Everyone knows that basketball players earn their fame with lights-out shooting, impossibly smooth dribbling, and the occasional earth-shaking dunk. But look past the fireworks—or play a quick pickup game at the park—and it's pretty obvious that basketball is a fast-paced test of vertical leaps, and pure gut-check endurance. And if you want to hang tough with the best players, that means having the speed, strength, and agility of the best players.

So in a new twist on a classic game, we tried combining some old-school basketball training with a one of the best disciplines out there for raising the bar on your physical ability: CrossFit. We turned to Kurt Roderick, C.S.C.S., USAW-ASPC, co-owner & head coach at Crow Hill CrossFit in Brooklyn, for his take on CrossFit-style training on the hardwood.

"Basketball demands intervals of extreme explosive movements, quick cuts and changes of directions," says Roderick, a Level 3 CrossFit coach. "Athletes need to foster the power, speed, agility and coordination to jump, run, and cut. They also need to develop the strength to push off defenders and get to the basket."

Roderick designed workouts around three fundamental aspects of basketball movement: quick cuts and rebounding, aerobic capacity and all-out power, and sprinting and jumping. Each of those fundamentals features three workouts: one for beginners, one for intermediate athletes, and one for top-tier ballers. (Well-conditioned athletes can also perform the "beginner" workouts before or after a skills-focused practice session to improve fitness without pushing their bodies to the absolute limit, Roderick notes.)

Remember to warm up and perform dynamic stretching before each workout, and check with your coach or trainer before attempting any new exercise—particularly the Olympic lifts listed below. If you're unfamiliar with classic CrossFit moves like the thruster, clean, or snatch, make sure you ask a knowledgeable trainer to teach you how, and practice them separately before attempting them in a workout setting. And, as always, make sure you set aside time after the workout to stretch, recover, foam roll, properly rehydrate, and get a good recovery meal.

Fundamenal I: Quick Cuts and Rebounding

"These workouts are designed to simulate fighting for rebounds, cutting to get open, and the tempo changes of a competitive game," Roderick says. "This will help develop those change-of-direction skills needed to be on top of your game."

Beginner: 8 ROUNDS of:

  • 3x burpees to 6” target
  • 4x 20ft Shuttle Run
  • REST 30 sec.

Intermediate: 12 ROUNDS of:

  • 3x burpee pullups (pull up bar 6” beyond reach)
  • 4x 20ft shuttle run
  • REST 30 sec.

Advanced:

  • 16 ROUNDS:
  • 3 burpee to bar muscle-up
  • 4x20ft shuttle run
  • REST 30 sec.

NOTES: The burpee should be performed as a strict pushup into an explosive squat jump.

  • For beginners, just jump to a target that is 6” past your reach (like a pull up bar) that you touch with both hands.
  • For intermediate athletes, jump to a bar that is 6” beyond your reach and do a pullup. Use the jump to help your pullup

Fundamental II: Fourth-Quarter Stamina

"In this workout, we're focusing on pushing that aerobic capacity for that fourth quarter, AND demanding that our body still come through when we need to go big in the paint," Roderick says.

Beginner: 4 ROUNDS of:

  • 30 sec. AMRAP: Kettlebell power snatch – Right hand
  • 1 mins. AMRAP: Kettlebell swing – Russian style
  • 30 sec. AMRAP: Kettlebell power snatch – Left hand
  •  1 min. AMRAP: Kettlebell swing – Russian style
  •  REST 1 min.

Intermediate: 6 ROUNDS of:

  • 30 sec. AMRAP: Kettlebell power snatch – Right hand
  • 1 min. AMRAP: Kettlebell swing – Russian style
  • 30 sec. AMRAP: Kettlebell power snatch – Left hand
  • 1 min. AMRAP: Kettlebell swing – Russian style
  • REST 1 min.

Advanced: 8 ROUNDS of:

  • 30 sec. AMRAP: Kettlebell power snatch – Right Hand
  • 1 min. AMRAP: Kettlebell Swing – Russian Style
  • 30 sec. AMRAP: Kettlebell Snatch – Left Hand
  • 1 min. AMRAP: Kettlebell Swing – Russian Style
  • REST 1 min.

NOTES:

  • Choose a weight that allows you to perform each rep unbroken and only rest during the 1 minute rest period. "In basketball, no one likes the athlete who does not hustle back for defense," Roderick says. "Wait until coach calls a time out before you rest."
  • The kettlebell snatch can be a technical lift, and Roderick recommends asking an experienced trainer for help if you're unfamiliar with the movement. "The snatch trains a powerful triple extension as you raise the kettlebell all the way over head," he says.
  • "The kettlebell swing is a staple for any athlete," Roderick says. "This hip hinge-based movement strengthens the posterior chain as you swing that kettlebell to eye level." With "Russian style" kettlebell swings, bring the kettlebell to eye level, making sure to draw power from your hips and glutes.

Fundamental III: The Fast Break

"This set of workouts is about that fast break," Roderick says. "You'll have to sprint all-out and push yourself through defenders before going vertical to the hoop. Your ability to do this workout in control and in a timely fashion will directly translate to how much help you can provide your team when you need to score fast."

Beginner: 6 ROUNDS of:
 - 150m Run
 - 4 dumbbell hang power clean
 - 3 dumbbell power jerk
 - 2 Box Jumps

Intermediate: 9 ROUNDS of:
 - 150m run
 - 4 power clean
 - 3 power jerk
 - 2 box jumps

Advanced: 12 ROUNDS of:
 - 150m Run
 - 6 “clusters”*
 - 2 box jumps

*The "cluster" is a compound lift consisting of a squat clean (a clean in which you drop into a squat) into a thruster (in which you lift the barbell from a front squat into a standing overhead press). There is no pause after the squat clean—you drive out of the bottom of the squat until that barbell is over your head. It is an advanced movement, requiring explosiveness and coordination to achieve the fast changes of direction.

NOTES

  • Choose a weight at about 65% - 75% of your one-rep max in the a given lift, Roderick says. This will feel heavy, but still allow you to prioritize speed and power.
  • The box jump is a great training tool, but make sure you land LIGHTLY—think catlike—and STEP DOWN from the box to prevent injury. The box height can be anywhere from 12” for the beginner to 30” for the advanced athlete. Jump off the floor with two feet and land with both feet on the box.