Best Basketball Conditioning Drills

“You don’t play sports to get into shape—you get into shape to play sports.”

– Dr. Fred Allman, president of the American College of Sports/Medicine

Being in good shape is essential to be able to perform well in any sport, whether it’s football or freediving, but being in “basketball” shape is a whole different ball game.

Basketball is a fast-paced, challenging game that demands mental and physical agility, flexibility, and strength. You need to have the endurance to maintain high energy throughout the game, as well as be able to repeat short bursts of fast running or shuffling down the floor.

Run-of-the-mill cross-country training like a bike ride, a treadmill run, or a gym workout or not enough to prepare your body and maintain its strength for the fast-paced demands of the basketball season. In addition to an off-season conditioning routine, you need to practice basketball conditioning drills.


Basketball is a fast-paced, challenging game that demands mental and physical agility, flexibility, and strength. 

Pre-Season Conditioning

The conditioning process should begin before the season starts with a conditioning program that can be done at home or in the gym. Players should start the program a couple of weeks before practices begin and include strength training, running distances and sprints, and skipping rope sets, as well as flexibility and stretching exercises.

Once practices start, stress aerobic conditioning can begin, which involves running drills that condition the body to stop and start with accelerating bursts of energy. In addition to stress aerobic conditioning and conditioning drills on the court, strength training or weight room work-outs should also continue into the season for a few days of the week to maintain strength and power.

Stretching and flexibility programs should also continue throughout the season to keep muscles loose and flexible and prevent injuries.  


The conditioning process should begin before the season starts.

Conditioning and Cardio Drills with a Basketball

Basketball is a running game and involves a lot of sprinting up and down the court and a quick burst of acceleration. The first few weeks of conditioning on the court should involve running and sprinting, but while you are running, you can practice some skills at the same time.  

There are plenty of conditioning drills that not only work on your cardiovascular fitness but simultaneously work on improving ball-handling skills, dribbling, shooting, and finishing skills.

Here are some basketball conditioning drills that combine cardio and basketball skills on the court:

Full-Court Dribbling and Layup Drill 

Best for: Working on dribbling skills, layups, and cardiovascular fitness.

A layup is a shot at the basket, usually off the backboard. In a layup, players run towards one side of the basket, jump, and lay the ball off the backboard into the hoop. Players should always practice from both sides of the hoop, and with both the right and left hands.

Drill Instructions

Players start on the baseline and sprint dribble the length of the court and do a layup. They grab their rebound, sprint dribble back down the court, and do another layup. Players move in a circular movement around the court until a certain number of layups have been done.

Variations to this drill include adding cones in the middle of the court where players can practice 1v1 dribbling moves while moving back down the court.

Watch this video to see how to do a layup.

Dribbling Cone Weave 

Best for: Working on dribbling skills and cardiovascular fitness.

Drill Instructions

This is a very simple conditioning drill that also incorporates dribbling skills. Set up some cones in a zig-zag pattern and players must dribble to each cone, crossover, and switch hands every time they reach a cone.

Two-Ball Dribbling 

Best for: Working on dribbling skills and cardiovascular fitness.

Drill Instructions

The two-ball dribbling drill is a great drill for working on both cardio and conditioning skills, as well as ball handling and hand-to-eye coordination. Players have a basketball in two hands and dribble the length of the court. Dribbling can be alternated between low, regular, and high dribbling, weaving, and figure-of-eights.

Cone Grab Layup Drill 

Best for: Working on dribbling skills, layups, and cardiovascular fitness.

Drill Instructions

This is another fantastic drill for working on layups, cardio, and conditioning. Place one cone at the top of the key and one cone at the elbow.

A player starts underneath the basket with a ball in hand and dribbles out to the top of the key around the cone and toward the second cone. As the player passes the second cone, they need to pick it with the off-hand and complete the layup with the ball hand.

Arc Layup Drill 

Best for: Working on dribbling at speed, layups from different angles, and cardiovascular fitness.

Drill Instructions

Set up five cones anywhere along the three-point arc. A player begins beneath the basket, dribbles around the first cone, and goes in for a layup. Once the player has shot the layup, they need to grab their layup and dribble around the next cone for a layup. The player must do this drill around all five cones to practice doing layups from different angles.


Arc Layup Drill. A player taking a shot.

Sideline Sprint Shooting Drill 

Best for: Working on dribbling at speed, shooting at game speed, and cardiovascular fitness.

Drill Instructions

Set a basketball on a chair somewhere within the three-point arc. Players stand anywhere on the sideline and command, sprint to the ball, pick it up, and take a shot. This is a fantastic drill for practicing accurate shooting at game speed.

Man-in-the-Hole 

Best for Conditioning, ball handling, and defense.

Drill Instructions

Players start at the baseline with a partner. One player will be on offense, and one player will be on defense. The offensive player will dribble the ball and attempt to get past the defensive player who will try to stop the offensive player. Once the players have reached the other side of the court, they can turn around and start again.

Best Basketball Conditioning Drills – Running Drills

Running drills are one of the best ways to increase cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and speed on the court. Running drills are most effective when worked with intervals. Intervals involve running hard for a short period, followed by a short, timed period of rest or recovery. Intervals must be repeated to help build up endurance and rest periods should be shortened to increase fitness and speed.

Here are some running basketball drills that mimic what happens in a game.

Minute Sideline Sprints 

Best for Cardiovascular fitness, endurance, speed, and conditioning.  

Drill Instructions

Sideline sprints are one of the most common running drills in basketball. Players must run from sideline to sideline as many times as they can in one minute. The drill can also be altered to hit the sideline a certain number of times and then try to reduce the number.

Suicides

Best for: Cardiovascular fitness, endurance, speed, and conditioning.  

Drill Instructions

Suicides are another common running workout in basketball. Players begin on the baseline of the court. They then sprint at full speed to the free-throw line, touch it, and sprint back to the baseline. They then sprint to the half-court line and back, followed by a sprint to the far free-throw line and back. The final sprint sees players running at full speed to the other baseline on the basketball court and back again.

This drill can be repeated several times for an extra challenge and basketballs can be added to create a dribbling drill.


Suicides are another common running workout in basketball. 

Best Basketball Conditioning Drills – Jump Drills

The aim of the game in basketball is to score more points than the opposing team by getting balls into the basket. Jumping plays a vital role in shooting and scoring in basketball and the higher the jump the better!

Here are some great basketball conditioning drills that focus on the jump:

Double Leg Linear Drop to Squat

Best for: Learning to land correctly, building leg strength, jumping, rebounding.  

Before players learn to jump, they need to learn to land correctly as landing the wrong way can cause serious injuries. This conditioning drill works on teaching the body how to absorb force from a height when landing and being prepared to jump up again quickly. This quick second jump is a key skill of rebounding.

Drill Instructions

Players stand on the edge of a 12-inch-high box with their feet shoulder-width apart. On command, players must jump off the box, making sure they land correctly with bent knees in a squat position to absorb the impact and force of the jump. Players must hold the squat position for two seconds and then jump back onto the box.

Repeat the drill several times with rest intervals.

Double Leg Linear Repeating Box Jumps

Best for: Learning to land correctly, building leg strength, jumping, rebounding.  

This is the progression to the previous conditioning force absorption drill and aims to maximize concentric contraction to grow muscle in the quad muscles. This conditioning drill will also induce extreme fatigue in the legs, which is great conditioning for maintaining strength during the later stages of a game.

Drill Instructions

Line up three or four boxes one in front of the other with a two feet gap in between each box. Players must line up in front of the box and on command, the first player jumps onto the box, holds the squat position on the box for two seconds, and jumps back down. The first player then jumps onto the second box and repeats the drill, while the second player jumps onto the first box.

Double Leg Continuous Rotational Cone Jumps

Best for: Developing body control in the air, increasing game-ready endurance, building leg strength.   

This is the third and final progression of the above two conditioning drills.

Drill Instructions

Set up four to six cones in a straight line with a gap of one to two feet in between each cone. Players must face the line of cones. On command, players jump as high as possible over each cone, rotating 90 degrees in the air, and concentrating on landing correctly on both feet with knees bent to absorb the impact. Upon landing, they jump up quickly over the next cone until the end.

Hop Jump

Best for: Working on explosive second jumps and rebounds. This is also a great warm-up drill.

Drill Instructions

Players line up along the baseline. On command, players must take a large jump forward as high as they can and land with both feet and then take a small jump backward. Players repeat this to the half-court line, exploding forward immediately after the small jump backward.

Players can do this drill with or without a ball in their hands.

Best Basketball Conditioning Drills – Agility Drills

Basketball conditioning drills are a great way to build mental and physical agility, flexibility, and strength both on and off the court.

The best basketball conditioning drills use specific exercises and sport-specific skills to prepare players for the movements they will perform in games. Conditioning drills aim to get the players used to perform basketball skills such as passing, dribbling, shooting, rebound, and defense while they are exhausted so that when they are in the late stages of a game, their performance is enhanced.

Here are some basketball conditioning drills for all levels of players that work mental and physical agility, flexibility, and strength (source).

NBA Lane Agility Drill

Best for: Boosting acceleration and agility.

Drill Instructions

Players begin on the baseline on the right side of the lane. They need to stay outside the lane as they sprint at full speed to the top right corner of the free-throw line, shuffle to the left corner, backpedal to the baseline, and shuffle to the starting position.

Players then shuffle to the left side of the lane, sprint to the left corner of the free-throw line, shuffle to the right corner and backpedal to the starting position.

Follow the drill by a shooting session of 10 – 15 seconds before repeating the set.

Dribble Suicide Drill

Best for: Improving agility, ball handling, and coordination while fatigued.

Drill Instructions

Players start on the baseline and sprint dribble to the closest free throw line and back. They then sprint dribble to half-court and back, to the far free-throw line and back, and finally to the opposite baseline and back.

Full-Court Dribble to Layup/Jump Shot

Best for: Improving ball-handling and concentration while fatigued.

Drill Instructions

Players begin at one end of the court and sprint dribble the full length of the court before going into a layup or jump shot.

Players must retrieve the rebound and sprint dribble to the other end of the court and shoot. This must be repeated three times (full court) as quickly as possible until six total scoring attempts have been completed.


A layup is a shot at the basket, usually off the backboard.

Baseline Cut to the Basket, Catch, Layup/Jump Shot

Best for: working on change of pace, backdoor cut, and concentration while fatigued.

Drill Instructions

Players begin the drill standing beneath the basket. They jog to the wing of the three-point line where they must change pace, sprint back door, receive a pass, and shoot with a layup or short jump shot).

Players must grab the rebound, pass the ball back to the passer, and perform the same drill on the opposite side. The drill should be repeated five times at high speed. Coaches can set a goal of baskets scored, depending on the ability of the players.

17, 13, 9, 6? – Sprint/Free Throw Challenge

Best for: Improving free-throw shooting when fatigued and under pressure.  

Drill Instructions

Players must run the width of the court 17 times within a specified time. After the run, each player performs two free throws, and the coach must record the number of hits and misses for each round of the free throws.

Players take a two-minute rest, and then run the width of the court 13 times and repeat the free-throw exercise with the coach keeping score of hits and misses. Players have a one-minute rest, and run the width of the court nine times, followed by the free-throw exercise with the coach keeping score of hits and misses.

If players have less than a 70% score rate for the free throw, they have to run six more widths of the court.

2-on-2 Frenzy

Best for: Working on offensive and defensive transitioning, short accelerations.

Drill Instructions

Two players begin on defense, two players begin on offense and there must be at least one player on each free-throw line. The aim is for the offensive team to transition quickly to defense on either a score or a stop, while the defense duo passes to two new offensive players on the closest free-throw line. They then attack two-on-two before repeating the routine.

Follow the Leader

Best for: Teaching, practicing, and perfecting the rebound

Drill Instructions

Players line up in a single line approximately two to three in front of the free-throw line. The first player in the line passes the ball off the backboard to the next player and moves to the end of the line. The next player then comes in for the rebound, jumping high to retrieve the ball, concentrating on their rebounding technique, and landing on the ground with a strong base. They then pass the basketball off the backboard to the next player and move to the end of the line.

Players must focus on jumping to catch the ball as high as possible; catching the ball with TWO hands; “chinning” the ball on the catch (placing the ball under the chin with elbows out for protection), and landing with the feet shoulder-width to ensure balance.

If there are a large number of players, both sides of the backboard can be used with two lines of players instead of one. The drill is repeated for a set amount of time or a set number of repetitions.


Rebound players must catch the ball with two hands. 

Key Defensive Slides

Best for: Working on defensive fundamentals such as defensive slides, drop-steps, back-pedaling, close-outs, and sprinting; defensive movements. It can also be used as a warm-up drill.

Drill Instructions

No basketballs are needed for this drill.

Players line up behind the baseline on one side of the key.

Place cones or D-men on the elbows of the key. The players can use these cones as visuals when they close out on the elbow.

The first player in the line starts the drill by sprinting forward, closing out on the elbow, drop-stepping, and sliding to the point where the baseline and the opposite side of the key meet.

When the first player begins this slide, the next player in line starts the close-out.

The first player then does the drill in the opposite direction – sprinting out to the other elbow, closing out, and defensive sliding across until they reach the sideline.

For the final movement, players must back-pedal to the baseline and then join the end of the line to repeat the drill.

The drill can continue for a set amount of time.

For a greater challenge, you can increase the distance of the drill by moving the cones further out and placing them at the three-point line.

Final Thoughts

Basketball is a game of high-intensity activities from running, shuffling, sprinting, jumping, and direction changes and basketball players’ physical conditioning is essential to being able to play a great game. Conditioning workouts and basketball conditioning drills are a fundamental element for enhancing agility, aerobic fitness, muscular strength, and power of the players.

Train hard and have fun on the court!