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Basketball Conditioning Advice for Maximizing Basketball Stamina & Endurance

Wolff-Parkinson-White Pic Check out the Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) section of this site: The rare heart condition WPW threatened my life when I was playing basketball.

Basketball conditioning should always be a part of your basketball training. The fourth quarter is where a lot of games are won and lost, and basketball conditioning just may give you the edge you need.

All aspects of your game will improve if you're able to play the whole game with minimal fatigue. You'll be able to remain more effective on defense by staying low, get more rebounds by still having great first and second leap ability, and continue to make your open shots and free throws by keeping your legs in your shot.

  1. Change of Direction Sprints
  2. Full-speed Basketball Drills
  3. Defensive Conditioning
  4. Long-Distance Training (and Warning)
  5. Other Basketball Endurance Exercises
For all basketball conditioning you should have proper athletic apparel, including shoes for both on the court and off of the court.

Change of Direction Sprints

Any basketball conditioning regimen should always include change of direction sprints. Why? Basketball is all about changing directions at high speeds, and players' conditioning should focus on this.

These following basketball conditioning drills should be done on a highly consistent basis in your basketball training.

As the name indicates, this drill is no fun at all, but an absolute must of the basketball conditioning drills to be performed. It consists of many short bursts of high energy and numerous changes of direction to simulate game play.

Begin on one baseline facing the other. If you're training individually, then locate yourself in the middle of the court so that you'll be able to run directly to/over the free throw lines.

Basketball Conditioning Pic Sprint to the near free throw line, touch it with your hand, and sprint back to the baseline where you began. Now touch the baseline with your hand and sprint to the center court line, again touching it and returning to the baseline. Touch the baseline again and sprint down to the far free throw line, touch it, and sprint back to the baseline. Finally, touch the baseline again and sprint to the far baseline, touching it and returning to the beginning baseline.

That completes one suicide:
  1. Baseline to free throw line and back
  2. Baseline to center court and back
  3. Baseline to far free throw line and back
  4. And baseline to far baseline and back.
Halfcourt-Back, Down-Back
This basketball conditioning drill is a shorter variation of the suicide drill. Sprint to half court, touch the line, return to the baseline, touch the line, sprint to the opposite baseline, touch the line, and sprint back to the beginning baseline.

Down and Back
An easier drill that may be used after your already fatigued. Sprint from one baseline to the other, touch the baseline, and sprint back.

Any other variation of lines that you would like to do!
Combine the above drills: go far free throw-back and down-back, for example.

Suicides should be the main focus of your basketball conditioning routine. They're absolutely miserable to perform, I know, but they're the most effective.

As with any other drill, you should not be slacking on the drills. Sprint as fast as you can on all portions of each drill.

Full-Speed Basketball Drills

This isn't really a "drill" persay, but just a recommendation that any time you are doing any kind of drill, do it at game speed to build up your in-game endurance. Explore some of the specific skill drills available on the site and make sure to do them at full speed.

Check out the Basketball Drills page and find some basketball drills to do full speed to get some more basketball conditioning.

Defensive Conditioning

Basketball conditioning is possibly more important on defense than on offense. You have to be able to stay low to help your lateral movement. Improving your basketball conditioning will improve your defensive endurance and make you a more dominating defender.

  1. Wall Sit
  2. Foot Fire
  3. Defensive Figure 8
  4. Defesive Slide Drills
Defensive conditioning is probably the most important basketball endurance focus if you want to be a great player. Of course offensive basketball conditioning is important, to, but defense is where a lot of games are won or lost. You don't want to be giving up a lot of easy baskets toward the end of the game.

Wall Sits
This basketball conditioning drill is one of my top recommended exercises for ALL aspects of your basketball game. For one, it's free! Second, it's designed to fatigue your legs while staying low. As you know by now, staying low can help in many aspects of your game.

It is mostly used for the quads, but also can work your hips and core. This, in turn, helps your legs' endurance.
  1. Find a wall with enough space in front of it that you'd be able to set a chair there and sit down. You're NOT going to use a chair, though.
  2. Stand with your back toward the wall, about 2 to 2 1/2' away from the wall, then lean your back against the wall.
  3. Now, keeping your back and head straight and still against the wall, slide down until your knees come to a 90° angle with the floor.
  4. Hold this position (90° at the hips and 90° at the knees) for a set time or as long as you can.
You should basically be in a position similar to sitting in a chair, but without the chair. You will feel it mostly in the quads, but other areas such as the hips, will feel some strain as well.

Depending on your routine and abilities, you may shoot for holding the position for a certain period of time. An example may be 60 seconds when you first begin. As you develop more endurance, though, you will want to extend this time a great deal.

Remember: This drill is designed to help develop endurance, so push yourself to hold the position as long as possible to maximize your basketball conditioning.

Foot Fire
  1. Begin in the defensive stance (description available on the basketball fundamentals page.

  2. Staying on the balls of your feet, quickly "run in place." I shouldn't really say "run in place," but I'm not sure how else to describe it: basically, you are lifting your feet and tapping them back on the ground as quickly as possible (alternating of course).

    Make sure to pick up your feet and not just lift your heels off of the ground (so you're lifting the balls of your feet off the ground and tapping them back on the court/ground).

    You do this either for a set amount of time (i.e. 30 seconds, 60 seconds, etc.) or see how long you can last. I recommend setting a time, though, so that you have to push yourself to make it to the end of that time.
The (Dreaded) Figure Eight
Sorry, I'm not talking about ball handling here, the figure eight basketball conditioning drill is much more difficult because it is "all-inclusive." What do I mean by this? Simple, nearly all forms of defensive movements are used, including:
  • Sprints
  • Defensive Slides, and
  • Back Peddling
Start at one baseline lined up at the right sideline.
  1. Sprint to the half court line.
  2. Defensive Slide (left) across the half court line to the left sideline.
  3. Sprint down to the far baseline.
  4. Defensive Slide (right) across the baseline to the right sideline.
  5. Now back peddle to the half court line
  6. Defensive Slide (left) across the half court line to the left sideline.
  7. Back peddle again now to the baseline you began on.
  8. Right defensive slide along the baseling to where you originally began, completing one figure eight.
For added conditioning don't take a break between each figure eight you perform. As with any other basketball drill, go at "game speed" and give 100% effort for better effects.

To add a little something to this basketball conditioning drill you can also throw in pivots before defensive sliding across a line, just make sure to try to do the same amount of right slides and left slides.

A note on Defensive Sliding:
Start out (and stay) in the defensive position described in the basketball fundamentals page. To move right (slide right), push off with your left foot and slide it toward your right foot. When it's close to the right, step out with your right and slide the left toward your right foot again. DO NOT CROSS YOUR FEET! The same goes for sliding left, except you will be pushing off/sliding your right foot toward the left.

Defensive Slide Drill
You are essentially zig-zagging down the court by defensive sliding at an angle on the court.
  1. Start on one baseline
  2. Defensive slide to the right at an angle toward the free-throw line (extended).
  3. When you get to the extended free-throw line, pivot and start defensive sliding toward the halfcourt line (left).
  4. Now when you reach the half-court line, pivot and right defensive slide toward the far extended free-throw line.
  5. Pivot again and left defensive slide toward the far baseline

Make sure to check out the Basketball Defense page as well.

Long-Distance Training (and Warning)

Long distance training in basketball is something you need to be careful with. When I was in high school I decided to join the cross country team to get in better shape for basketball. The only problem was that it is a completely different style of running, so it actually hurt me that year!

Basketball consists of sprints, not long-distance endurance runs. Sprints are more effective when done on the balls of your feet, whereas the long-distance running was done heel-toe.

You can still do long-distance training, just use it sparingly and be careful with it. If you're going to do long distances I recommend doing "interval" training in which you sprint for a certain time/distance, then pace yourself for a certain time/distance, and continue the pattern. Try to keep long distance runs no longer than 3 miles.

Other Basketball Endurance Exercises

These additional basketball endurance exercises can also be a very beneficial aspect of your basketball conditioning routine.

Finish Line
  1. Jumping Rope
  2. Rim Jumps
  3. Hill Sprints
  4. Elliptical/Treadmill/Stairstepper
  5. Bicycling
Jumping Rope
Jumping rope is a great basketball conditioning drill because it helps you develop "foot speed" and second leap ability.
  1. Do Regular, 2-legged jumping rope that focuses on speed. Time it and count your jumps if possible. (A digital jumprope can help you track your progress).
  2. Perform "double jumps:" jumps in which you are able to bring the rope around your body not just once, but twice. Do these sequentially, though, so that you get the benefit of jumping higher and having a faster 2nd leap. You can mix these in with regular jumps, to, but don't just do the double jumps in the middle of regular jumps.
  3. Also do single leg jumps for speed roping, which you can throw into the middle of a routine or do a certain number of jumps on one leg before alternating to the other.
Squat Jumps
Squat Jumps are an exercise I've newly discovered, and I think they work great for basketball conditioning because they combine leg strength with leg endurance.
  1. Find an area outside or inside with enough room to jump up in.
  2. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and hands clasped in front of you about chest high.
  3. Now perform 3 squats in a row (with a 1 second count each), exploding up after the 3rd. The count is "One, two, three, explode up."

    To perform the squat, keep your back straight and your head up. Now bend your knees and lower your body/butt down to the point your knees are bent at 90°

  4. As soon as you land, go right back into your squats.
  5. Perform a set number or for a set period of time. Just make sure you're pusing yourself with your how many or how much time you choose, and continue to increase it as you become better at the exercise.
Get a hoop from, maybe even an adjustable one, to do the rim jumps at home.

Rim Jumps
Rim jumps are another great "free" basketball conditioning exercise. This is actually quite different than the squat jumps above, though, as it will focus on your second leap ability and simulates a rebounding situation much closer.

  1. Find a rim or similar object in height that you can reach for and stand directly in front of it
  2. Using both legs, jump up and touch the rim (or as high as you can on the net) with one hand.
  3. Immediately upon landing, jump back up to touch the rim again, alternating hands, but again using a 2-legged jump
  4. Do a few sets of at least 10 jumps per set. This is also a jumping endurance exercise that should be done explosively as well.
As stated in the last part of the instructions, each jump should be as explosive as possible while focusing on getting yourself back up in the air as quickly as possible.
You should be trying to reach as high as possible each time, but not at the expense of taking more time to get back in the air. As with any other endurance exercise, your endurance will build as you perform the rim jumps more often.

Hill Sprints
Hill Sprints are a great basketball conditioning tool because they not only increase your endurance, but also help to build your calf muscles: Of any outdoor running activities, these may be the best suited for basketball players.

Find a hill that is fairly steep and has little foot traffic so that you won't be running pedestrians over. As with any sprints, run on the balls of your feet as fast you can up to the top of the hill (or to a certain point if the distance is too long that you can't sprint fully up the hill). Walk back down the hill as your "break" and repeat the process a couple of times. This is an exercise that should be used sparingly, though, probably no more than once a week as you want to focus on more game-type sprints for your basketball conditioning routine.

I'll go into each individually shortly...but first...

If using any of these three pieces of equipment, it is recommended that you are on them for only 20-30 minutes at a time. This way you can go at full effort the entire time. I also recommend that when using any of these pieces of equipment for basketball conditioning that you use the "interval" option. This way you can sprint at full speed for a portion and run "hills" for another.

Of these three gym machines that can be used for cardiovascular exercise, the elliptical is the most effective for basketball conditioning, followed by the stair-stepper and then the tredmill. The elliptical is easiest on your joints, especially your knees, and burns many more calories than do other methods. Also, although not entirely a game movement simulation, you can backpeddle on the elliptical, whereas you can't on other machines.

The stair-stepper is also a nice "change of pace" to randomly throw into your routine. It burns quite a few calories as well (just not as many as an elliptical). It can also help to strengthen your legs and calves.

The treadmill is my least favorite of these machines not only for basketball conditioning, but just for cardiovascular exercise in general. Some don't allow you to go very fast, they don't burn as many calories, and they're much harder on your joints. If you like them, though, then go ahead and use them sparingly.

Bicycling is another exercise you can use (sparingly) for basketball conditioning. Bicycling outside on an actual bike instead of just in the gym would be more effective because you are moving your body weight and changing resistance as you go. Try to incorporate some hills in your bicycling workout when you do use this method. It should be used as an occasional change of pace in your basketball conditioning routine, or better yet, you can bike to work or school to save money on gas and get a quick workout, to!

Basketball Conditioning Conclusion

Try to make the change of direction sprints and defensive basketball conditioning drills the focus of your basketball conditioning routine, but be aware of the other methods and use them as well. Remember, the better shape that you're in, the better the rest of your game will become because you won't be too tired to run fast, stay low, and jump higher. Good luck and make it enjoyable!

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Finish Line

160 x 600

NBA All-Time Minutes Per Game Leaders
You have to be on the court to succeed!

1. Wilt Chamberlain 45.8
2. Bill Russell 42.3
3. Oscar Robertson 42.2
4. Elvin Hayes 38.4
5. Michael Jordan 38.3
6. Walt Bellamy 37.3
7. Karl Malone 37.2
8. Ray Allen 36.9
9. Kareem
10. Charles Barkley 36.7
11(t). Jason Kidd 36.6
11(t). John Havlicek 36.6
13(t). Kobe Bryant 36.5
13(t). Kevin Garnett 36.5
15. Hakeem Olojuwon 35.7
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