed is extremely similar to the training used to increase your vertical leap because both of them focus on increasing your strength and plyometric ability. If you can run faster, you can jump higher.

Increase Your Quickness

Speed training can also lead to increases in quickness which then leads to better defense and an easier time on offense.

The lateral movement required of you on defense becomes easier as you strengthen your muscles to run faster, and it’ll be easier for you to defend even the best players from the opposing team because you can change directions faster and recover from fakes quicker.

Cut Harder

If your coach runs a standard offense, you’ll end up cutting to or away from the basket a lot.

Speed is a huge advantage here because you can change directions quickly, easily beat your defender, and have the time to nail down a 3 or score an easy layup.

Easy points are the best, right?

Fast-Break Mayhem

If your teammates can recover the ball quickly and get it to you, you might be able to beat the other team down the court and score an easy basket.

If the speed development you’ve done allows you to dunk, fast-breaks become 5 times as fun. There’s nothing better than sprinting past dumbfounded opponents who didn’t even know the ball was in play and dunking on the only guy who got back on defense.

P.S.- The training below can easily be combined with Lamar’s Guide to Becoming a Better Basketball Player.


How To Train for Speed

Now that you understand why speed is important, let’s discuss how you can increase your speed.

There are 5 things you need to focus on to sprint faster, and while that might seem like a lot, the workouts I provided below can take care of 3 or 4 of the key points at the same time without being too long.

The main factors are:

  1. Maximum strength – Very easy to train and can be done with less than 30 minutes in the weight room 2 days per week.
  2. Maximum speed – Increasing your max speed is key to running faster (duh) so a big part of training focuses on max speed training.
  3. Central Nervous System Training AKA Plyometrics – This is incredibly important, but often neglected or done incorrectly.
  4. Coordination and Range of Motion – Proper range of motion prevents injuries and makes running fast easier.
  5. Nutrition – If you’re eating pizza and coke 3 times per day, you won’t see great results on the gym or on the court. It all starts with proper nutrition.

Max Strength Training

basketball dead liftThere are only 2 exercises you need to do to run faster: the squat and the deadlift. They will also help you look good on the beach, and feel free to add bench presses, rows, and shoulder presses to your workouts to become a complete weight-lifting beast!

The key in training for speed is low repetitions, high weight, and long rest times.

However, always make sure that you’re lifting with proper form because an injury will slow you down significantly.

Max Speed Training

This type of training is easy and short. All you have to do is reach your maximum speed, stay there for 20-30 yards, rest for 5 minutes, and repeat a couple times.

It’s so easy that my grandma could do it!


Sprinting as fast as you can counts as plyometric training, but you should still do some more specific work to increase the volume and maximize your results.

Range of Motion Work

If you don’t do an active warmup before your workout, you should start. It will decrease your chance of injury, increase your coordination, and your range of motion.

Likewise, if you don’t stretch at the end of your workout you could be hindering your gains and asking for an injury. Stretching might be boring and seem useless, but in reality it’s key to success as a basketball player.


basketball healthy foodsLet’s be honest. You know what you should and shouldn’t be eating, but you eat the bad stuff anyway.

You might not notice much of a difference now.

Who cares if I eat pizza every day if I’m still getting results and improving?

However, try dedicating yourself to eating healthy for the next 21 days and see if you feel better and get better results on the court. You might be surprised by what you find out.

The Workouts

When I started my speed training, I trained way too often and didn’t see any results.

I went on vacation for 1 week, and when I got back I noticed a big increase in strength, speed, and my vertical jump. That made me realize that training more often is not as good as it might seem, so I switched to training 3 times per week and it did wonders for me. You can even train twice a week if you’re busy and still see great results!

Day 1:

  • Active warmup – 15 yards of high knees, 15 yards of butt kicks, 10 yards of toe walking, 10 yards of heel walking, short 100-200 meter jog or light basketball.
  • 3 sets of 3 reps of deadlifts with 5-10 minute rest – Use about 90% of your 1 rep maximum, and if you don’t know what that is, just start at a weight that feels somewhat comfortable and move up by 10lb each workout. Once you can’t do 3 by 3 with a 10 minute rest in between, start moving up by 5 lb every workout that you can actually do 3 by 3. If you can’t complete the workout 3 times in a row, decrease the weight by 10% and build up to your previous weight in 5lb increments every workout.
  • 20-30 yard max speed sprints 3 repetitions – Do these in between your deadlift sets if you can. It will take you 10-20 yards to get to your max speed, and 10 yards to slow down, so the entire sprint will be 40-60 yards.
  • Box drops to max jump 5 repeats – Get the tallest plyometric box you have or find a 30 inch platform. Hop down, and as soon as you hit the ground, bend your knees, absorb the impact, and jump as high as you can. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat.
  • Cool down, stretching

Day 2:

  • Active warmup – 15 yards of high knees, 15 yards of butt kicks, 10 yards of toe walking, 10 yards of heel walking, short 100-200 meter jog or light basketball.
  • 3 sets of 3 reps of squats with 5-10 minute rest Use about 90% of your 1 rep maximum, and if you don’t know what that is, just start at a weight that feels somewhat comfortable and move up by 5lb each workout. If you can’t complete the workout 3 times in a row, decrease the weight by 15% and build up to your previous weight in 5lb increments every workout.
  • 1 leg box jumps 2 times per leg 3 sets Get the smallest box your gym has or find a 12-18 inch platform. Stand on one leg by the box, crouch down, and jump on on the box using only one leg. Repeat 2 times on one side and 2 times on the other side in between squats.
  • All out 100m sprint 2 repeatsSprint for 100 meters as fast as possible. Take a 5 minute break, and do it again.
  • Cool down, stretching

Alternate, the above workouts and workout either 3 times per week with a rest day in between, or 2 times per week with 2-3 rest days in between.

You should start seeing results in about 1 month, but I recommend using this program for at least 3 months to see great results.


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Why Speed is Important in Basketball by

4 Responses to “Why Speed is Important in Basketball”

  1. Basket Lover

    Two months ago I had the same problem.

    My coach was not playing long for my speed. I was frustrated because I did not know how to improve my speed until I found this post.

    I am working on each of the recommendations that you mention in this post and I feel that I am progressing a lot …..

    Thanks for these advices ..

    great job……

  2. Kim

    Thanks for this article. My son is a sophomore and has not made his high school team. I am his biggest critic, he is slow and needs to become more aggressive. He has very good skills as far as shooting and he knows the game better than most kids his age.
    Another question…do you have any suggestions of teams for him to tryout for? I am having a hard time finding high school teams online. Also do you suggest any training/places to train to help with speed? The aggressiveness he is going to have to figure out on his own. Thanks in advance.

    • Lamar Hull

      Thanks for reading Kim and we appreciate you providing insights on your son’s game, we wish him luck! Where are you guys located? I’m only familiar with the Charlotte, NC area.


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