Netball is an explosive, fast paced, dynamic sport which requires stability of the ankles, knees and hips.
Did you know that netball has one of the highest participation rates out of any sport in New Zealand?
With well over 100,000 players registered to play each year, it is the leading sport for Kiwi females young and old. Unsurprisingly, over the years I have had clients with knee pain or old ankle injuries and often it’s due to years of playing this popular sport.
Last year, ACC recorded 36,000 active claims for netball injuries which cost New Zealand approximately $23m, with more than half being ankle, knee or hip injuries.
Netball is an explosive, fast paced, dynamic sport which requires stability of the ankles, knees and hips. Landing safely with the ability of the tissues to absorb forces without injury is a high priority. To do this it is necessary to focus on strengthening these areas.
The following exercises are suitable for those who have an average level of fitness and strength and can be modified accordingly.
Begin with a thorough 10 minute warm-up on any cardio machine followed by some bodyweight squats (x 10), lunges (x10) and jumps (x10) to warm up the joints and muscles of the lower body before starting your workout.
1) Repeat Agility Test
First start with the Repeat Agility Test – 4 x circuits with 10 seconds recovery/walk back between each. This will add to your warm-up while also developing agility. Change of direction at speed is essential in netball and this agility circuit is specific to the type of movements experienced in a game.
2) Single leg squats
Train hip, knee and ankle stability and force each leg to maximise its work output, particularly the non-dominant or weaker leg. This unilateral exercise can be done a few different ways depending on your lower body strength and range of motion. For beginners, try the exercise illustrated.
Begin by bringing your right foot in front of your body with your knee bent to 90°, standing on your left leg lower your body toward the bench, touch and then stand up. Try not to sit down on the seat. Aim for 3 x 10.
3) Weighted step-ups
Strengthen the core, gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. If you are a beginner, just start with unweighted step-ups and then add dumbbells or kettlebells by holding them by your side. A progression from this is to use a barbell across the shoulders. Simply step up with the left leg, followed by the right, then return to the floor leading with the left leg. Perform 3 x 8 – 10 on each leg with a suitable weight.
4) Plyometric leg press
Strengthens the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and core and is aimed at increasing speed and power, with an eccentric contraction quickly followed by a concentric contraction.
Begin with both feet approximately shoulder width apart, with the back straight and head back, slowly lower the weight until the knees are just past 90°, forcefully push the feet out so that the leg press moves further than your feet when the legs are fully straightened. As the leg press moves back towards you catch the machine with both feet and soft knees as you bend the knees and lower the plate again to repeat the exercise. Do 3 x 8 – 12 at an appropriate weight for your strength.
5) Standing plate wood chops
Strengthen the upper body, core and legs. Assume an upright position with a plate of a suitable weight held out in front of your chest. Maintaining a neutral low back, simultaneously squat as you lower the plate to the outside of the left knee, allow the feet and hips to move with the trunk to protect the knees. Push through the feet and lift the plate out across the body in a diagonal line to above the right shoulder, tighten the abdominals and glutes as you stand upright. Repeat 3 x 8 each side.
A specialist in exercise rehabilitation and chronic disease management, Kristina Jessup is a sport and rehab consultant at UniRec and uses “exercise as medicine”. Trained to provide carefully tailored exercise programmes for people from all walks of life and particularly those who may have struggled with exercise in the past; have particular limitations which prevent them from exercising, or those who simply don’t know where to start, Kristina has a wealth of experience spanning eight years and provides expert advice in chronic disease management and musculoskeletal rehabilitation.