Basketball shooting mechanics are affected directly by how the athlete uses drills and trains and develops his or her body – to be specific, the grip. Each player is slightly different by Nature, yes, but each player can also strive to understand the proper physical training necessary to support proper basketball shooting mechanics for creating: 1) consistency, 2) backspin, 3) power, and 4) ball control.
When I was first developing the concept of (what turned out to be) Handmaster Plus, it was with sports performance in mind. 4 sports to be specific – that I had deep interest in, as well as many patients involved in. They were golf, hockey, basketball and baseball.
Because I recently received blog questions about the shooting mechanics in basketball, I would like to expand on basketball today.
There are many great instructors and instruction videos (I like shotmechanics.com) about basketball shooting mechanics drills, some even from Michael Jordan himself (my personal favorite player of all-time!). I am a ‘junkie’ for these videos, but they just don’t address, nor understand, the affect of the training of muscle mechanics of the fingers, thumb, hand, wrist, and forearm, in relation to the basketball stroke and specifically, set angle.
The angle at the end of the ‘set’ (the position when the ball is ready to be shot/advanced towards the basket) is completely KEY to the ability of the player to release the ball in control with the least amount of effort, and create the most amount of backspin, a HUGE advantage to shooting consistency. It is an as-of-yet unexplored mechanic in basketball; but once examined, the basketball athlete improves immediately!
Grip mechanics (i.e. hand muscle strength and balance) have a great affect on this ‘set angle’ and thus the potential of the basketball player. So how do most athletes train grip? It is a question I have examined/studied/dealt-with for the past 20 years. The answer is, most athletes (no matter the sport) train grip poorly by addressing ‘grip-only’ mechanics (hand closing muscles), if at all.
The anatomy of the hand muscles is quite simple.
9 muscles close the hand. These muscles are located generally on the front of the fingers, thumb, hand, wrist, forearm and elbow… their strength and length will have an affect on the mechanics of all joints they cross.
Equally, 9 muscles open the hand. These muscles are located generally on the back of the fingers, thumb, hand, wrist, forearm and elbow.. they also have a direct affect on the mechanics of all of the joints they cross.
The problem with traditional hand/grip training is that most athletes either: 1) do not train the hand muscles at all (in which case grip muscles shorten because of daily-life grip repetition), or 2) train only the hand closing muscles using balls or spring loaded or coiled trainers. Both scenarios create hand muscle imbalance, and therefore range of motion (ROM) limitations for the fingers, thumb, hand, wrist, forearm and elbow of the athlete. The joints are ‘stuck’ in flexion. And this very key CORE hand muscle imbalance has been classically either undiscovered or ignored.
All grip sport athletes have suffered technique limitations from repetitive grip imbalance, whether they know it or not. The imbalance leads to performance limitations and eventually, injury.
All 18 hand muscles must be trained in balance in order to allow best-case shooting and ball control grip mechanics. Flexor muscle domination limits the set angle because the flexor muscles cannot ‘stretch’ through a proper wrist and finger extension range of motion (ROM). They are literally too short to allow extension ROM.
These same mechanics (all 18 strong and balanced) are vital in giving the player the ability to easily control the basketball in any gripping situation, thus an advantage for rebounding, ball control, pass receiving and loose ball recovery. Strength trainers, athletic trainers, athletes and coaches must open their minds to proper physical training concepts and keep learning in order to maximize basketball performance potential! We haven’t learned it all yet!
Using the Handmaster Plus hand training technique 1-3x daily (each session until comfortable fatigue only (usually 1-2 minutes)), an athlete will generally see results in their shooting consistency within a few weeks – as soon as the strength, length and balance of their finger and wrist extensors (back of hand, wrist, forearm, elbow) catches up with the strength, length and balance of their finger and wrist flexors (front of hand, wrist, forearm, elbow). Balance and length on both sides (front & back) is the key. The result will be proper range of motion (ROM), creating a maximum angle to ‘set’ the basketball, in turn creating the best position to deliver the stronger, more controlled shot and follow through.