5 Recovery Exercises for the Downtime

In order to be your best this pre-season, you need some rest during the month of August.

Most players have been going hard with individual workouts, AAU tournaments, summer league games, and elite camps. I know of several players who haven't slept in their bed at home for more than a dozen times the entire summer!

With such a rigorous schedule, your body is banged up, fatigued, and broken down. You need to get in some quality active rest between now and when school starts. Honestly, scheduling an adequate period of active rest may be the most important thing you do all summer.

You need to get away from the game, mentally and physically, to re-charge your battery and be refreshed and ready to start the school year and your team's preseason workouts.

I recommend you take anywhere from a few days, to two full weeks, and do nothing physically active except for the five recovery exercises listed below. You need to evaluate your current state. If your summer wasn't too exhausting, then take a few days off. If your summer was packed tighter than an airplane bathroom... then you should probably take an entire week or two off.

And when I say "off"... I mean off. That means no lifting, no conditioning, no shooting, no ball handling and no pick-up games. Trust me, it will do you good.

Perform the following exercises every day during your active rest period:

Lacrosse Ball Foot Massage

Why it's important: Basketball players' feet are constantly confined to rigid, stiff basketball shoes and ankle braces 20-25 hours a week. If your feet are constantly in basketball shoes, your ankles and feet get weaker and less mobile. Performing a "self massage" on a lacrosse ball helps loosen up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your feet.

How it's done: In just your socks, balance on one foot and roll your other foot on top of the lacrosse ball. The more weight you put on the ball, the more pressure and the deeper the massage.

How many reps: Do two sets of 30 seconds for each foot.

Foam Roller

Why it's important: It has a similar premise to the lacrosse ball. It's a self-massage that helps elongate your muscles and rid your body of lactic acid and "knots."

How it's done: Start with your lower calf. Roll back and forth on top of the foam roller as if you were kneading dough. Follow the same protocol for your hamstrings, butt, outside of your hip, lower back, upper back, and your shoulder.

How many reps: Roll over each body part for 30 seconds.

Variation: You can substitute the foam roller with an over-inflated basketball.

Lunge and Reach Stretch

Why it's important: Great stretch for the entire body!

How it's done: Step out as far as you can into a forward lunge. Keep your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders facing forward. Put your palms on the floor in front of you (inside of your front leg). Straighten you back leg. If your left leg is forward, keep your right palm on the ground and raise your left palm toward the ceiling (by rotating your core). Look up as you reach up. Then perform the same movement with your other hand (left leg forward, raise your right hand). Then switch legs and repeat.

How many reps: Perform 5 reps for each hand on each leg.

Assisted Hamstring Stretch

Why it's important: Tight hamstrings can cause numerous problems.

How it's done: Lay on your back with both legs flat. Wrap a towel or elastic band or jump rope around the middle part of one foot. Keeping both legs straight (one stays on the ground), slowly pull your foot towards your nose. Make sure your ankle stays dorsi-flexed ("toes to your nose"). Hold for 15 seconds. Then, keeping your torso and hips flat on the ground, drop your leg laterally (if you are stretching your left leg, drop your leg down to the left). For a more intense stretch, continue to pull your foot towards the top of your head. This is a great groin stretch. Hold for 15 seconds. Lastly, cross over and drop your leg to the opposite side. For a more intense stretch, continue to pull your foot towards the top of your head. This will give a stretch to your low back and IT band. Hold for 15 seconds.

How many reps: Perform 3 rounds of all 3 phases (straight, lateral, crossover... each round takes 45 seconds).

Bodyweight Hangs

Why it's important: Helps decompress your spine.

How it's done: Find a sturdy pull-up bar that is high enough that you can hang from it without your feet touching the ground. Then simply grab the bar and hang. Let every muscle relax and let gravity decompress your spine.

How many reps: Hang for 3 sets of 15 seconds.

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