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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Coaches’ Corner: Putting the Basketball Back in Basketball Conditioning

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Caption: Is a basketball even a part of your “basketball conditioning” program? If not, it may be time to rethink the basics.

Credit: Original Artwork by Lee Michaelson/Full Court Press/Weightlifter Image Courtesy iStockPhoto.com©

By Robert Taylor

When asked to write an article about appropriate conditioning for basketball, I thought back to all of the repetitive articles that stress aerobic conditioning and then the same number of articles or more stressing anaerobic conditioning.  These articles suggest numerous textbook explanations of why one aspect is more important than another, but never gave practical drills that could help translate science into something that could be used at practice.  If there were examples given, they generally never involved a ball, yet continued to reinforce how this drill or that drill was “sport-specific”.

A basketball conditioning program is not about a magic workout that instantly produces All-Stars.  It is about a progressive approach that stresses the appropriate energy systems of the body.  Since seeing a metabolic crash cart (a set of precision equipment used to measure oxygen consumption and other cardiopulmonary parameters, including breath-by-breath gas exchange) at a basketball practice is highly unlikely, most arguments about whether a workout is aerobic or anaerobic are pointless. A basketball-appropriate workout should have both aerobic and anaerobic characteristics. 

Programs that stress exercise physiology will even touch on the importance of monitoring rest periods to allow the glycolytic system adequate recovery time for “optimal training.”  What does that even mean?  Is “optimal training” practical?  Feasible?  Applicable?  Should a player tell an official to hold on because they need more rest so they are able to “optimally perform”?  But this tangent is for another article.

When developing your conditioning program, take time to ask yourself the following questions:  Is it a year-round, progressive program?  Is there a plan for athletes that play the entire game and for those who do not?  Does it allow for flexibility when conflicts, injuries, weather, and other speed bumps occur?  What about when the team is on the road?  Can it be accomplished by my athletes?  Does it encourage a positive competitive nature?  Is it safe?  Is it time-efficient?  Does it involve an actual basketball?  Shooting?  Passing?  Defensive position?  Injury prevention?  How will we evaluate and or provide feedback to our athletes?  Where are we now, where have we come from, and where are we headed?  Does our conditioning help our style of play?  Does it reinforce what we are emphasizing as keys to success?

Here are some suggestions and practical drills that can help you achieve all of those goals for your conditioning program.

Take your time to focus on both the questions listed above and the questions that come along as the program develops.  Do you have access to bikes?  Treadmills?  Pool?  Aqua running?  Sand training?  Hill training?  Bungee training?  Speed sleds?  Over-speed cords?  Parachutes?  Tire running?  I could go on and on.  Too many people try to over-complicate the strength and conditioning side of many sports.  More often than not, practice tempo is what dictates the most significant sport-appropriate conditioning gains.  How will you define what is a successful workout?  A successful practice?  Success should boil down to the effort and positive attitude the team puts forth each day at practice and conditioning sessions.  If your workouts focus on effort and attitude then you have found the secret to taking the first step towards becoming a championship team.

Before starting any workout, allow time for your athletes to execute a moving warm-up focusing on increasing the movement potential of each joint of the body.  Incorporate speed drills into your warm-up every day to educate your players on the skills associated with proper running mechanics.  A good moving warm-up should last 10 to 15 minutes with the goal of increasing the internal, core body temperature.  This increase in core temperature is normally recognized when a substantial sweat is achieved.  Athletes should reach 80-85 percent of their maximum heart rate for six to 10 minutes during this time.

Following the moving warm-up, at least 10 minutes should be allocated to dynamically stretch the entire body.  Incorporate active range-of-motion exercises into your form-running/speed-drill program, as well as static stretching techniques to make sure each athlete is ready for that day’s practice or fitness session.  Following workouts, allow 15 minutes for warm down and a more thorough stretch, which may include band stretching, partner stretching, and both flex/stretch (aka PNF) and myofascial release techniques, which was addressed in Part I and Part II of my previous “Rest and Recovery” article.

The rest-to-work ratio in your conditioning program can be dictated initially by the time of year.  As teams approach the preseason, in-shape athletes should be able to repeat high-effort performances at full speed with limited to no mental breakdown.  From March to May, break into four groups and have a 3:1 rest-to-work ratio.  From June break through August, use three groups or a 2:1 ratio.  From September through preseason, ask your athletes to perform at a very high level with limited recovery and generally only use two groups (1:1).

A guideline similar to the rest-to-work ratio helps identify individuals who need more or less attention.  From March to May, the workouts are evaluated as a “success” if the athlete exceeds more than 80 percent of their maximum heart rate (maxHR) during the work phase, and can recover to less than 70 percent during the rest period.  From June through August, the expectation is moved up to 85 percent and 75 percent respectively.  Then, from September through preseason, try to replicate the cardiovascular stress that the player will incur during a game.  Use 90 percent during the work phase and 80 percent for the rest.  During the season, expect to have more than 80 percent of the total duration of pick-up games and conditioning sessions to be above 80 percent maxHR.

The following workouts are designed to work on footwork, body positioning, and hand and head placement, as well as allow for competition between teams.  Use the descriptions below to enhance your team’s footwork, defensive body position, and shot-clock conditioning.

“Sit Down”
“Sit Down” Workout

Starting on end line, sprint to center of key, defensive slide to block and back, repeating for all cones, then backpedal to end line.  Goal is to complete two in less than 20 seconds with good technique.  Begin by completing four reps.  Goal is 10.

“Arrow” Workout

Starting on end line, sprint to center of foul line, defensive slide to one block, sprint to top of arc, defensive slide to opposite block, sprint to center of foul line, and backpedal through end line.  Goal is to complete two in less than 20 seconds with good technique.  Begin by completing four reps.  Goal is 10.

Competition generally brings good workouts up to a level of becoming memorable workouts.  Developing fitness sessions
that allow teammates to show how much they care along with how hard they are willing and capable of working for the team or against a teammate is a motivational tool rarely tapped into when conditioning sessions are set up to compete only against the clock.  To add a twist to the shuttle drill below, start athletes in opposite corners (#1 and #3) and have them complete the drill until someone catches the other.  Put a time limit on it to monitor the rest-to-work ratio.  If there is a mismatch regarding two different athletes’ speeds, add an additional cone to the drill for the faster athlete or make the faster athlete do one of the cones twice at each spot.

Shuttle Workout

Backpedal to first cone and back, defensive slide to second cone and back, backpedal to third cone and back, sprint on sidelines and defensive slide end lines.  Goal is two laps in one minute.  Begin by completing four sets.

Looking to add to the team’s camaraderie?  Separate the team into two or three smaller squads.  To add to the year-round approach, award points to each challenge and list the current team leader, position leader, and class leader.  Think of numerous awards so that the majority of the team can be acknowledged when they are successful.  You can add a reward for winning each challenge too.  Rewards could be as simple as winners do not rebound during the free-throw segment of practice, have choice of food at pre-game meal, or choose the movie to watch on the upcoming road trip.

2 v. 1
“2 v 1” Workout

Two teammates start in opposite corners.  Sprint to where key meets three-point line, backpedal to base line, defensive slide to three-point line.  Then full sprint to far end line (under basket).  Choose how to win by either first through near foul line, or by slapping near backboard.  Tie goes to who slapped the highest.

Partner Race
“Partner Race” Workout

Two teammates begin workout on side of key.  Players face one another with one player below the block (#1) and the other above (#2).  Both athletes remain in a defensive position and slide from the paint to the sideline with player #1 controlling the change of direction and tempo.  On a signal, #1 turns and backpedals while #2 sprints to near baseline and races #1 to finish line.  Finish line is far foul line.

Adding shooting, passing, and practicing the defensive and rebounding positions in your conditioning workouts is often overlooked, but may be crucial when trying to reach the next level.  Use the patterns below and track time completed and shots taken.  Add a twist by using a points system to dictate the length of each workout.  The following scoring system can reinforce execution, focus, and the need to compete at full speed.  Start each drill with a 20-point goal and work towards higher expectations.

Basketball-Appropriate Conditioning Points System
1 point for dominant hand lay-up or dunk
2 points for non-dominant hand lay-up or jump shot inside key
3 points for jump shot outside paint
4 points for using the glass outside the paint
5 points for a made three-pointer
6 points for using the glass on a made three-pointer

“Five-Spot” Workout

Begin under basket, and make lay up.  Make shots #1, #2, and #3 outside arc.  After each shot, sprint to the cone under the basket.  Following shot at #3, receive pass, dribble, and sprint to center court, then opposite corner, and make shot.  Sprint to cone under basket, then to top of arc, and make final shot.  Clock stops when athlete runs through baseline.  Goal is to make all six shots, in less than 30 seconds.

Five Spot

Push It
“Push It” Workout

Begin under basket, make lay-up (#1).  Defensive slide to sideline and back (#2), make lay-up.  Backpedal to top of arc, receive pass, make shot (#3), and sprint to baseline.  Sprint to cone (#4), then receive pass, and make shot.  Touch cone under basket (#1), then sprint to green cone, receiving pass outside arc and pass back.  Get around green cone and receive pass back again, dribble, make shot, and touch baseline.  Defensive slide to red cone, receive pass outside arc and pass back.  Get around red cone, sprint, receive pass, and make final shot to stop the clock.  Goal is to make all six shots in less than 40 seconds.

Add these workouts to your conditioning sessions and you’ll be building your team’s cardiovascular efficiency while at the same time building team camaraderie.  The more competitive the session, the greater the effort and improvements will be.  Using time is only one way to hold athletes accountable.  Try grouping your players so that there is a consistent, challenging race to the finish.  Reward effort, not necessarily just the winner; please remember that the players in the back may be working physically harder than the person in front.  Know your personnel and what motivates them in order to get the most out of your athletes.

Robert Taylor, Jr., is the founder and owner of SMARTER Team Training. He has also been Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Loyola College - Maryland’s Athletic Department since 2003. Coach Taylor holds certifications in the field of strength and conditioning and coaching from multiple credentialing organizations, including but not limited to the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.  Taylor is also the Maryland/DC State Director for the National Association of Speed and Explosion and is a Certified Speed and Explosion Specialist.  For more innovative training techniques appropriate for basketball, check out SMARTER Team Training at http://www.SMARTERTeamTraining.com  To g.ain hands-on experience, contact Rob Taylor at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) regarding the STT events organized around the country.

Originally published Thu, January 14, 2010

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
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12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
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19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
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24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
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25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
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Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.