Why Cycling Is A Basketball Player’s Best Friend

Photo: DeMar DeRozan/Twitter

NBA players’ workouts involve a combination of shooting and conditioning drills to keep them in top form, but few of the exercises in their repertoire as effective or simple as hopping on a bicycle. Spin, stationary bike, indoor cycling—whatever you call it, putting in work on the pedals can help a basketball player improve their endurance, cardiovascular strength and recovery speed. Players including LeBron James,DeMar DeRozan, DeMarcus Cousins and Baron Davis all incorporate cycling in their regimen, and here’s why you should, too.

It makes tough workouts easier on your body
A quick spin session before you hit the gym or the court is an effective way to get your heart rate up and prepare your body for other exercises. Using a medium-low resistance, clocking in about 20 minutes of cycling should boost your heart rate to roughly 60 per cent of your maximum without putting unnecessary strain on joints in your knees, ankles and feet—all common points of injury for basketball players. Slowly raising your heart rate minimizes stress on your heart as you switch gears to the tough stuff, like weight lifting.

It helps you get explosive moves
A HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) stationary bike workout can be a great way to increase your speed, strength and endurance on the court in a short amount of time. For a 15-minute workout with all the benefits of a longer ride, turn up the resistance to medium-high and alternate two minutes of maximum or near-maximum effort with one minute of easier (but active) exercise. For the biggest gains, perform this workout three times a week. Oh, and HIIT is also a great way to torch fat. Just saying.

It’s a less taxing endurance workout
Then there’s classic cardio training. Long, low-to-middle-intensity rides of 45 to 60 minutes can boost the time you can spend on the court before tiring out. The advantage of clipping in over lacing up a pair of runners is that it takes your body much less time to recover from spinning than it does from the constant impact of a jog. Really, only swimming has cycling beat in this category.

It speeds up recovery
A slow and steady spin the day after a particularly intense on-court session or weight lifting workout can actually help your muscles recover faster. Crazy, we know. By putting in some low-intensity mileage on your trainer for around 20 to 30 minutes, your body will return blood flow to sore and tight muscles and give them the nutrients they need to rebuild, then and there.

It helps you withstand injury
Many athletes tend to focus on a few large muscle groups that help them excel in their particular sport, but at the cost of smaller muscle groups which help back them up. The result? Injuries upon injuries. Basketball players can benefit from a medium-to-high intensity cycling workout that strengthens their sprint-powering quads and glutes, sure, but also smaller, commonly injured supportive systems like the ankles, calves and hips. Bonus: cycling also tightens up your core muscles, perfect for keeping your shooting form on point.

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