How to get in shape for Basketball

Jumping high is one aspect of basketball but people that actually play competitively at a high level need more. After all, you can't play if you can't run up and down the court 30 seconds without having to come to the sideline hacking up a lung due to oxygen deprivation.  The main objectives of proper conditioning for basketball include:

1. Improving an athlete’s capacity to carry out the activity at a higher intensity level (higher speed, higher jumps, quicker and more powerful passes)

2. Ensure that this increased ability to generate intensity will have a low energy cost for the athlete.

The main topic of this article is the 2nd point, how to optimally train endurance and conditioning qualities for basketball.

Intensiveness vs Fatigue

Most of the topics I deal with on this site, jumping higher and running faster, are about increasing the ability to generate intensity. The more powerful and more quick twitch you become the greater the capacity to induce fatigue. In a sporting context though that means you have an increased ability to generate byproducts of fatigue in the muscles - lactic acid.

I've often compared a max vertical jump to a max shotput attempt - some shotputters can elevate lactic acid levels from a single throw similar to that of a middle distance sprinter! So having an ability to generate huge amounts of power does come with a cost and if you're gonna be successful in a sport that requires continuous movement you need to be able to rapidly recover from that. The recovery capacity is the ability to eliminate lactate from muscles during lower intensity periods.  For example, you might run up and down the court maximally 3 times, jump to get a rebound, then jump to block a shot. The whistle blows and a foul is called, you're breathing hard and your muscles are burning, but you need to be able to quickly recover during that that brief break.

Your muscles and cardiorespiratory system need to be conditioned so that you can perform at a high intensity with less of a cost to your system.

The optimal training strategy to improve this capacity is a combination of prolonged aerobic training followed by variations of interval training.

Basketball is anaerobic/alactic, anaerobic/lactic, and aerobic. Developing anaerobic/alactic conditioning is a matter of using, for example, timed sprints of 6 seconds repeated with full rest (keeping HR low enough to prevent the onset of blood lactate). Anaerobic/lactic conditioning is essentially the same, except that the rest periods are kept shorter (causing the onset of blood lactate) so that the fast twitch muscles adapt to deal with lactic acid more effectively. Aerobic conditioning could be performed with long distance runs with heart rate below the the lactate threshold of the athlete, which develops the cardiovascular system. 

What follows is an example of a complete 11 week training cycle for a basketball player.

Sample 11 Week Training Template For Basketball Player

Note: The below assumes the athlete continues to engage in skill work and specific basketball work throughout his/her training week.

Introductory block: 2 weeks

Mon & Thurs

Squats, calf raises, upper body pressing, upper body pulling: sets of 8-10 (ex: 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps)

Tues & Fri

less intensive jumps: ankle jumps, low depth jumps, skipping: (ex 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps)

Conditioning: (wed and sat)

Aerobic running, cycling or other cardio apparatus: 2 days per week for 30 minutes - heart rate under lactate threshold (ex: 30 minutes at Heart Rate of 140)

Block A: 3 weeks

Tues & Thurs:

Squats, calf raises, upper body press upper body pull: heavier sets of 3-5 rm (ex: 4-5 sets of 3-5 reps)


wed: aerobic run for 30 minutes

mon and fri: Tempo run  for ~20 minutes for example: 100 yard sprints at 75% of maximum speed x 15 with 45 second between reps (or wait until heart rate drops down to ~120)

Block B:  3 weeks

Tuesday and Thursday

jump squats, barbell skipping, medicine ball passes (ex: 4 x 10 @ 20% jump squats, 4 x 10 various med ball tosses), bounding (ex: 4 x 30 yards), depth drops: 2 x 10


Mon: anaerobic/lactic conditioning: 50 yard sprints with 30 seconds rest x 12 reps

Wed: anaerobic power run: 50 yd sprint x 10 with complete rest

Fri:  anaerobic/lactic conditioning: 50 yard sprints with 30 seconds rest x 12 reps

Block C: 3 weeks

Tuesday and Thursday:

Depth jumps: 2 x 10, Depth jump into jump shot: 2 x 10, various medicine ball tosses, 10 yard sprints, 30 yard sprints


Mon: anaerobic/lactic conditioning: 50 yard sprints with 30 seconds rest x 15 reps

Fri:  maximal interval training with running, agility or basketball specific exercises 30-50 seconds in duration for 3 sets of 3 reps with 1.5 min between rest and 10-15 min between sets.

Hope that helps! Be sure to check out my Vertical Jump Bible 2.0 as it also comes with my "Vert Specific Conditioning Guide" which expands more on these concepts