Three Movements to Build a Quick First Step – Featured on “Stack Basketball”


Author BrandonGuarneri


A quick first step, like Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo’s, is a valuable weapon on the basketball court. First-step speed keeps defenders from pressuring you too closely, since they want to avoid being burned by a drive to the hoop. That extra space gives you more opportunities to impact the game.

You can improve first-step quickness by training with specific exercises and movement patterns. Michael Atkinson, Elite Pro Performance national consultant and A.C.E. certified personal trainer, put together a series that can help any player get to the rim on a regular basis. “Speed can be found in the details of the movement,” says Atkinson.

Incorporate these exercises into a warm-up or pre-game routine, or use them in a speed workout two to three times per week.

Two-Inch Run With Ball

  • Starting in athletic position, with ball in hand, begin dribbling on the baseline
  • With each step, move two inches forward, keeping the ball in front of your body
  • Take a hard dribble and a long stride at the free throw line, but don’t shoot
  • Finish in an athletic position to train stability and balance

Coaching Points: Stay on balls of feet // Moving toward the baseline, explode out of last step with one hard dribble
Sets/Reps/Rest: 2×4, rest 30 sec. after first set

Walking Lunge to Triple Extension with Ball

  • Descend into Lunge position while bringing the basketball to your chin
  • Shift weight to lead leg while in Lunge
  • Explode and push through lead leg to triple extension while driving opposite knee to chest
  • Press ball up to ceiling, simulating a layup or dunk
  • Hold form through extension for a split second, then drop into Walking Lunge and repeat on other side

Coaching Points:
Focus on Lunge form // Push force through your big toe and try to activate the glute
Sets/Reps/Rest: 2x length of half court

Reverse Pivot Drop Step

  • Face training partner in triple threat stance at the top of the key with back to basket
  • Partner cues you by touching your shoulder
  • React with a left or right reverse pivot drop, stepping in the direction of the cue
  • Push through pivot foot and stride to rim
  • Take last step and transfer energy while jumping to rim off a single-leg max jump

Coaching Points: Remain balanced and in a stance through the pivot // Push through the pivot foot to stride to rim
2×8, rest 30 sec. after first set

Photo:  Michael Atkinson, Sierra Strength and Speed,

About Michael Atkinson

Mike Atkinson,CSCS, is the owner of Elite Pro Performance and the on court performance director at Sierra Strength & Speed. Considered to be a specialist of Keiser performance equipment, Mike is known as a hybrid basketball performance trainer focusing on strength, movement, and basketball fundamentals. Atkinson’s experience and current work with NBA Player Development Specialist Aubrey McCreary has given him a unique set of skills to train players on sports specific patterns and positioning at a professional level. Atkinson’s training experience includes work with numerous NBA draftees, multiple Division 1 athletes, and other professional clients. He has also worked as a performance consultant in the NBA Development League and has directed basketball performance training camps and clinics for youth athletes on the West coast.
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