Some of the NBA's Top Training Talent Share Their Favorite Workouts

Emily Shiffer
·7 mins read

From Men's Health

The NBA season is long (especially in the disrupted, then bubbled 2020)—but NBA players train to maintain their fitness all year round. The players work with some of the best trainers and coaches in the business to keep their bodies in shape both in and off season.

Photo credit: Men's Health
Photo credit: Men's Health

The MH crew has had the opportunity to learn about the training methods of some of the top athletes from the coaches of NBA greats like LeBron James, James Harden, and the Golden State Warriors. They walked us through workouts, explained training principles, and showed off the state of the art equipment the best athletes in the world have at their disposal. Here's some of the top highlights from their routines.

LeBron James

Photo credit: Douglas P. DeFelice - Getty Images
Photo credit: Douglas P. DeFelice - Getty Images

LeBron James' trainer, Mike Mancias, has worked with the L.A. Lakers' 'King James' for 16 years. He's walking us through some of the moves he uses in his training sessions with one of the most dominant players in basketball history.

Exercise 1: Multi-Planar Lunge
3 sets, 3 rounds per side

"A big part of basketball is obviously changing directions and lower body strength training," says Mancias. "For a multi-planar lunge we're going forward, side, and going at an angle... Foot placement you always want to stay at 12, 2 and 3 (on a clock). Same thing on the opposite side. You're at 12, 10 and 9."

Exercise 2: Versa Climber
3 sets, 30 seconds each (15 to 20 seconds rest between sets)

"It's challenging, but it's a great total body warmup and for cardiovascular conditioning," says Mancias. "Some of the benefits of the Versa Climber is not only the cardiovascular conditioning, but lower body toning and strength training, along with core stability, upper body mobility and strength as well."

Exercise 3: Landmine Rotation
3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per side

"This upper body—and actually total-body—movement is one of my favorites," says Mancias. "Start with a nice wide stance, really engaging the glutes and engaging the core. Load up on your left arm, up and rotate and finish up with the right (arm). It's a great lower body exercise, transferring weight into the upper body. Part of LeBron's game is playing above the rim and transferring energy from the ground up into the rim, and this is exactly what that exercise is doing."

Cable Chop
3 sets of 10 reps per side

"This is a great core exercise. Feet a little wider than shoulder width. Good strong base in the glutes. Your weight is transferred toward the back. Most of the pulling motion is done with the opposite arm. Eyes up on a target, and chop and transfer energy down. Most of your weight should not be in front of your knee or your foot but mostly transferred back on the glute, sitting down on the glute."

"We went over a lot today, but just remember some of the simplest routines and exercises are probably the ones that are the most beneficial for you as long as you focus on your intensity and focus on your movement, and that's when you'll see some results," says Mancias.

Want the complete routine? Check out the full-length workout here.

James Harden

Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann - Getty Images

Performance specialist Paul Fabritz has been working with James Harden for four years.

"He plays 82-plus games a year, so we gotta keep him durable, resilient and healthy," says Fabritz. "He's also competing for the MVP this year, so it's not just about health. It's about explosiveness and his movements on the court."

Fabritz takes us through the workout uses with Harden.

Exercise 1: Eurostep Stability
3 to 4 sets of 4 to 6 reps per side

One of Harden's top moves in the key doesn't just come from on-court work. He trains for it, too. "It's so important to have the ability to not only Eurostep and create distance, but we got to be able to stabilize, otherwise we can't be on balance to finish the layup," says Fabritz.

Exercise 2: Weighted Jumps
4 sets, 3 to 5 reps

"You can do this with a trap bar or holding a dumbbell between your legs. I'm calculating his vertical with a jump mat. I don't give him the amount of reps, I just say you go, and as soon as he drops off by more than 10 percent, we stop the set," says Fabrtiz. "The world has been doing this wrong forever. High rep jump training is not where it's at. It's all about explosive, quality reps. Setting up in a deadlift position, knees over toes, hips are back. Back is nice and flat. From this position he's going to jump as high as he possibly can and hit that landing."

Exercise 3: Inverted Rows
4 sets of 10 to 15 reps

"We're going to use rings, but you could use a barbell. We're going to elevate his feet to make it a little bit more difficult and get his body completely flat. We do not want the hips to sag, I've got to have him squeeze his glutes so he stays flat all the way through," says Fabrtiz. "Then we go into a row, and he pulls his chest all the way up towards those rings, pulling from the torso. What that does is we train the late, we train the rhomboids, those muscles in between our shoulder blades and back muscles are so important for our overall performance and our strength on the court."

But the back isn't the only point of focus here. "This is one of the best ways to build biceps, probably even better than bicep curls. You've always got to have some sort of inverted row in your program."

"Whether it's James Harden or just you trying to get to the next level and be the best version of you, we gotta work hard, we gotta work smart, we gotta work consistently. Take care of your nutrition, take care of your sleep. You're gonna see some good results," says Fabritz.

Want the complete routine? Check out the full-length workout here.

The Golden State Warriors

Photo credit: Ezra Shaw - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ezra Shaw - Getty Images

Golden State Warriors Head Performance Coach Carl Bergstrom walks us through a posterior chain, core, and upper body workout.

Exercise 1: Banded Lateral Step
5 reps per side

"With a band around the knees, we'll activate the glutes with a lateral step. Then he'll go into a rotational step keeping the knee set and not buckling. Then a step back, as he transfers his weight equally distributed he'll feel the glutes light up," says Bergstrom.

Exercise 2: Landmine Press
3 sets of 8 reps

"On one knee, his back is nice and extended, he's going to bring the weight to his opposite shoulder. At no point is he going to sway back. He's going to keep his knee forward and press straight up and back down. There's a tendency to want to bring your ribs up. Don't allow that to happen, have full control of your body as the weight comes up and down," says Bergstrom. "Aside from strength and general torso control, this is great for basketball because we're working on having strength in the overhead position which is really common in our sport."

Exercise 3: Trap Bar Deadlift
3 sets of 8 reps

"Get set in a balance and hinged position, and before he pulls up he's going to make sure he gets his core set and his grip set. He screws in his arms and pushes into the floor. He comes back down and has control the whole time," says Bergstrom. "This is a very common exercise and the reps will vary with how much load you're using and how familiar you are with the exercise."

Want the complete routine? Check out the full-length workout here.

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