Ever since James Naismith wrote the original rules for the game of basketball, the sport has grown continuously in popularity. Players at all levels and skills are looking for the basketball fitness workout that will allow them to dominate their competition. But, determining the best basketball exercises for yourself or your team is not an easy task. There are lots of factors you need to assess before developing the basketball workout plan that will pay the most dividends.
Basketball Fitness Components
There are many components to most focused fitness plans. Determining the right basketball fitness components to target is going to depend on the skill level, aerobic fitness level, and basketball acumen of the target group. Let’s break those down individually:
- Skill Level is affected by age, coordination, and experience. Younger people generally have less basketball experience and coordination than those older. Although, there are many exceptions. Basketball coordination comes from practicing fundamentals like dribbling, passing, and shooting. Youngsters who have been doing basketball workout drills regularly may exhibit more coordination than their sedentary elders.
- Basketball is a fast-paced game when played correctly. Players are constantly in motion on both offense and defense. Your basketball fitness exercises must address this requirement directly. You need a minimum aerobic fitness level to be the least bit effective on the basketball court. Being more aerobically fit can actually make up for shortfalls in basketball skill level and basketball acumen. It’s that important.
- I would describe basketball acumen as an awareness of the rules, movements, and strategies involved in the game of basketball. If your goal is to dominate your competition on the hardwood, your basketball workout plan must include exercises to improve your basketball acumen. Ignoring the mental aspect of basketball will ensure you’ll never reach your full basketball abilities.
Basketball Workout Plan
Your basketball workout plan must address the basketball training exercises necessary to improve your basketball skills, basketball acumen, and aerobic fitness. You should address each of these separately and together during each basketball fitness workout to get the most from your efforts.
What do I mean by “separately and together”? I mean that you should incorporate specific basketball training drills that improve your basketball skills and other specific basketball training drills that improve your skills AND aerobic fitness, for example. In light of that position, here is my recommended basketball workout plan for hardwood dominance:
See also: https://fitnessandhealthadvice.com/your-1-task-aerobics-and-healthy-eating/
- 15 Minutes Stretching. This can be individual stretching or with the group.
- 15 Minutes Ball Skills. For younger, less experienced players, I like a combination of exercises like bouncing the ball between their legs front to back for a time period, dribbling the ball around their legs in a figure-8 for a time period, placing the ball between their knees one hand in front one hand and back and switching hands without letting the ball drop for a time period, moving the ball around their backs in each direction for a time period. For older, more experienced players this could be slow walking or dribbling the ball between their legs and around their backs, moving the ball around their heads behind their backs and between their legs in one continuous motion, etc.
- 15 Minutes Moving, Passing, and Shooting Exercises. For younger, less experienced players, this would be things like layup drills from each side, pass to the free-throw-line extended for a jump shot from each side, pass to the corner for a jump shot from each side. Older, more experienced players, could work exercises based on position. For example, guards could work on emerging from a screen to receive a pass for a jump shot, big men could work on taking the ball out of the basket and moving to the other side of the rim to lay the ball in the basket (a.k.a. the Mykan Drill), forwards could work on spot-up jump shots and taking the ball to the basket. Both groups could also work on skills like setting screens, rolling from screens toward the basket, rebounding, taking charges, etc.
- 65 Minutes Scrimmage and “Situational” Exercises. For both younger and older players, 5-on-5 scrimmages are the most realistic basketball training drills they can do. These types of drills offer players a chance to operate in a game-like situation where they must think and act like they would during real competition. It gives them a chance to apply the skills they’ve practiced earlier. Play can be interrupted to point out better alternatives to actions taken, identifying situational opportunities, or for other reasons to improve basketball acumen. The continuous movement associated with scrimmaging also helps improve aerobic stamina.
- 10 Minutes Free Throw/Power-Drill Running. During the last 10 minutes of the workout, team members will take turns shooting free-throws. Each member will shoot up to two free-throws. If they make them both, then the next team member takes their turn. If they make their first free-throw, but, miss their second, then each player runs one power-drill under a target time limit. A power-drill consists of running baseline to free-throw line and back to the baseline. Then, running baseline to half-court and back to the baseline. Then, running baseline to the free-throw line at the opposite end of the court and back to the baseline. Finally, baseline to baseline and back to baseline. If the player misses their first free-throw, then the team runs two power-drills under a target time limit. Anytime the target time limit is exceeded, those runs must be repeated by all members. When all team members have shot free-throws, if, as a team, they have made less than 60%, the entire team runs 10 power-drills under a target time limit for each power-drill repeating any power-drills where the time limit is exceeded. This will generally serve as the primary aerobic exercise for the group and individual.
Basketball Core and Aerobic Workout
The core muscles and legs are the most important muscles for good performance on the basketball court. They provide the power that makes for physical play and dominance. Without a solid core and aerobic stamina, you cannot expect to play the game better than your opponent.
By far, the best exercises for your core are sit-ups and leg lifts. Sit-ups should be done with bent legs and with your arms at your sides. You might be familiar with “old school” sit-ups where you intertwined your fingers behind your head. This can put undue stress on your neck and should be avoided. When starting this exercise, it’s recommended to complete five sets of one-minute max-effort sit-ups followed by one-minute rest. As stamina is increased, the duration of effort and rest can be changed to two-minutes.
Leg lifts are done by laying on the floor with arms at the side. The legs are then lifted off the floor and held 6 inches above it for as long as possible. Minimal rest should be taken when the legs and core tire. When more stamina has been acquired, the legs can be repeatedly lifted from 6 inches to 18 inches until fatigued and then repeated after a short rest. The duration of the exercise is 10 minutes.
Since jumping is such an important part of basketball, one of the best basketball exercises of which I’m aware is to stand on one leg next to the bleachers and jump up onto the first bleacher and back down again repeatedly. Do this for five minutes and then switch legs. This basketball fitness training exercise will increase jumping height when repeated often.
The best basketball cardio workout is the power-drill done during our free-throw drill. They can be done independently to increase stamina even more. Alternatively, running laps around the gym is also a good basic aerobic workout that will benefit basketball play.
Good basketball acumen is important if you expect to dominate your opponent. I know that “dominate” isn’t really a politically correct term. Let’s just say you want to whip their lazy butts! Knowing the techniques and moves which have proven time and time again to be beneficial on the basketball court are keys to success.
Understanding the layout of the basketball court and using that to your advantage can greatly improve your chance of winning be it a friendly game or organized competition. Your opponent going out of bounds can lead to your gaining possession of the ball. Using the boundary when on defense, in effect, gives you another player. Conversely, you need to avoid being trapped against the boundary when you are in possession of the ball. Such traps can be avoided by dribbling around them or passing the basketball out of trouble.
The area defined by the free-throw line and the lines from its ends to the boundary is called “the key”. Offensive players can only remain in the key for 3-seconds. When on defense, if you can impede an offensive player from exiting the key (without fouling them or, should I write, getting caught fouling them), you can gain possession of the basketball.
In its simplest sense, defense should be played by keeping yourself between the person you’re guarding and the basket. When the person you’re guarding does not possess the ball, assuming a defensive position that forms a triangle where you keep the player in possession of the basketball and the player you are defending in sight while remaining between the player you are defending and the basket is a common technique.
While your team is in possession of the basketball, placing yourself in a position where your teammate can use you to form an obstacle to the player defending them is called “setting a screen”. On offense, one should look for opportunities to set screens that would give your side an advantage. Conversely, when on defense, one must constantly be mindful of offensive players trying to set screens on you.
Whole books can be written on the mental aspect of basketball. It’s tough to cover everything in a 2000 word article.
Let me end this section with my favorite act of mental brinkmanship. I used to love identifying the player on the other team performing the best and try to get inside their head. While running down the court, transitioning to either offense or defense, I would run as close to them as possible and stick my elbow right in their chest always trying to position it so that it was not visible to the referees. Eventually, they would either shove me or slap at my arm or do SOMETHING which garnered the attention of the referees and would result in a foul.
Hey, I wrote it was an “act of mental brinkmanship” not that it was strictly legal.
Securing Hardwood Domination
Basketball is a complicated game involving lots of capabilities and strategies. Structuring your basketball fitness workout to address the three critical issues of basketball skills, aerobic fitness, and basketball acumen is the surest way to success. In this article, I tried to identify some of the best basketball fitness exercises to help you dominate your competition. By keeping them in consideration and working hard, you will continue to find success on the hardwood. Just remember, when running down the court with your elbow in your competitor’s chest, make sure the referee can’t see it. You cannot dominate the hardwood if you’re on the bench with five fouls!