The Key to Basketball Conditioning

According to legendary (that's still an understatement) strength coaches Verkhoshansky and Siff: "Metabolism is very specific to the intensity and duration of the sporting event, to the extent that excessive development of one type of fitness may have a profoundly detrimental effect on another type of is vital to understand the metabolic specificity of each sport if any training program is to be effective and safe."

Alan Stein wrote in a recent blog post about a presentation that was given at the BSMGP in 2010 where the presenters analyzed a basketball game looking at the movements. This is one of four analysis I have seen over the last three months, and is pretty typical.

During a basketball game, the researchers found:

  • Average heart rate: 165-170 bpm
  • High intensity sprints occur every 20-30 seconds
  • 100-plus high intensity sprints per game
  • 40-50 maximal jumps per game
  • Change in movement every 2-3 seconds
  • 30 percent of time is spent defensive sliding
  • 15 percent of time is in high intensity
  • Movement patterns: Jogging, running, jumping/landing, back pedaling, planting/cutting, pivoting, defensive sliding
  • Categories: Offensive, defensive, and transition movements
  • Breakdown of categories: Guard-specific, wing-specific, post-specific

Now take a look at your preseason conditioning. Is it like the conditioning I used when I was in high school: long, straight runs right out of the cross country coach's training book? Are there any side-to-side movements, sprints, backpedals, jumps, etc?

Basketball is not cross country and cross country is not basketball. The energy systems they use are different, the movements that occur during the games/races are different, and the speed at which those movements are at are different. So why train a basketball player like a cross country runner? Unless of course, you want him/her to be slow, lose power, and have a weak vertical jump.

At times many think I'm too critical about aerobic training for basketball players. They feel as if I think it shouldn't be done at all. That's entirely not true. Every athlete, no matter what sport, needs a cardiovascular base to help the other energy systems recover.

However, 90-95 percent of the conditioning I see for basketball players is strictly aerobic. I assumed if I only talk about anaerobic conditioning, then most coaches will at maximum switch to 50/50 aerobic/anaerobic conditioning. Few (if it's even possible) will ever dare to train 100 percent anaerobic. Thus, I don't ever mention the aerobic training I use with my players.

Sport-specificity training has definitely become an overused term thrown around by strength coaches across the country to convince you their program is superior, but in the case of conditioning for basketball, it's imperative you use sport-specificity preseason conditioning.

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