Basketball Conditioning Drills

There are a lot of key components to conditioning for basketball. One of the biggest mistakes we see in the realm of sports performance is running big dudes and big women into the ground. We see this in football conditioning. We see this in conditioning for heavier-weight wrestlers. We see it in multiple different sports. 

It is the idea that cardio is royalty. The thing is, cardio can be royalty and have a huge impact on overall performance for various athletes. But cardio has to be done in an effective manner and in a means that is specific to the sport being trained for.


When we talk about basketball, conditioning has to be done in an effective manner that considers the typical build of the athlete. Basketball players tend to be taller and tend to carry around more weight because of the greater height. This isn’t to say they are overweight, by no means, just that they are big people. In addition, basketball players might also have problem areas in regard to mobility.


Compound these issues with coaches running the basketball athletes into the ground. The sport of basketball already involves quite a bit of running. Running basketball athletes into the ground can really have a negative impact on their recovery and their overall feeling. Besides that, the sport of basketball is very interval-based, speed-based, and demands a lot of agility, cutting, and change of direction with high rates of force. Doing too much cardio will have a negative impact on how the athletes cut and mess with the athlete’s hand-eye coordination. It is important to recognize that it is key to approach the training of cardio for basketball in a thoughtful manner with a positive mindset.


Let’s look at a few components for training for basketball.

5. Cyclical Cardio

This concept is simple. One area where a lot of big athletes can really, really have a lot of potential for improving their cardio is just getting on an assault bike or rower and executing ten to twenty minutes of cardio at a low, steady-state.


We know that cyclists and endurance-based athletes have tremendous success with spending most of their time within the 60% heart-rate range. Athletes don’t need to go crazy. Spending ten to twenty minutes for two to three days a week at a 60% heart rate we will see a huge increase in overall cardio performance, conditioning-based performance. The other benefit is the joints aren’t being beaten up.

It is also our belief at Garage Strength that getting on a rower helps improve the mobility of their lower back, ankles, knees, and hips.


Utilize this for ten to twenty minutes two to three times a week while keeping the heart rate range steady at 60% and see a massive improvement in overall conditioning.

4. Contrast Work

Basketball is an interval-based sport. There are a lot of points in the competition where athletes are standing around, prowling around, and just watching their opponents before all of a sudden there is a quick reaction. Now, this is done over a long period of time.


At Garage Strength, we like to use contrast work. For example, we will have an athlete do a set of six heavy goblet squats, have the athlete rest for a minute, and then have them do some explosive work like five jumps up the steps. Stair jumps have less of an impact on the eccentric load and help protect the joints for longevity. This contrasting of movements allows for strength training through resistance-based training and then explosive jumps.


A lot of work is done in a short time frame. This is a key component. This is where basketball players can have a huge impact on their overall conditioning, skill level, and agility by utilizing basic strength components with explosive work.


Use the contrast work one to two times a week along with the cyclical conditioning and reap the rewards of hard work on the court.

3. Speed Endurance Work

Speed endurance is explosive exercises that will be performed consecutively in a short time frame. A good example of this is hill sprints. Sprint up the hill forward, backward, maybe do twenty-second sprints very hard, walk back at a brisk pace, get the heart rate down, and do it again. This allows a lot of work to get done in fifteen to twenty minutes.


Another example is doing on-the-minute work. Tall basketball players can perform high hang power cleans, high hang power snatches, high hang snatches. We can also have them go off boxes because basketball players are taller and longer. Have them do doubles every minute on the minute. They’ll be able to rest thirty-five to fifty seconds. Maybe they do ten sets.

This is something that can have a tremendous impact on overall speed and agility. It also trains the athlete’s endurance in putting out higher levels of speed and intensity, improving their ability to put out a lot of power and explosiveness over longer periods of time from building such a great foundation.


And that is exactly what basketball is from a cardio perspective. We have to understand that the game is interval-based. It is about moving very rapidly and then short rest periods. So when doing conditioning for basketball the athletes have to execute at that level.

2. Long Duration Unilateral Work

What does this even mean? This sounds like some crazy stuff.


From a very concrete perspective, we like having our basketball players hook up a sled around their waist and do backward sled pulls. Jumping all the time, basketball players may have knee pain. Having a fifteen to a twenty-minute period where the basketball player walks backward for twenty to thirty meters, rests for twenty seconds, and repeats for the entire time. Their heart rate will never skyrocket. Now their quads will get lit up, but their VMO will get more developed to help protect their knees, which is really important.

High rep unilateral work with sled movements (pushes, pulls, sidewalks, etc) will not only help with conditioning but will help protect the knee joint, making it more stable later in a game or practice when more fatigued and prone to injury.


Do this once or twice a week. It will help with recovery, overall conditioning, knee health, and will go a long way in maintaining a long-term career.

1. Lower Intensity Jumps Followed By Higher Intensity Jumps

Again, what does this mean?


A concrete example of this idea in action can begin by having the athlete doing pogo jumps. Have the athlete do pogo hops in place for fifteen reps. The athlete will then rest for around twenty seconds. Then they will do two high hurdle hops and then rest for two minutes. This can be done for six to eight sets.

It is important to rest after the high-intensity jumps. The reason we factor this into conditioning is that the athletes are performing lower intensity jumps, agility work being followed up by higher intensity jumps, agility work. Think about it on the court, dribbling down the court at a moderate intensity, get into a position on the wing holding a dribble for a ten count before suddenly bursting down the lane to take a lay-up or dunk at a high intensity.


See this mode of conditioning training is a skill that will carry over to the court. Performing this over six or eight sets, a longer period of time, allows the athlete to develop the skill at a lower intensity before executing at a higher intensity right after, we will see a big improvement. It will improve the athletes’ overall play, jumping ability, and extend their time on the court over the years.

Recap

Utilize all five of these tips to enhance and optimize the conditioning needed for the sport of basketball. Remember, cyclical work on an assault bike or rower at a 60% heart rate will go a long way to building an aerobic base. From there, contrast work to train strength and explosiveness is a must. Throw in some speed endurance to improve power output to occur over and over again, and sprinkle in some long-duration unilateral work with a sled to protect those knees. Finally, couple lower intensity jumps with higher intensity jumps to best simulate in training the athletic demands from the sport of basketball. 


DANE MILLER

Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.

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