Shooting the basketball, increasing your range

Posted: Sunday, November 14, 2010

Editor's note: "Focus on Fitness" is a Clarion feature with healthy lifestyle advice from local and national health and fitness experts. Check here weekly great information and tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

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Photos Courtesy Charlie Stephens
Photos Courtesy Charlie Stephens
Morgan Wensley demonstrates use of the roll up tool, which can be made using a thick wood dowel, a piece of twine and a clip. The twine is tied to the dowel and attached to a weight with the clip. To use, hold arms out in front of you with elbows slightly bent. Roll up the string to raise the weight.

Shooting the basketball is a high level skill requiring coordinated movements of the upper and lower body. Proper form will increase the accuracy and consistency of your shot. Increasing the strength of the muscles used to shoot the ball will better enable you to shoot with "touch" rather than forcing the ball up. Also, it will increase the distance from which you can shoot the ball (range) accurately. I stumbled on to a unique way to increase my range while working my way through college.

I worked as a commercial fisherman to earn money for college. For two seasons I worked in the Lower Cook Inlet fishery seining with six-time Mount Marathon champion Ralph Hatch. Ralph approached fishing much like he did mountain running: work your butt off. In those days the lower inlet was a hand purse fishery. Half the net was brought in over the block and then the lead line was pulled in by hand to "purse" the net and trap the fish. Pursing ten or more sets per day by hand was tough work. Often we were fortunate and had enough fish in the net to use the brailer (much like a big dip net) to load them on the boat, which was more upper body exercise. Unloading your catch by hand was tough too, squeeze and toss, repeat -- everyday of fishing was a great workout.

Toward the end of the season we returned to port where my first stop was Thorn's court. Gene and Pat Thorn had built the court for the youth of Seward. Coaches Roscoe Livingston, Richard Hultberg and Dale Clemens had inspired a large number of Seward youth to spend much of their spare time playing ball. Mornings at the court were great for shooting, in the evenings there were pick-up games.

After being gone the better part of eight weeks I did not have high hopes for my game, especially my shot. I was shocked to find my shot was sighted in as good ever and with range far superior to what I had prior to the start of fishing season.

It didn't take me long to realize I had greatly increased my upper body strength over the course of the season. I was determined to maintain that strength long term. I started using some of the exercises my coaches had taught me like the "roll up tool" and fingertip push-ups. Later, I developed more exercises. I can't say I have ever duplicated the workout I got fishing with Ralph, but I can say I was able to keep the range on my shot through the use of specific exercises:

Roll Up Tool:

* Roll up forward, reverse, forward (adjust weight as needed so that you reach overload). 3-6 days per week.

Shooter's Extensions:

* Use enough weight to reach overload (that burning sensation in the muscle(s) being worked) after 8-10 reps. 1-3 sets, 3 days per week.

Heavy Shots:

* Use a medicine ball and mimic shooting the basketball. "Shoot" the ball to a partner, do not shoot at a hoop. 3 sets of 10, 3 days a week.

* Start with a smaller/lighter ball than the one shown. After 6-8 weeks you may increase the size/weight of medicine ball.

Remember, it does not matter how strong you are if you shoot the basketball with poor form. Proper form won't be much good if you do not spend time shooting the basketball. Once you master proper form it is strength that will determine your range. It will take six to eight weeks of training to make significant gains in strength. Increase the weight for exercises as needed. It is advisable to participate in a full body strength training program to avoid an imbalance in strength. Maintaining good overall strength (including core strength) helps prevent a variety of injuries including those that are a result of an imbalance of strength.

Charlie Stephens is a retired P.E. teacher and owner/operator of Kenai Sport & Train, Inc. Reach him at

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