As Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards out of us all.”
And at one time you were so tired that you couldn’t do what your team needed you to do when it mattered most.
Let’s be honest… we have ALL been there.
What if I am to tell you the secret to NEVER getting tired on the basketball court.
Would you be willing to do what it takes?
If so, read further…
First, it takes lots and lots of basketball-related conditioning. That’s obvious.
You may think of a basketball conditioning program as your coach making you run sprints in practice or in the offseason. Either you view it as punishment for doing something wrong or a necessary chore just to succeed in the game.
Stop looking at conditioning as a necessity! Look at it as a skill!
You can be GREAT at conditioning in the same way you can become a great shooter or passer. It takes the same level of focus and effort.
In the same way you practice shooting to perfect your jump shot, you can also practice conditioning habits to perfect your physical condition!
Here are five tips to develop your conditioning on the basketball court.
Tip #1: Have a Specific Pregame Meal
If your body functions as a car, then what do you fuel it with?
Have you thought about that?
The best athletes in the world have a diet so regimented that they view eating and drinking more as a science as opposed to just a daily need.
So what do the world’s best athletes eat?
Everyone has their favorite foods.
Scottie Pippen was famous for having a banana and orange juice at halftime.
LeBron James often likes chicken, fruit, a protein shake, and maybe some pasta before games.
My advice? Stick to your favorite HEALTHY foods! You should WANT to eat the foods that will fuel you for the game.
But generally speaking, you should have a meal with:
- High amounts of carbohydrates, which increases exertion capacity by building up your glycogen levels. High glycogen levels ultimately lead to better on-court performance!
- Medium amounts of protein, which keeps you full (hunger is ONLY good for metaphors, actual hunger is only going to slow you down). Too much will slow you down, so aim for no more than 15-20 grams of protein in your pregame meal.
- Low amounts of fat and sodium before the game. Meals with a high amount of fat and sodium weigh you down considerably.
- Avoid too many sweets or high-sugar energy drinks. Those may give you a short-term increase in energy, but you WILL crash during the game!
Food is important. Whatever you eat will affect your conditioning on the basketball court. If you eat right, you will feel noticeably faster and stronger.
But a pregame meal would not be complete without a drink!
Tip #2: Drink Water BEFORE the game, Practice, or Training Session
Always start the day with a glass of water. A glass of water to start the day will flush down any of the toxins and sodium accumulated in the previous night’s sleep.
And drink MORE water as the day progresses.
A rule of thumb: if you feel thirsty, you should have gotten a glass of water 30 minutes ago. If sweat is water leaving the body, then you MUST replace those fluids exiting the body.
So the first step is to eat and drink the right way! You will feel much better no matter where your conditioning level is currently.
But what about the tough part? The actual conditioning?
Tip #3: Prioritize Basketball Endurance When Building Muscle
Like passing or shooting, building endurance on the basketball court is a skill to develop. You have to LEARN how to be in great condition in order to be at YOUR best at all times.
And it all starts by building your muscles with the specific intent to play basketball. Not to look like a linebacker in football!
Football players need as much muscle mass as possible to perform high-impact tasks in a split-second time interval – whether it’s blocking, tackling, or even kicking the football.
It’s the exact opposite in basketball. You have to dribble, pass, shoot, and move your feet CONSTANTLY throughout the game.
Too much muscle mass WILL slow you down! But too little WILL get you pushed around!
In basketball, your muscles must perform several rapid-fire tasks over an extended period of time. In the weight room, you have to think of what muscles you need to prioritize.
On the basketball court, you will need to have strong glutes, quads, hamstrings, and adductor muscles to make cuts and defensive slides over and over again.
Core work is ESSENTIAL to keep you from suffering ongoing hamstring, hip, and back issues, which will sap your endurance because more exertion is needed to move at the same pace.
A strong core also gives you the body control and balance necessary to withstand contact when you finish at the basket.
My advice: prioritize core strength, then leg strength, then upper body strength. All three are important, but a strong core should be the top priority.
But strength training alone is not going to get you in great condition.
The next step to take is the cardio itself.
Tip #4: Be Intentional About Cardio
In the offseason between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I had one goal in mind: to become the starting point guard on my junior varsity team.
I reached that goal – and lost 25 pounds in the process! Then I got moved up to varsity midway through the season and was a part of a team that made it all the way to the state semifinals!
How did I get there? It all started in the previous offseason!
I made it a point to do one of these three things daily in the gym:
- 30-45 minutes on the Stairmaster
- Running 8-10 miles a day on the treadmill
- Doing several wind sprints on the basketball courts before I got my shots up.
It was a very intense regimen! My focus was solely to get in the best shape possible.
And that should be your focus too!
But looking back, I would do things differently!
I overextended myself and tore my hip flexor during my sophomore season. As a result, I was unable to build up the same level of conditioning for the next two seasons.
If I had to do it differently, here is how I would have done it:
Do long-range cardio for 30-45 minutes three times per week.
Long-range cardio is needed to build up the lung capacity and slow twitch muscles needed to stay on the basketball court as long as possible.
Low impact cardio such as swimming and biking is MUCH better than running because running all those miles will eventually impact your joints and cause you to be a further risk of injury.
If you are on an exercise bike or another cardio machine, then I would strongly advise you watch a basketball instructional video in order to learn a new skill.
But what about short-range cardio? The sprints that your coach makes you run?
Run those no more than two times per week. The goal is to alternate between long range and short range cardio.
Don’t just sprint up and down the court! Multi-task your training!
Add a basketball or a defensive component to your workout. Get better at basketball conditioning and your overall skills!
For example, you can:
- Aim to make 10 full-court layups in less than a minute (REALLY TOUGH)
- Sprint down the court 10 times and do a closeout at the end of each sprint
Or better yet, find the nearest hill and sprint up and back 10-12 times! Those hill runs WILL build up your fast twitch muscles which allows you to sprint multiple times during a game.
I guarantee running up hills will build up your endurance for ANY sport, not just basketball.
But what REALLY sets you apart is how you prepare for the NEXT day.
Tip #5: Immediately Stretch & Ice Your Legs After EVERY Workout
Next day soreness always slows you down! You cannot go as hard today as you did yesterday because you pushed yourself too hard!
So what exactly causes next day soreness?
Next day soreness is your body telling you that you need to rest.
Your body has micro tears in your muscles that have not yet been fully built back up.
So what slows down the recovery process?
Lactic acid! Your body replaces yesterday’s oxygen with today’s lactic acid. Lactic acid causes muscle cramps and soreness throughout the muscles exercised.
So here are three key components to mitigate next day soreness:
- Drinking plenty of water – water helps flushes out the lactic acid that builds up shortly after a workout
- Stretching after EVERY workout – static stretches will accelerate rebuilding the microtears in the muscles that naturally build up during the workout
- Taking an ice bath or cold shower after you stretch – cold water constricts the blood vessels, flushing out much of the lactic acid inside the affected muscle tissues
Properly recovering from a workout is equally as important as the workout itself.
If you REALLY want to build endurance, no step in this process should be skipped.
You WILL feel tired and discouraged at first. But over time, just like when you became a great shooter or defender, you will also become great at basketball conditioning.