After an 82 game season you may think that NBA players have earned themselves some rest when the off-season comes around.
While many will take a week or two of vacation to recover from the rigors of a long season, the majority of players will get back into training pretty quickly.
In an environment as competitive as the NBA, athletes must continuously improve their abilities to sprint around the court, go to battle on the defensive end and endure a challenging 48-minute game.
Each minute a player spends resting, another up-and-coming player is grinding it out trying to make his way into the league. The harsh reality of the NBA is that there is always someone trying to beat you out and take your spot. The off-season is not the time to kick back and relax, it’s the time when you work hard to get better before the next season begins.
Last summer Goran Dragić filmed one of his off-season conditioning workouts, giving us a glimpse into the training an NBA player puts his body through to prepare for the next season.
You may be surprised to find that his conditioning work involves a weighted sandbag instead of a basketball.
Goran Dragić’s Off-Season Workout
In a four-part YouTube series by The Noc (aka Vice Sports), Goran Dragić and his personal trainer Tom Vachet take us through one of Dragić’s off-season workouts.
The session lasts about 45 minutes and includes zero basketballs and no barbells or dumbbells.
The workout begins with a warmup of planking, hip extensions and a get-ups; these exercises are designed to drive the athlete’s heart rate up and work the core and glutes.
1. Plank for 5 Minutes
Dragić begins by holding a five minute plank, an exercise used to build strength and stability in his core.
2. Side Planks x 24 Reps
Dragić then moves onto a set of 24 side planks, also designed to strengthen his core.
Core strength is key for basketball players and other athletes because a strong core helps prevent hip and back injuries. Additionally, a well developed abdominal area will increase jumping capabilities.
3. Double Leg Hip Extensions
Dragić’s trainer next has him complete a 60 second double leg hip extension.
These are designed to strengthen the pelvis and hip regions, which in turn assists in the prevention of lower back, hip, knee and ankle injuries.
This exercise also helps strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and deep core muscles.
4. Single Leg Hip Extensions
Next up are single leg hip extensions, which have similar benefits to the double leg hip extensions.
5. Get-Ups x 12 Reps
The final portion of the warmup for Dragić includes performing 12 get-ups without using his arms for leverage.
Without being able to use his arms to push himself up, Dragić must activate his core to propel himself upward into the standing position.
For many of us, this warmup would feel like a complete workout, but for Dragić it’s only the beginning.
6. Diagonal Situps x 30 Reps
The first official exercise Dragić’s personal trainer shouts out is the diagonal situp.
This move is designed to strengthen the abs and obliques to firm up the midsection. It is another core workout.
7. Flutter Kicks x 100 Reps
Next up Dragić does 100 flutter kicks to help build up his glutes which are responsible for speed, stability and power during a game of basketball.
Joseph Potts, a strength and conditioning coach interviewed for ESPN says:
“Having weak glutes can greatly reduce your ability to run faster or farther, jump higher, throw a ball or even just stand up straight.”
8. Deep Squat Press-Outs x 12 Reps
The squat is an exercise designed to improve full body power and explosiveness on the basketball court.
Tim Grover, personal trainer to NBA stars like Dwyane Wade and Michael Jordan explains, “In basketball your arms are constantly overhead, which requires your shoulders to work. And since you can’t push off with your arms, you need to be able to hold your position and fight for your spot on the court using only your legs and hips.”
The squat helps build up strength in the hamstring, glutes, quads and abdominals. Increasing lower body strength helps players like Dragić jump higher, move faster and box out opponents.
9. Deep Squat Press-Ups x 30 Reps
Dragić’s trainer has him perform two squat workouts in a row.
The benefits of these two exercises can be seen on the court when Dragić accelerates past opponents and cuts to the basket.
10. Walking Lunges
Lunges are designed to help improve hip mobility which in turn lends itself to faster speed and acceleration on the basketball court.
Lunges also build strength in the glutes and hamstrings.
The faster you run, the more you rely on your glutes and hamstrings to support you and to avoid injury.
11. Cone Reach & Touch x 40 Reps
The cone reach and touch exercise helps Dragić improve his balance and stability.
When running up and down the court, basketball players rely on stability to keep them injury free.
Jay Dicharry, MPT, CSCS and Director of the Center for Endurance Sport at the University of Virginia says, “while running the body does whatever it takes to be upright and balanced.”
If a basketball player becomes unbalanced while running the body will recruit smaller, non-running muscles to assist “which can cause nagging dilemmas such as a sore Achilles tendon or iliotibial band syndrome” or even more serious injuries such as anterior knee pain or plantar fascitis.
These type of injuries require rest to heal, and can keep a player out of the game for days or weeks.
12. Shuttle Run in Under 1:30
In the Shuttle Run exercise Dragić must sprint between four cones that are setup in the sand.
The Shuttle Run is a high-intensity drill that helps build speed and stamina. It is perfect for acclimating the body to the stop-and-go-fast game of basketball.
Because the Shuttle Run is completed in high-intensity bursts it helps players like Dragić improve their running recovery time.
This aerobic exercise forces the heart and lungs to work hard. At the end of the exercise the athlete will be out of breath and have a high heart rate. The more this exercise is performed, the faster the athlete will be able to even out his breathing and bring his heart rate back down.
This is important for basketball players as they don’t want to get caught bent over gasping for breath in the middle of a game!
13. Long Jump
The long jump is an explosive exercise that improves speed, power and vertical jump. It helps improve your running mechanics so that you can move forward even faster.
14. Push-Ups and Crab Crawl Combo
Push-ups work the pecs, anterior deltoids and triceps. They also work the core if performed with a properly straight back.
Crawling exercises, such as the crab crawl, help build full-body coordination and strength. They simultaneously work to build upper body, lower body and core strength!
And That’s Not All…
This exhaustive workout would be challenging to perform once a day, but Dragić and his trainer will meet again in the afternoon to do it all over.
To play in the NBA you have to be willing to grind all year long.