A Simple Guide to a Perfect Basketball Conditioning Program

When we want to talk about conditioning in basketball, we don't really think about basketball players ability to run the floor. What we really mean by conditioning in basketball is the ability of a basketball player to do all of the basketball stuff on a high level during the long periods of time. So, if our players are not in good condition, or should I say basketball condition, the results are going to be reflected on:

1. Lower Shot % - As the basketball players are getting more and more tired, the concentration of malic acid is building up in their muscles. This acid is causing muscle stiffness and soreness which lead to a lower nerve conductivity and the shot mechanic is starting to change. If the eye-hand coordination becomes a bit dull, players are going to start to miss shots.

2. Bad Decision Making - If the decision making is bad we all know that it directly leads to more turnovers. If the basketball player feels tired, and if his breath is suddenly short and feet become heavy, the mind is going to play a trick on them by trying to speed up the decision. We all know how some players that are under pressure are going to throw some bad passes or do some unpredictable dribbling moves.

3. More of those Silly Fouls - In times that the body is giving up on them, basketball players are going to feel desperate. In those desperate moments when a player knows what he needs to do but his body can't respond the right way, the frustration is going to lead to some silly intentional fouls.

4. Not following offensive plays and defensive rotations - When tired, the brain is going to focus on only one thing and that is Resting. If our unconditioned basketball player is going to focus on resting all the time then the mind is not going to be interested in opening a passing lane on offense or taking care of cutters on defense.

Now that we have defined what are the consequences of bad conditioning, our plan for improving the condition of our basketball players need to be driven by the conclusions that we just mentioned. Our conditioning plan needs to improve our player's ability to do basketball stuff for longer periods of time.How are we going to do that? By creating drills that include running and doing basketball elements while running. Why do I insist on this?
I often see that some of the basketball coaches are making their players run for 7 miles in an average tempo. And what do we have while playing basketball? In one game, the player that is playing about 30 minutes travels about 2.5 miles (60% on offense and 40% on defense) and his average speed is going to be around 4 miles/hour. So, what are we really practicing here by running 7 miles? Not basketball.

Our plan has to be sophisticated in a manner to mimic basketball. Our conditioning plan should be narrowed towards getting our players into situations where they are going to be forced to do basketball stuff while being very tired. We need to start slow, and by that, I mean to gradually increase the demands and the number of stuff that they need to do after running a few sprints or playing intense defense.

Basketball Conditioning

1. 5 on 5 Without Dribbling

The most successful basketball player development programs have one thing in common: they are fun. A good coach needs to teach fundamentals of basketball in a fun and loving way or he is going to lose players to the fact that the intense training process is going to leave a tole on both players body and mind. If a player knows that he is coming to practice and that there will be some hard stuff to do and if he knows that there will be plain old running until the legs get dull and heart jumps out of the chest, then his energy and will decrease. If a player does not have a good mindset coming to a practice, and if we as coaches do literally nothing to boost up the energy and make things a bit fun, then the player is going to stagnate and underachieve.

I like to start my conditioning basketball program with the 5 on 5 scrimmages but without the dribbling and with the in-game adjustments. If we take away the dribbling out of the game, that just means that players have to move more, cut more, use screens more, change the pace more. Add to the whole thing a 15-second shot clock and make a fast-break point count double, all of a sudden you are going to see your players fly all over the court. Add the price for winning, and you'll have your players attention 100%.

Yes, the game itself is going to look a bit messy at first but you have done your job by getting the spirits high and, at the same time your players are running sprints playing hard defense, running in transition, shooting contested shots in a high rhythm.... all the things that you are aiming for.

Overall, the RULES for this scrimmage should be:

1. No dribbling - More Movement

2. Defensive 2 seconds - Stay close to your man

3. 12-15 seconds shot-clock - Make Decisions Faster

4. Point in transition count double - More Full Court Sprints

5. Loser runs more - More Sense of Urgency

2. From 1 on 1 to 5 on 5

Form two teams of 5 players. This conditioning drill starts with two players playing one on one on the full court, while the rest of the players are on the baseline. After the first two players finish their scrimmage, the player that plays defense is getting help so now they play 2 on 1 while running the full court. As they finish their offense, the player that was alone on defense gets a player so in the next phase of this drill they play 2 on 2. Every time that one team finishes the offense, the defense gets another player and eventually, they are going to play 5 on 5.

From 1 on 1 to 5 on 5 basketball conditioning drill

The RULES for the drill:

1. Maximum aggression

2. Every position gets to play 1 on 1

3. 3 full rounds (15 sets)

4. No dribbling after the center line

5. 7 seconds or less shoot - clock on each offense

3. Basketball Conditioning drills with dribbling and layups

A good basketball conditioning of your players is going to reflect mostly on players ability to drive the lanes for longer periods of time without losing handles, turning the ball over and being effective while finishing at the rim. So, if we imagine one of our players in a real game situation that includes running up and down the court, we know that there will be a full sprint, we know that he is going to run into one or two defenders, and we know that he is going to make a layup/dunk. That is exactly what our players need to practice in order to improve their basketball condition.

Dribbling and layups drill

The RULES of the drill:

1. Players are standing in line one behind another and the other guy starts when the first has passed the center

2. All the running is done in sprints

3. Layups must be a maximum effort (I tell my players that they need to check the board)

4. Dribbling around the cones has to be fast

  • In this full court obstacle setup, first, we have a full court sprint and a layup. For junior and senior players, we have to insist on only 3 dribbles and a layup or a layup in less than 4 seconds (Blue Path). With this part of the drill, your players are going to perfect their dribbling ability while running the court at full speed.
  • In the second run, (Green Path), first we have a full sprint and then three consecutive, but different kind, of dribble moves. Make sure that your players rotate the sequence of the moves. These changes are going to make them feel both comfortable and familiar with any kind of dribbles so when the time comes for them to use them in live games, their reaction time is going to be short.
  • The third part, (Yellow Path), we are going to practice the change of pace while running around the cones without changing the stance of a dribble. Here, we want to simulate transition offense where a player is going to find himself in a crowded middle of the court, with the players that are trying to get back on defense without having an idea to the pursuit and stop the ball, and at the end he has to face his direct defender.
  • The last part (Pink Path) is mimicking a situation where the defense is set on the full court and a player has to put some extra effort just to get by his defenders.

If you want to learn more about BASKETBALL BALL HANDLING DRILLS, just click on the link below:

4. Basketball Conditioning drills with shooting

I think that it is very important to understand that basketball shooting development program has to be divided into two separate parts:
1. Shooting mechanics
2. Situational shooting

The first part should contain some work on the shot mechanics on every level (posture, how to hold the ball, how to bring the ball up, the actual shot, jump, legs...). Shooting from one position, without any serious movement needs to be in this group too because it is not completely natural to stand in one spot and shoot the ball. I don't say it does not have to be practiced, on the contrary, but if you want to really practice shooting you need to do some situational shooting because this is what the players are actually going to do in live games.

When we consider basketball conditioning and shooting, we have to cum up with the drills that are going to put our players in higher heart pulse and then make them take some shots from different positions on the court.

Shooting Drill

The RULES of the drill:

1. Players run to the shooting spots in a full sprint

2. All the players must go through every position

3. 3 minutes per shooting lane

If you want to learn more about basketball SHOOTING DRILLS, just click on the link below:  

5. 5 on 5, Man to Man Full Court Press

Remember this, there is nothing that basketball players like more than to play 5 on 5. If you want to make your players happy, but if you want to fulfill your basketball condition development program, always end the practice with the scrimmage. But, for conditioning sake, make them play man to man full court press and give them a shot clock of 15 or 12 seconds depending on are they conditioned well or you are just beginning the conditioning process.
Give your players at least 20 minutes to play and you are going to see the results of your work. And more important, they are going to be happy because they did what they like to do best and they are going to be happy to come the next day and work even harder because they know that at the end of they it is going to be fun.


A successful basketball conditioning development program is going to work and improve players condition throughout the set of drills that are going to include the fundamentals of the game. The whole goal of basketball conditioning is to make our players operate at the end of the game without turning the ball over, missing open shots and making bad decisions. We want that our team can hold the focus and execute successfully in the late game just as efficient as in the opening minutes of the game.

If you want to learn more about basketball conditioning, click on the link below:

Jun 26, 2019 Viktor Sadikovic

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