Everyone wants the prettiest 3-point shot and the craziest handles on the basketball court, but if you're not in shape, none of that will do you much good come game time. In-season or off-season, conditioning should be a high priority for any hoopster. Naturally, you'll see improvements from running the court at team practices, but the best players put in the extra time on the hardwood and look for any opportunity to better their weak spots.
Team Bodybuilding.com athlete Myree Bowden knows a thing or two about basketball conditioning drills. He used them as a player—which included a stint with the Harlem Globetrotters—and now he uses them as a coach. It's one thing to love the game and have a passion for it, he says, but you need to develop discipline to do the harder work when there isn't a ball in your hands and no one is looking.
"The biggest thing I had to learn growing up and being an athlete is that you're not going to go out and play a game or compete at your tip-top ability if you don't get the repetitions in," Bowden says. "The more good reps you can get in, the more it's going to transfer over into your performance."
It can help to do these drills with a friend or with your whole team, but if you can push through on your own and hold yourself accountable, you're only going to become a better player for it. Don't cheat on the times, the distance, or the effort! Wind sprints and the mile run should be done twice a week with at least two days between repeating them. Your line drills, Super 17s, and defensive drills can be done 3-5 times a week.
Before each workout, warm up with the following dynamic stretching routine. Perform each movement for a full length of a basketball court, or 30 yards:
- High knee
- Butt kick
- Drummer boy
- Side shuffle
- High skip
- Low skip
- 70-percent sprint
Here are Bowden's five favorite conditioning drills for helping you get the edge over your opponents:
1. Wind Sprint
This should be a progressive drill, starting at 50 yards and working up to a 100-yard sprint at the end. The goal behind this drill is to build speed and power, and then sustain it throughout the designated distance.
- 5 sets of 50 yards
- 5 sets of 60 yards
- 3 sets of 70 yards
- 2 sets of 80 yards
- 2 sets of 90 yards
- 2 sets of 100 yards
2. 1-Mile Run
This one is pretty self-explanatory—except that there is a time limit you're aiming for. If you play at the guard position, you should be finishing the mile in under 6:15; forwards and centers, in under 6:45. You want to hit a challenging pace and build your lung capacity. This is also the perfect time to practice pushing through pain to finish! That will come in handy when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter.
3. Line Drill
The goal here is to be able to sprint and change direction midstride while exerting maximum energy. On the court, players constantly cut and change direction, and the ability to do so efficiently and quickly is a key competitive advantage.
On the start, players go from baseline to free-throw line, back to baseline, half court back to baseline, opposite free-throw line back to baseline, and, finally, opposite baseline back to starting baseline. Guards should complete the entire drill in under 25 seconds; bigs, in under 30 seconds. Do this for a total of 5 rounds.
After you complete the fifth line drill, shoot a 1-and-1 free throw. If you make both, the drill is done. If you miss one, run another line drill and repeat this until you make both free throws. Your free throw percentage is about to get a whole lot better!
4. Super 17s
When coach gets pissed off and yells, "Seventeens!" you know you're in for it! Super 17s are a great tool for punishment, but they're also a great conditioning drill that you can willingly do yourself to get in better basketball shape!
- Sprint sideline to sideline, 17 times (each sprint counts as one)
- Guards: finish in under 1:00
- Posts: finish in under 1:07
Again, players must be able to push to a certain speed from sideline to sideline, touching each line—no cutting them short! The aim is to finish the drill in less than the set time limit. If you miss your time, take a two-minute break and then do the Sweet 16, Filthy 15, Final 14, and so on. The number correlates to the number of widths you'll sprint each time.
5. Defensive Stance Drill
Perform each movement in an athletic (defensive) position (knees bent nearly 90 degrees, hips back, torso upright), and don't stand to rest until you complete the full routine. If you can, have someone else control your transition with a whistle and call out times for you so you can focus fully on the drills.
45 seconds each:
- Stance hold
- Fire feet
- Defensive slides
- Box out
- Taking a charge
No matter which conditioning drill you're performing on a given day, your cool-down is just as important as your warm-up. Now is the time where you can relax and get that static stretching in or even flow through some yoga. After conditioning workouts like these, your hamstrings, quads, and lower back will need some extra attention!
Hold each position for 15 seconds:
- Forward fold stretch
- Straddle stretch
- Butterfly stretch
- Figure four stretch, both sides
- Cross-over stretch, both sides
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