Basketball – Off Season Training


Basketball – Off Season Training by Kristoph Thompson

The off-season is a good time to work on those areas of your game that need improving, but it is also important to maintain your current fitness levels. The drills and exercises outlined below aim to increase your leg power while also maintaining your aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

Basketball is a fast game, filled with explosive movements, quick starts and stops in play, and powerful bursts of speed and strength. The anaerobic system therefore, must be a major focus during training, and short bouts of intermittent high intensity running should form the basis of the drills performed.

An average play in Basketball will last between 15 and 30 seconds, while the average rest interval will be anywhere between 15 and 45 seconds. These conditions should be replicated in a variety of ways as part of an effective basketball conditioning program.

A number of drills can re-create these conditions, and although there is no one specific drill that is proven to work best, shuttle runs certainly are popular with coaches and familiar to players. One such shuttle drill starts at the baseline and involves the athlete running to certain points on the court (free throw line, three point line, half court etc.). You can adapt this drill to suit the environment but the key points to bear in mind are the speed at which the drill is carried out - sprint, the time spent working - between 15 and 30 secs, and the rest period - between 15 and 45 secs.

Another drill that focuses on the anaerobic system and utilises basketball footwork is the T-drill. To perform the drill you need 4 cones. Place the first cone on the ground, and the second cone 10m in front of the first. Place the third and fourth cones 5 m to the left and right of the second respectively. The athlete starts at the first cone, sprints forward and touches the second, sidesteps left and touches the third, sidesteps right and touches the fourth, sidesteps left back to the second cone, touching it before sprinting backwards to the first. Run this drill 4 times with 15 seconds of rest between each trial.


As mentioned earlier one of the goals of the off-season is to retain a certain level of aerobic fitness and cross-training a good way of achieving this. Cross-training merely implies that you select a mode of exercise that is different from the one that you normally engage in. In this instance a basketball player might swim or cycle instead of running.

The main benefits of cross-training are three-fold. Firstly, it helps with motivation as the same activity is not performed time and time again. Secondly as the cross-training activity will stress slightly different muscles the risk of an over-use injury is minimised, and thirdly a level of fitness can still be maintained.

Leg Power

Plyometric training has been used in many sports that require explosive leg power or vertical jumps for many years. The underlying principle of plyometric training is the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). The jumping movement relies upon the SSC, and making it more efficient will increase jumping ability.

Plyometrics is a form of advanced training and for this reason it is not suitable for everyone, below are some guidelines to follow:

  • A solid strength base is required before starting a plyometrics program.
  • You should be able to squat twice your bodyweight or leg press 2.5 times your bodyweight.
  • Those under the age of 16 should not take part in a plyometrics program.
  • Warming up is crucial, you should spend 10mins jogging or skipping followed by 5-10mins stretching the muscles involved.

Jump and Reach

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, perform a countermovement with your arms. Jump as high as you can and aim to touch the highest point possible (e.g. backboard or rim). As soon as you land, repeat the jump, aiming to minimise ground contact time.

Lateral Jump

Keeping your feet hip-width apart jump sideways as high as possible. Immediately jump back to the start position, minimising ground contact time. To make the drill more demanding, you can use something to jump over, a cone, box, or low hurdle for example.


Simply run in 'slow motion' landing on alternate feet. Try to achieve as much height and distance with each stride as possible and use your arms to aid with momentum.

Depth Jump

Stand on a box, bench or sturdy chair approximately 30-40cm high. Step off the bench and explode vertically as high as you can as soon as you land. Try to minimise ground contact time.

Depth Jump to Box

Stand on a box, bench or sturdy chair approximately 30-40cm high. Step off the bench (don't jump off) and as soon as you land explode vertically as high as you can, landing on a second box placed 2 feet in front of the first. Try to minimise ground contact time i.e. don't sink down into a deep squat before jumping up.

When performing the drills it is important to rest completely between sets for at least 3-5 mins. A plyometric session should never contain more than 120 ground contacts per session. A ground contact is any time one foot, or both feet, touch the ground.

Complex Training

Complex training involves a resistance exercise with a plyometric exercise performed immediately afterwards. The premise is that the resistance exercise helps with neural recruitment, making more type II muscle fibres available for the plyometric exercise.
To work on explosive leg strength try a squat or leg press (12 repetitions) followed by a jump and reach (as outlined above), for 8 repetitions/jumps.

Copyright Kristoph Thompson. Kristoph graduated with a Masters Degree in Human Performance from the University of Houston, Texas in 1999 and is certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He spent two years in America training professional athletes, including the Houston Rockets Basketball Team and Houston Astros Baseball Team.
Kristoph now runs a successful personal training business in the UK, working with a variety of groups and individuals from professional footballers to those with disabilities, and most recently, Britain’s Strongest Man. Visit his web site for more articles and information.

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