Dec 31st, 2014
Author: PJF Performance
Category: Basketball Drills
The negative step, or “plyo step”, has been a misunderstood topic for a long time in sports. Essentially, a negative step is when an athlete takes a step in the opposite direction of their desired goal. So, if you’re sprinting linearly, it’s a step backwards prior to exploding forward. A negative step could also be lateral— to explode right, you would first take a step to your left.
Almost every athlete naturally uses the negative step when exploding out of a stand-still position. Traditionally, coaches believed that this was a wasted movement. Intuitively one would think that a step in the wrong direction is going to slow you down. The truth is, the negative step actually increases an athletes speed/explosiveness!
The negative step may cause a slight delay INITIALLY, however, by utilizing the myotatic reflex (stretch reflex) you become far more explosive. It goes back to the fundamental concept of plyometrics— a muscle that is previously stretched (eccentric) will subsequently undergo a more forceful contraction (concentric). While plyometrics is always a hot topic when it comes to training, very few coaches/trainers understand how the stretch reflex benefits players on the court. We know that movements utilizing the stretch reflex makes us more explosive, so we should apply this to EVERY MOVEMENT on the court.
One of the ways to apply the stretch reflex to our on-court movements is to utilize the negative step. Watch the video below to see the difference between a forward step and a negative step. Even in this simple demonstration you can see how much more explosive I am when using the negative step.
The demonstration shows how to use the negative step linearly, but it can also be used laterally or for rotational movement. Let’s say you’re in help-side defense and they swing the ball to your man who is on your left. The fastest way to get to your man to close out is to take a negative step to your RIGHT before bursting into a crossover step to sprint left.
Negative steps can also be applied to moves off the dribble. In fact, the most explosive players—Westbrook, Rose, John Wall and many others are masters at adding a stretch reflex to their moves. Of course, they don’t consciously do this… they have simply learned over time that certain moves increase their explosiveness. Nearly ALL of those moves utilize some sort of “plyo step”. A popular one at the higher levels of basketball is the “skip step”. Also, the “switch step” or “scissor step” in my opinion provides the BIGGEST stretch reflex, which makes it one of the most explosive moves. Watch the video below to learn how to do the “switch step”.
As seen in the video, I slow down to almost a complete stop as I reach my left foot forward. I tap my left toe on the floor as I pound the ball with my right hand. I then rapidly switch my feet, which allows for a major stretch reflex to my left leg (glutes, quads, hamstring, calves) and propels me forward at a rapid speed.
There are several ways to manipulate your footwork to enhance the explosiveness of your moves. One of the best ways to learn these tricks is to watch players like Westbrook, LeBron, Rose, Wall, etc.
I plan on diving deeper into this topic and showing more ways to improve your explosiveness by utilizing the “plyo step” in the future. In the meantime, i’m off to the lab to get explosive! Be sure to put your email in the subscription box to the right to stay up to date with my blog posts!
Train Hard, Train Smart, Get Results.
Paul Fabritz, Bs, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, ACE, FMS