To play like an NBA pro, you’ll need to train like an NBA pro. That doesn’t mean you should just make shots until your arms turn to jelly (although that is an important part of any player’s training regimen). You’ll need the right basketball training gear, diet, workout routine, and more. So, as trusted partners of the NBA, here’s our advice.
You'll need to warm up before you start any kind of basketball workout. It will help prepare all the muscle groups you’re about to use by boosting blood flow. You kick-start the oxygen and nutrient delivery process and relax your muscle tissue, making it less injury-prone.
The key to a good warm-up is doing exercises that gradually increase your heart rate and make you sweaty. Try activities like:
- Jogging in place to boost your overall heart rate
- Bodyweight squats to warm up the legs
- Bird dog for the back
- Planks for the core
Running drills is vital to improving your technique and working out weaknesses.
- Shots: according to Field Insider, most basketball pros take at least 500 shots PER DAY, with the legendary Kobe Bryant allegedly hitting the 700-1,000 mark. Ideally, you should take shots from all ends and distances; 3-points, free-throws, layups, slam-dunks, jump-shots - the works.
- Dribbling: take 10-20 minutes to dribble while walking, sprinting, weaving from side to side, and abruptly changing directions. Practice dribbling low, through the legs, behind the back, and backwards.
- Evasion: up the ante by grabbing a few mates. Practice dribbling the ball from one end of the court to the other while they try to tag you. Practice shooting while they’re guarding.
- Passing: practice passing to a couple of your teammates while your opponents try to stop you. Aim to pass the ball to each other as fast as possible to speed up your decision-making.
Relative fitness level plays a huge role in a player's ability to play a good game. It determines precision, decision-making, and endurance on the court.
Coaches and players recommend working on your core, legs, and arms.
- The core muscles (consisting of your paraspinal muscles, abdominals, and transverse abdominis) are essential for maneuvering and shooting. Try a few plank variants and dead bugs.
- The arms are (obviously) required for making shots. Arm and upper body strength will also determine your ability to make 3-point and half-court shots. Push-ups, lat pull-downs, and bicep curls are a good place to start.
- For sprinting and jumping power, you’ll need strong legs and glutes. Add isometric lunges, box jumps, and barbell hip thrusts to your workout.
An added benefit of strength training is that stronger muscles are tougher and more fatigue-resistant, meaning they’ll better protect your joints from injury.
Cardio is crucial to conditioning. Experts recommend 3-4 cardio training sessions a week consisting of either:
- Interval sprints
- Jump rope
- Cycling or riding an exercise bike
You should mix and match these activities within a given week to cross-train your muscles. You should also spread them out to give your muscle fibres time to rest and recover (though more on that later).
Basketball training gear
NBA Sports Knee Support
When aiming to train like the NBA pros, you must consider how best to support your muscles and joints to maximise your workout.
That starts with getting the right shoes. All the jumping and sprinting you’ll be doing can seriously affect heels and ankles. So whether you’re running drills or playing a practice match, ensure your feet have enough cushioning and overall support.
You can also try some compression sleeves for the calves and arms. Compression garments boost venous return and lymphatic outflow. Your muscles get the nutrients and oxygen they need quicker and remove waste products faster, reducing fatigue and muscle damage.
And if you really want to train like the pros, try out our NBA-approved Basketball Knee Support. It incorporates high-quality compression knit and gel knee pads, which will work together to support your knee through strenuous workouts and long training sessions. It’ll also help improve your knees’ proprioception, training your muscles to activate and work more efficiently to power you through your games and help you avoid common basketball injuries like Jumper’s Knee and ACL sprains.
Don’t abruptly stop a workout or training session. Power through and do 15 minutes of low-intensity exercises and stretches.
- For one, it can reduce the intensity of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
- It can also speed up muscle recovery, as oxygen and nutrients will keep feeding the muscles at an increased rate.
- And it can help increase your range of motion, which will help you evade better on the court ad make your muscles more resistant to pulling injuries. Your muscles are at their warmest after a workout, making this the best time to stretch them.
Try adding some of these stretches into your cool-down routine: The Best Cool-Down Exercises to Add to Your Training
Pinpoint your weaknesses and aim to focus on them a little more. For example, if you’re struggling with 3-point shots, take some extra time to practice them. If you’re having trouble evading players, run some more evasion and dribbling drills with your team or a couple of mates during your downtime.
If you’re a fan, you likely already follow basketball players and watch games in your free time. Take it further by studying, analysing, and practising their techniques and their team’s strategies, and try to incorporate them into your training.
A proper recovery routine will help restore your muscle glycogen levels. And for two, it will give your muscles build. Your muscles get micro tears when you push them past their limits. And the way they get stronger is by repairing those tears with more resilient muscle fibres. Without that proper repair time, they can start to degenerate. Experts recommend taking 24-72 hours to rest a muscle group before training it again, and cross-training other muscle groups or resting in the meantime.
You can also improve the process by wearing compression gear during your recovery. Our Sports Recovery Compression Socks can be essential pieces of basketball training gear. They boost your blood flow even when resting and inactive, getting essential nutrients into recovering tissues.
Plenty of pros follow a strict exercise regimen, with some having hours-long daily workouts on top of practice. Now, we do not recommend picking up that kind of physical activity from the get-go. Diving headlong into a routine your body isn’t ready for is a recipe for muscle degeneration and potentially debilitating injuries.
Instead, figure out a schedule that helps you build on your workouts, with time allotted for cross-training, rest, and recovery. Experts recommend gradually increasing your workout intensity by around 10% a week.
A proper workout schedule that lets your muscles perform at their best AND helps you turn your workout into a routine makes you much more likely to stick to your training.
If you want to train like an NBA pro, you’ll need to eat like an NBA pro. Nutrition has a LOT of influence over energy levels, power, and stamina.
Firstly, your energy output should be roughly the same as your input. The calories players need vary drastically, with recommendations ranging from 2500-5000 calories per day. The best way to figure out your caloric requirements is by seeing a nutritionist.
But for a general guide, the average, not-particularly-active person needs around 2000 calories a day.
When you train, you burn MET x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200 = calories per minute. For example, shooting shots for an hour is a 4.5 MET activity, meaning a person weighing 100 kilos will burn 7.85 calories a minute. A basketball game is an 8.0 MET activity, meaning that that same player can burn through a whopping 14 calories a minute, or 840 calories within an hour (provided the intensity of play stays roughly the same throughout). You can learn more about MET metrics in the Compendium of Physical Activities.
Secondly, you’ll need a good mix of fats, carbs, and proteins.
- Carbohydrates are a crucial source of energy as they restore your muscle glycogen levels (muscle glycogen being your body’s energy reserve). Current research recommends eating 5-7 grams of complex carbohydrates per kilo of body weight daily. If your muscles don’t have enough glycogen to draw on, they’ll fatigue significantly faster.
- Fats are also essential players in your energy levels. Some studies suggest they’re your body’s go-to energy source (accounting for two-thirds of your energy output) if you’re doing moderate-intensity training.
- Proteins help you build muscle strength.
And last but certainly not least, eat right. You can still eat a bit of junk food on occasion. But most of your diet should consist of fruits, veggies, complex carbs, healthy fats, and proteins. Here, foods like red meat, nuts, legumes, wholemeal bread, potatoes, and leafy greens are best. They’ll also help you get a good amount of vitamins B, C, and Iron. These affect how your body metabolises energy, builds muscle strength, and transports oxygen and nutrients into the muscle, respectively.
To sum up
It’s not going to be easy to train like an NBA pro. You’ll need key pieces of basketball training gear, a strict workout schedule, following other pros’ techniques, and of course - practice, practice, practice. But as long as you stick to it, you’ll be playing like a pro (or at least winning more games) soon enough.
Check out more basketball training gear: Premium Basketball Braces and Supports
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