What does every athletic movement have in common? What do sprinting, grabbing a rebound, shooting a jumper, and blowing by a defender have in common? Triple extension.
Quite simply, triple extension is the simultaneous (well, actually sequential, separated by milliseconds) extension or, potentially, locking, of the ankle, knee, and hip joint. If every athlete can maximize each of these extensions, the chain will move much more explosively as a whole, thus placing more force into the ground and propelling the athlete forward or vertically at a higher rate.
How Does This Work?
When you truly think about it, triple extension is not very complicated biomechanically. If you lock out your joints, your posterior muscles (gluteus, hamstrings, and soleus, particularly) transfer energy more efficiently and powerfully, which makes sense because you are fully contracting your muscles concentrically. Because of the sequential contractions, the distal joints (knee and ankle) can produce more force than if they were isolated. In other words, the joint(s)/muscles above the knee and ankle provide an additional power source, which for example allows the ankle to produce 6 times as much force than in isolation (UMass). Additionally, because your lower-body posterior muscles are some of the most powerful in the body (particularly the gluteus maximus and soleus), it is important to expend as much force from these muscles as possible.
Let's take a closer look at how this works in various movements. In sprinting, your hip extends first, providing not only power from the gluteus but balance to take the simultaneous step. Then, the knee locks to expend power from the quadriceps, and finally the ankle plantarflexes to help propel off of the ground with the soleus. Check out the clip below for a graphic.
In a vertical jump, triple extension acts in a very similar method, but in the vertical plane. Check out the video below for a graphic.
In addition to improving performance, the concept of triple extension is very important to the prevention of ankle, knee, and hip injuries in explosive sports, particularly basketball. Primarily, one must ensure that these joints can move efficiently throughout the entire range of motion, or else one cannot fully extend, and if they do, injuries are bound to occur. Thus, ankle and hip mobility exercises are vital (as they are free-moving ball and socket joints), as well as making sure that the surrounding muscles (gastrocnemius, soleus, gluteus, quadriceps, and even hamstrings, hip flexors, and abductors/adductors) are not dangerously tight.
Also, when you understand that the hip, knee, and ankle joints work sequentially to perform explosive movements, you can understand why ensuring that each is effective in its movement. Otherwise, the other two joints take a beating, especially the closest proximal joint (above). For example, when the ankles cannot plantarflex effectively, the knees must make up for it, spiking the injury risk for tears and overuse injuries such as tendinitis.
How To Train Triple Extension
In maximizing one's ability to extend at all three joints, you simply want to focus on movements that are biomechanically similar and mimic the sequential extension. There are two ways to do this (both of which must be implemented into a training program): (1) isolating and strengthening the extension of each joint, and (2) performing exercises that include all three. For example, deadlifts (particularly hex/trap bar deadlifts) primarily strengthen the hips' ability to extend--these are especially important due to the huge amount of strength in the gluteus. However, this is still a compound exercise, meaning that it includes more than one joint. This is something to make sure that most of your exercises involve (squats are another great one)
The second part, exercises that extend at the hip, knee, and ankle simultaneously, can be accomplished through strength/explosiveness exercises (explosive step ups with ankle extension, explosive squats to presses, tire flips, kettle bell swings and variations, etc), plyometrics (box jumps, non-countermovement jumps, etc), and olympic lifts (cleans, snatches)--which are more advanced. On all of these, though, focus on extending all three joints powerfully, and it will bring you to your maximum potential.
Whether it's spent working out, playing videos, scrolling through Twitter, or at a social event, many times one of the most productive times of the day is wasted! The time being referred to is late night and early morning: the time the body is programmed to sleep.
Throughout the night, the body goes through 90-120 minute cycles of REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, sleep. During these stages, muscles are completely relaxed and do not move, while dreams generally occur. Through an entire night of sleep, especially during these REM cycles, seemingly countless processes take place, effecting both the mind and body.
The first benefit to the mind is memory consolidation, which is essentially the concreting of skill, information, and muscle memory. So, if you are working on your basketball skills, without sufficient restorative, deep sleep (periodic one-hour naps are not considered deep sleep) is required (howsleepworks). Also, focus and decision making are notably hindered the following day, and extreme sleep deprivation is proven to cause mental effects equal to being legally drunk (CBS). Finally, sleep deprivation can lead to higher cortisol levels, a hormone that considerably raises stress in most humans.
Effects on performance are also very significant. HGH, or human growth hormone, is released as one sleeps (Sparta). HGH is associated with the regeneration of muscles at a cellular level, which means that recovery and muscle synthesis peak during sleep. It has also been proven that not only does a lack of sleep disallow the body to recover from the previous day's workout(s)--which in effect builds muscle, skill, etc--but the next day's as well. Additionally, it puts one at risk for higher fatigue in the following days (NSF).
In a renowned study by Stanford researcher Cheri Mah, the sleep of 11 elite college basketball players was extended. By the end, "the players ran faster 282-foot sprints (16.2 seconds versus 15.5 seconds) than they had at baseline. Shooting accuracy during practice also improved: Free throw percentages increased by 9 percent and 3-point field goal percentage increased by 9.2 percent" (Mah). This can also be viewed through an NBA lens, where players and teams such as the Golden State Warriors and Andre Igoudala are taking sleep analysis to the next level. Research is actually "beginning to show correlations between sleep debt and statistical production, and some studies have begun to connect the dots between sleep and injury rates" (CBS). For example, Igoudala's stats with eight hours of sleep did the following:
+29% in points/minute
+9% in free throw percentage
+2% in three point percentage
-45% in fouls committed
-37% in turnovers committed
Obviously, there is a strong correlation there between decision-making, motor skills, and basketball skill.
Sometimes, it is difficult to get a full, good night's sleep. So, how can you?
Primarily, alter your environment to your advantage. Studies have shown that a dark, quiet, and cool environment results in better and more sleep (according to ninds.gov, "people lose some of the ability to regulate their body temperature during REM, so abnormally hot or cold temperatures in the environment can disrupt this stage of sleep"). Also, eating inflammatory foods, "such as those containing trans fats or those fried in toxic, hydrogenated oils," prior to bed may harm sleep quality (CBS).
Other ideas include sticking to a relatively regular sleep schedule--going to sleep and waking up at around the same time every day--as well as tracking sleep as a means to ensure proper sleep, the number of which alters for all, but is generally above 8 hours. Without these 8 hours, you lose the most important part of the night! "REM sleep, necessary for cognitive repair and decision-making, occurs in the latter stages," generally the last two hours of an 8-hour night of sleep.
You can track your sleep with apps such as sleep cycle, or wearable devices such as Jawbone technologies (jawbone.com/support/articles/000008210/tracking-sleep-up24).
In the words of former Navy Seal turned NBA sleep advocate Kirk Parsley, "we live in a culture that doesn't value sleep. It's often associated with laziness, lack of motivation, all sorts of negative connotations for somebody who sleeps excessively -- and all sorts of accolades and idolization for people who claim to sleep three or four hours a night. You have to get past that prejudice." Even LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and more attribute much of their success, especially in recovery from thousands of minutes played, to sleep.
So, as long as you're working sufficiently on your skills and performance, sleep can take your game to the next level.