Basketball Conditioning Wins (& Loses) Games

basketball conditioning

Basketball conditioning matters.

The level of shape a player is in can mean the difference between 

  • winning or losing
  • making the team or getting cut
  • staying in the game or getting pulled
  • sinking the shot or missing it
  • stopping a defender or watching him blow by
  • becoming a better player or staying status quo
  • earning a starting position or staying on the bench

Basketball conditioning is a big deal.

But what exactly is it?

Endurance. Strength. Speed. Agility. Recovery time.

When we speak of players being in "basketball shape" we're referring to players' overall level of physical conditioning. 

Players who are physically fit in each of these 5 areas are players ready to perform at their best with enough stamina to keep going strong at the end of the game.

Basketball is a very strenuous sport

It demands lots of quick starts and stops, explosive changes of direction, physical contact, and all out sprints.

It's exhausting.

I like to think of basketball conditioning as the great equalizer. It takes discipline and hard work to get in top game shape. Most players aren't that committed.

Time and again, I've seen less skilled players outlast more talented opponents down the stretch and come out ahead on the scoreboard.

When fatigue sets in players get a step slower, don't react as quickly, don't have enough gas in the tank to sprint back on defense, and don't have the strength to get their shot to the basket.

They're no longer able to perform at their best. 

I've seen lots of teams keep the game close in the first half when everyone is fresh. It's the second half that tells the story.

Commit to being the team that's still playing strong at the final buzzer. Take pride in being the team in better shape.

And remember that a team is only as strong as its weakest players. So, players, don't be the weak link! Your teammates are counting on you to be at your best.

Below you'll find basketball exercises and tips to prepare your players to get in top basketball shape.

Focus on 5 areas of basketball fitness training

Basketball Conditioning
1. Endurance


Getting up and down the floor on the fast break. Chasing down loose balls. Playing tough one-on-one defense. Over and over again for the course of a game.

This demands endurance. And the only way to improve endurance is through aerobic or cardiovascular basketball conditioning.

Cardiovascular activities help your heart pump oxygen more efficiently throughout your body, so you can have the stamina to play hard for the entire ball game.

Basketball conditioning
2. Strength

Strength training for basketball helps players develop the muscles they need to keep from getting knocked around, to hang on to the ball in a crowd, and to get more power on their shot and vertical jump. 

For young kids, strength can be increased through basketball exercises that focus on those muscle groups used in basketball-related movements but don't include traditional weights.

Though weight training is beneficial and recommended for older players, young bodies are still developing and players shouldn't consider the use of weights until about the mid teens at the earliest.

Once players start participating in weight training programs, the focus is not to bulk up like a power lifter, but to develop overall strength to perform movements required throughout the game.

  • Strong legs to stay low in a defensive stance, explode up for a rebound, and provide the necessary lift for shooting.
  • Strong back and shoulders to pull down rebounds and battle with opponents down low.
  • Strong arms for passing, shooting, rebounding, and dribbling.
  • Strong core because it supports the entire body.

Basketball conditioning
3. Speed

Basketball is a game of quick starts and stops. The ball changes hands quickly, and players need to be able to transition fast. 

Now, I know some of us are built bigger and slower than others. And no matter how hard we try, we'll never win a 100-yard dash.

But, that's OK. That's one of the beauties of a basketball team. There are roles for all body types and sizes.

Regardless of size, speed training will help everyone improve their quickness and get up and down the floor a little faster.

Here are a couple highly recommended resources for speed and agility training that I've referred to in my practice planning.

Don't miss out on some excellent speed workouts that are fun for kids.

Basketball Conditioning
4. Agility

Good footwork is necessary to perform just about every basketball skill. And it's crucial for maneuvering efficiently around players on the court without making unwanted contact.

Agility and speed are closely related.

  • Speed really focuses on how quickly you can move your body from one place to another.
  • Agility has to do with how quickly you can move your feet to change direction or position while keeping your body under control.

Basketball agility drills improve players' ability to get lighter and more agile on their feet.

Basketball conditioning
5. Quick recovery time

recovery time

There are a lot of times during a basketball game when players expend huge bursts of energy for short periods of time.

These explosive activities that last for less than 2 minutes are known as anaerobic activities. 

Sprinting down the court is an example.

You know that feeling you get of being winded after you run hard?

Anaerobic basketball conditioning helps you shorten the amount of time you need to get your breath back. It includes basketball exercises that demand players to give all-out effort for short periods of time followed by a short rest period and then another period of all-out effort, and so on.

Being able to recover quickly comes in really handy when a player has to step up to the line to shoot a free throw after sprinting full court. If players are not in good anaerobic shape, they're too concerned about breathing to concentrate on executing good shooting form and having the strength to sink the shot.

There are lots of effective basketball conditioning drills out there.

Whenever possible, I try to incorporate strength and conditioning exercises into competitive games or drills that have other objectives besides just running up and down the floor.

It's a whole lot more fun for players when they can work on basketball skills and get good conditioning in at the same time.

Plus, it makes youth basketball practice more game-like. Basketball requires players to be able to shoot, pass, rebound, and defend while they're winded. So why not create situations where they practice that way?

I've included some books below that are excellent resources. They've given me some really good ideas for basketball fitness training drills.

When it comes to basketball fitness training, remember above everything else, kids want to have fun.

Push your kids too hard, and you run the risk of them dreading coming to practice and eventually burning out.

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