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Mastering the Upward Stance: Embracing the Defensive Equalizer

Defense is often seen as a skill that is all about effort and heart, however that myth has held many players back from unlocking their true defensive potential. When defense is studied and applied as techniques instead of effort, the ability for a below average defender to elevate their defense is accelerated. One specific technique that can quickly unlock a struggling defender's ability is the Upward Stance. In this blog post, we will introduce the upward stance and explore how it can change your defensive training.

Understanding the Upward Stance:

The upward stance draws inspiration from the classic defensive stance but with a unique twist. Rather than crouching low with deep knee bends, the upward stance keeps the defender slightly more upright, resembling a position used in other sports like soccer. This stance, though not commonly associated with pressure defense, has been embraced by defensive stalwarts such as Kawhi Leonard, Scottie Pippen, Tony Allen, Andre Iguodala, and more.

The Benefits of the Upward Stance:

One of the primary advantages of the upward stance is its ability to maintain a position between the offensive player and the basket. Unlike a forward stance, which allows defenders to get into an opponent's personal space, the upward stance keeps the defender wider and ready to recover quickly. This makes it harder for offensive players to beat their defenders in straight lines or find easy scoring opportunities at the rim, instead forcing contested pull ups.

What Makes the Upward Stance Accessible:

Contrary to popular belief, with the upward stance defense is not reserved for highly athletic players. Its effectiveness lies in its emphasis on angles, positioning, and footwork rather than relying solely on explosiveness and agility. This means that players of varying athleticism and defensive abilities can adopt the upward stance and improve their defensive skills. It provides an opportunity for average defenders to become good and for good defenders to become even better.

Embracing the Defensive Mindset:

To fully embrace the upward stance, players and coaches must understand that defense is not always about making spectacular plays but rather preventing them. The true beauty of the upward stance lies in the absence of anything easy for the offense. It requires a mindset shift, emphasizing the value of staying in front of the offensive player, guiding their attack, and delaying their progress rather than taking unnecessary risks.

Implementing the Upward Stance:

The key to executing the upward stance lies in maintaining a cushion between the defender and the attacker while also preserving the proper defensive angle. Instead of dropping the hips or opening up the stance, the defender must focus on sliding laterally and backwards. This allows them to maintain the gap, stay square to the attack, and be in a legal guarding position. Several drills can help reinforce these principles and improve the pop back slide footwork essential for the upward stance.

Additional Techniques to Enhance the Upward Stance:

The upward stance opens up a range of techniques that can challenge offensive players and disrupt their attacks. Techniques such as walling up, slide charging, and the wide steal provide defenders with effective tools to contest shots, draw offensive fouls, and disrupt offensive flow. To find out more about these techniques and drills check out The Defensive Masterclass Clinic and the Footwork Training Program.


The upward stance is a defensive technique that has proven its effectiveness through the success of renowned players and teams. By adopting this stance, players of varying skill levels can enhance their defensive abilities and make scoring difficult for their opponents. It's time to embrace a defensive philosophy that prioritizes positioning, footwork, and a relentless mindset. Unlock your defensive excellence with the upward stance and watch your game reach new heights.

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