The Power Doesn’t Just Come From Your Legs
“Bend your legs.” “The power in your shot comes from your legs.”
This is what we’ve all heard over and over again throughout our careers. If I go into clinics and ask 11 year olds where the power in their shot comes from, all the kids that are brave enough to answer will timidly shout out “your legs”.
The reality is, this idea is only partly true. The reality is only part of the power from our shot comes from our legs, and maybe even a relatively small part of the power. If we changed the expression to “we FORGET to use the power from our legs” then that would be a lot more true. Every single one of us probably has gotten late into a practice or game and allowed the legs to straighten more than needed simply because they are so darned tired. Let’s face it, bending legs is work, and most of us will try to avoid things that resemble squats as much as possible.
So where does the power from our shot really come from?
The answer is a lot of different power sources, namely pretty much every joint in our body. From our feet and ankles, to our knees and hips, all the way through our shoulders, arms and wrist, our whole body is generating power.
Want to see how much power our legs really generate? Rest the ball on top of your head, gently supported by your fingers to keep the ball in place. Then bend your legs as much as you want. Even over exaggerate the heck out of this and go as low as you want, well beyond a natural shooting position. Now, fire your legs as much as you can, trying to push the ball as high as you can as you jump.
I bet most of us can’t get the ball even to the height of the hoop. That isn’t a lot of power there.
Now, do a similar experiment with your elbow. Place the ball in what we would call your shooting pocket, or set point (that position where your upper arm is parallel to the floor and the ball is at about forehead height), completely straighten your legs to ensure we aren’t cheating by using those, and lift your elbow as powerfully as you can while snapping your wrist in a shooting motion. Most of us can probably push the ball 20+ feet in the air with relative ease. This is where the bulk of your power comes from. Certainly not all, but a good percentage of it.
Make sure you understand how this works. It is the elbow starting low that allows players the room to lift the elbow and generate power. Some players will allow the ball to come back over their head, which pulls the elbow up and reduces the body’s ability to create upwards energy. There is still a lot of energy there, but it ends up being forward energy and creates a flat shot.
Work to find a set point where your elbow starts low and has room to lift, thus helping you generate the power and the lift that the ball needs.