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Proper Conditioning for Basketball Players

by Alan Stein, CCS, CSCS StrongerTeam.com


Your ability to train intensely throughout the year is dictated by your ability to stay motivated. Much of that motivation lies in the design of your training program. Make sure you pick several different drills to use and make sure they are specific to the game of basketball. Each drill should incorporate sprinting, cutting, back pedaling, side shuffling, jumping, etc. The more "game like" the drill - the better!

Why should you participate in strength training and conditioning workouts?

  1. a. Prepare your body for the rigors of the game (cardiovascular system, muscles, tendons/ligaments, etc.).
  2. b. Improve your performance, especially towards the end of a game/practice.

3 Helpful Tips:

1. Make each drill basketball specific.

  1. Utilize basketball movement patterns; sprinting, back pedaling, defensive sliding, and jumping (limit jumping and emphasize defensive position).
  2. Stress change of direction (agility) and the importance of being able to plant off of either foot.
  3. Use basketball specific time parameters: work (:15 to 1:30) and rest (4:1 to 1:1).

2. Use a variety of different drills.

  1. a. The days of just running "suicides" are over! Use your imagination.
  2. b. Use audio and visual cues to improve reaction.

3. Make each drill competitive.

  1. a. Give yourself extra incentive to give 100%; you can compete against the clock or against a teammate.
  2. b. Challenge yourself!

To be a successful basketball player in today's day and age, it is important that you participate in a truly comprehensive conditioning program. In addition to practicing your fundamentals (ball handling, shooting, passing, etc.) on a daily basis and working out with the weights - you must also take great care of your body and work yourself into top basketball shape. Conditioning is something you can control; so there is no excuse for not being in the best shape of your life when the season begins. After all, with all else equal, the player (or team) who is in better basketball shape will win!

You should use a variety of conditioning drills that are designed to get you into basketball shape. Being able to run 3 miles is great for cross country; but not necessarily for basketball. Basketball is a game of starting and stopping and jumping with varying bouts of very high intensity activity. Your conditioning workouts should mimic this. You should aim for each workout to incorporate drills that include sprinting, cutting, back pedaling, defensive sliding, and jumping. The more "game like" the drill - the better! And of course, only maximal effort will yield maximal results. You must go all out every rep of every drill every workout to truly reach your conditioning potential. The harder you work the less you will need to do.

For every drill listed, rest twice as long as it takes you to run the drill. For example, if the drill takes one minute to run; rest two minutes upon completion. If it takes 15 seconds; rest for 45 seconds upon completion (you should shoot free throw during your rest break). Each drill can be done for 4-6 reps with entire workout lasting about an hour. Doing this 2-3 times per week will get you in superior basketball shape.

Here are two ways to measure what kind of basketball shape you are in:

  1. 17's Test - how long does it take you to run the width of the court (from sideline to sideline) 17 times? A well conditioned player can do this in under a minute. A player in great basketball shape can repeat this several times with 3:00 in between each set.
  2. 20 in 20 Test - can you run 20 suicides in 20 minutes? Start the clock on your first suicide and whatever time you have left in the minute is yours to rest (if you run the suicide in 32 seconds you have 28 seconds to rest). Start your next suicide at the 1:00 mark and repeat for 20 minutes. Do not try to beat the system, run each suicide at as close to 100% as possible. This is a brutal conditioning test; but if you can complete "20 in 20" you are in remarkable basketball shape (keep in mind that a college half is 20 minutes long).

Half Court Drills

Five Star

Goal: Make 10 consecutive lay-ups (or dunks) as fast as possible.

Set up: Place 5 cones outside of the three point line (corner, wing, top, wing, and corner).

Execution: Starting under the basket, perform a right hand speed dribble around cone #1 (corner) and make a right hand lay-up. Take the ball out of the net and repeat for cones #2 - 5. After making your 5th lay-up, perform a left hand speed dribble back around cone #5 and make a left hand lay-up. Take the ball out of the net and repeat for cones #4 - 1. Drill finishes after you make your 10th lay-up.

Around the Lane

Goal: Make 4 trips around the lane (#1 and #3 are clockwise and #2 and #4 are counterclockwise) as fast as possible.

Set-up: N/A

Execution: Starting at the bottom left corner of the lane (where left side of lane and baseline intersect), sprint to the free throw line, defensive slide the width of the lane, back pedal to the baseline, and defensive slide to your starting point. As soon as you touch your starting point, reverse and run the same pattern counterclockwise (slide immediately back to the right side of the lane, sprint to the free throw line, defensive slide the width of the lane, and back pedal to the baseline). Drill finishes once you complete 4 boxes."

Get Back

Goal: Make 2 trips around six points in the lane (1st trip is clockwise, 2nd trip is counter clockwise) as fast as possible.

Set-up: Place 6 cones around the lane; 1 cone on each corner of the lane and 1 cone at the midpoint of each side of the lane.

Execution: Starting in the middle of the lane facing the basket; you will sprint around cone #1 and defensive slide back to your starting point. Then you will defensive slide to cone #2 and defensive slide back, sprint around cone #3 and defensive slide back, sprint around cone #4 and defensive slide back, defensive slide to cone #5 and defensive slide back, and sprint around cone #6 and defensive slide back. Upon completing this pattern you will finish back in the middle of the lane. Immediately reverse and run the same pattern, now going counterclockwise (cones #5 - #1). Drill finishes when you complete 2 trips around the lane.

Full Court Drills

X Factor

Goal: Make 2 big "X's" covering the entire court as fast as possible.

Execution: Starting in one corner of the court, sprint diagonally to the opposite corner, pivot open so you are facing the court, and defensive slide to the corner of the same baseline. Then sprint diagonally to the opposite corner, pivot open so you are facing the court and defensive slide back to your starting point. Upon completing this first "X", immediately defensive slide back to the corner you just came from and repeat the same pattern going in the opposite direction (as soon as you get to the corner sprint diagonally to the opposite corner, etc.). Drill finishes when you complete 2 big "X's."

Alley Run

Goal: Run both "alleys" of the court as fast as possible.

Execution: Starting at the bottom left corner of the lane (where left side of lane and baseline intersect), sprint to opposite baseline, defensive slide to your left to the near sideline, backpedal the length of the court, and defensive slide to the right to the bottom right corner of the lane and repeat on this side (sprint to opposite baseline, defensive slide to the right to the near sideline, backpedal the length of the court, and defensive slide to your left back to your starting point). Drill finishes when you return to your starting point.

Zig Zag

Goal: Make 2 laps around the court as fast as possible.

Execution: Starting in one corner of the court, sprint to the near elbow, drop step (open up), and defensive slide to where mid court and the sideline intersect. Drop step again and sprint to the elbow, drop step (open up) and defensive slide to the near corner. Defensive slide the baseline and repeat on the other side of the court. Once you are back to your starting point; repeat for one more lap. Drill finishes when you have completed 2 laps and you return to your starting point.






Alan Stein is the former co-owner of Elite Athlete Training Systems, Inc. and is now the president of Stronger Team. He is also the Head Strength & Conditioning coach for the nationally renowned Montrose Christian Mustangs boy’s basketball program. Alan brings a wealth of valuable experience to his training arsenal after years of extensive work with elite high school, college, and NBA players.

His passion, enthusiasm, and innovative training techniques make him one of the nation’s leading experts on productive training for basketball players. Alan is a performance consultant for Nike basketball as well as the head conditioning coach for the annual McDonald’s All American game, the Jordan All American Classic, the NBA Player’s Association’s Top 100 Camp, and Five Star basketball camps. He is a sought after lecturer at basketball camps across the country and is regularly featured in publications such as Winning Hoops, Time Out, Dime, American Basketball Quarterly, Stack, and Men’s Health.







NOTICE:All material on this web site is copyrighted. No article may be reproduced or redistributed in any form or manner without the expressed written consent of the respective author. Commercial reproduction is not permitted without the written permission of the Coaching Staff at PowerBasketball.


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