“Discipline yourself, and others won’t need to,” said the late, legendary UCLA coach John Wooden.
These words, from the duke of a basketball dynasty and sultan of success, apply well beyond the realm of team discipline (e.g., limiting turnovers, penalties and other costly mistakes). Self-discipline drives the determined, and one’s course of action away from the bright lights and screaming fans is what separates a good athlete from a great one.
When the rest of the team heads home after a grueling practice session, the disciplined athlete closes down the court in a silent, empty gymnasium, shooting free throws or working low-post moves against an imaginary defender. And during the marathon season, the disciplined athlete uses his rare off-days to attack the weight room.
Watch an exclusive video interview with Devin Harris about in-season training for basketball
All elite athletes continue to train throughout their competitive seasons. Benefits of in-season training include maintaining (and potentially further improving) the strength developed during the off-season. Training in-season also helps prevent injuries, alleviates muscle soreness from constant wear and tear on the body and even provides a psychological advantage of feeling bigger and stronger.
On to the next one
Three games in four days. Back-to-back nights in different time zones. It doesn’t matter whether NBA All-Star point guard Devin Harris is in New Jersey for a home tilt or in the midst of a five-game West Coast swing. The silky-smooth Nets ball handler always manages to fit a training session into his daily routine—game day or not.
“Throughout the season, I want to maintain strength and keep my body as strong as possible,” Harris says. “I don’t do a lot of heavy lifting, but [I] make sure I get a nice workout in, especially the days we have off.”
Don’t be fooled by Harris’ shifty use of the word “nice.” There’s nothing pleasant about the full-body circuit he employs. Workouts are free of chat breaks, and you definitely won’t find him sitting down between sets. Harris completes the final rep of a set and, as Jay-Z, part owner of the Nets declares, “it’s on to the next one.”
“We keep it moving throughout the circuit,” says the quick-cutting Harris.
Circuit training requires an athlete to be disciplined, and it’s on you to work through each station with minimal rest. Focusing on the task at hand pays off big in the long run. The time-efficient nature of circuit training makes it easy to hit a workout during a busy schedule; and by incorporating upper- and lower-body exercises, you target all major muscle groups. Perhaps the key benefit of circuit training is the elevation of the heart rate, which simulates game conditions and improves endurance levels.
In-season training exercises should be performed with control using moderate weight, or even bodyweight as resistance. Performing exercises that force control and stabilize bodyweight increases core strength, improves coordination and strengthens ligaments and joints. It is ideal for athletes who are relatively new to weight training and who have yet to reach their full strength potential.
“I don’t want to tire the muscles out,” Harris says. “I just want to get a little tuning in, which is why I use bodyweight to maintain the strength I have.”
Harris employs exercises that strengthen his upper-body muscles, particularly his shoulders, which he admits get plenty of bumps and bruises from his innate ability to attack the lane. The circuit also improves balance and stability, helping the point guard stay strong on the defensive end in the latter stages of a game. “[A strong core] allows you to stay in a defensive stance a lot longer, and it allows you to keep your body lower to the ground for longer periods of time,” Harris says.
Perform each of the following exercises in circuit fashion, completing one set of an exercise and then moving on to the next exercise. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds after completing the circuit, then repeat. Don’t rest between exercises; the walk from one exercise to the next makes up the rest time.
- Assume Push-Up position with hands on handles of TRX straps and body at 45-degree angle
- Perform Push-Ups in slow, controlled manner for specified reps
Coaching Points: Keep back flat and core tight // Explosively drive up to start position // Don’t lower chest past handles
TRX Inverted Row
- Hold onto handles of TRX straps with palms facing in
- Pull body up until chest is even with hands
- Lower to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
Coaching Points: Keep back flat and core tight // Get full extension of arms at bottom of movement // Don’t allow hips to sink when pulling up
Alternating Single-Arm Med Ball Push-Up
- Assume Push-Up position with one hand on med ball
- Perform Push-Up until both arms are straight
- Roll med ball to other hand; perform Push-Up
- Continue in alternating fashion for specified reps
Sets/Reps: 2×8 each arm
Coaching Points: Keep back flat and core tight // Explosively drive up to start position // Shift body weight toward side of med ball
Single-Arm Towel Manual Resistance Row
- Sit on ground facing partner who’s holding end of towel
- Grab other end of towel with one hand as partner applies resistance
- Without rocking, explosively drive elbow straight back until hand is at chest
- Return hand to start position while resisting partner
- Repeat for specified reps; perform with opposite arm
Sets/Reps: 2×8 each arm
Coaching Points: Hold towel with firm grip // Keep chest up and back flat // Have partner maintain constant resistance on towel
Three-Way Med Ball Lunge
- Assume athletic stance holding med ball in front
- Step forward with left leg and lower into lunge until right knee is just above ground
- Drive off heel to start position and repeat for specified reps
- Take large step to left with left leg and lower into lateral lunge
- Drive up and out of lunge to start position; repeat for specified reps
- Step back with left leg into reverse lunge until knee is just above ground
- Drive forward to start position and repeat for specified reps
- Perform set on opposite leg
Sets/Reps: 2×3 each direction, each leg
Coaching Points: Hold med ball at chest level // Keep lunging knee behind toes // Step as far as comfortably possible into lunge position // Keep chest up and core tight
Decline Sit-Up With Med Ball Throw
- Assume position on decline bench with partner in front
- Catch pass from partner overhead and perform controlled Sit-Up
- Throw ball back to partner from overhead while returning to start position; repeat for specified reps
- Perform next set, catching and receiving ball at chest
Sets/Reps: 2×10 each position
Coaching Points: Keep core tight and perform in controlled manner // Explosively throw ball to partner // Perform Sit-Ups with chest pass as quickly as possible and in controlled manner