Running Exercises for Basketball Athletes

Man with basketball

Basketball players need to be able to sprint the full length of the court many times in a row, sprint shorter distances and also change directions quickly. Running exercises that basketball athletes incorporate into their training routine should reflect the actions of their sport. To improve running skills, a basketball player's training regimen should include running exercises that mimic the movement on the court.

Short Sprints

A challenging short sprint running exercise is the four-step drill. The four-step running drill forces you to sprint the width of the basketball court. Start on one sideline and sprint to the other side, immediately changing directions and sprinting back. Continue in this manner until you’ve completed a total of four sprints. Rest for 30 seconds and then do the drill again, but this time run the width of the floor four times for a total of eight sprints. Rest 60 seconds and then do the drill a final time, running the width of the floor eight times for a total of 16 sprints.

Court-Length Sprints

Suicides are the most common court-length running exercise for basketball players. They involve starting at the baseline and then sprinting to the closest free throw line and back, then sprinting to half court and back, then sprinting to the far free throw line and back, and then finally sprinting to the opposite-end baseline and back. Rest 60 seconds in between each set.

The ladder is another full-court conditioning drill and it involves running from one baseline to the other and back. The drill includes five rounds. In the first round, you run down and back once. For the second round, you run down and back twice. For the third, fourth and fifth rounds, you run down and back three, four and five times, respectively. Then, you work your way back down the ladder, starting with round five, then four and so on until you’re back at one.

Agility Drills

Agility running drills improve a basketball athlete’s ability to change directions quickly. Zig-zags, key slides and T-drill are all effective exercises for improving agility. To do zig-zags, set up cones in a single line, each a few feet apart. Sprint through the cones, zig-zagging your way through. Slides require you to perform defensive slides back and forth across the width of the basketball key for 15 to 20 seconds.

To do a T-drill, sprint forward 5 yards, then immediately drop into a defensive slide and slide 5 yards to the right, then back to the left for 10 yards. Slide again 5 yards back to the right and finish with a backpedal of 5 yards to return to starting position. The entire drill takes you through the shape of the letter T. Repeat these drills as often as desired to sharpen your running game.

Training Tips

Before you do any basketball running drills, complete a 10- to 15-minute dynamic warmup. A dynamic warmup involves activities like jogging, jumping rope, skipping, high knees, butt kicks, leg swings and walking straight leg kicks, which are designed to wake up your neuromuscular system and prepare your muscles for explosive activity. These running drills are particularly effective when included in a preseason training regimen to condition a basketball athlete for the upcoming season. Start to incorporate them into your workouts six to eight weeks before your first tryout or practice. Coaches can include them at the end of practice at the beginning of their seasons.