Playing basketball requires more than dribbling and shooting skills. Everyone, from the pros down to youth players, needs proper cardiovascular fitness to hustle back and forth on the court for the duration of a game.

During the active 48 minutes of a basketball game, there are prolonged periods of running coupled with quick starts and stops. The challenge with youth athletes is that their bodies and minds can’t handle a large amount of high-intensity work or long mileage.

The key to helping a young player get into running shape for basketball should be guided by the principle of specificity. In other words, training should mimic the specific skills and fitness you’ll need to best perform in your sport. Because basketball involves quick sprints, interval-type training would be a better choice than sending a kid out for a five-mile jog.

Youth basketball players should participate in aerobic and anaerobic training. Not only can developing these systems improve a child’s game, they will also boost all around health and fitness.


Aerobic Fitness

Aerobic training, which often includes easy jogging, provides an important base for fitness. It’s this system that we rely upon during a long game. Aerobic fitness offers the stamina a player needs to showcase skills and technique for an extended period of time.

Since young players can’t do the running mileage of an adult player, some simple, easy laps around the court during a warm-up and cool down should suffice. For older kids, you can even set up a one-mile time trial. Other sports, such as soccer, can also help develop a child’s aerobic system.

Anaerobic Fitness

Anaerobic fitness is important for those quick bursts of speed on the court. Since there’s a lot of starting and stopping in a basketball game, it’s important to focus on both the cardiovascular engine and fast-twitch muscle fibers. By using drills and activities to train a young athlete to develop the fast fibers that assist in explosive movements and speed, he or she becomes better prepared to respond when they need to sprint down the court for a layup or hustle to steal the ball.

While there are a wide variety of running drills an athlete can do to cultivate both cardiovascular fitness and fast-twitch muscle fiber strength, here are a few that are perfect for youth players. By slightly changing the parameters, you can have kids do these in a park or even your backyard.