Behind those thunderous dunks is a workout regimen mere mortals probably couldn’t handle

By Klyde Manansala | Photo by Javier Lobregat

Running down the court in transition, making an explosive cut inside the paint, and throwing outlet passes for more than 48 minutes of playing basketball are not things every person can usually withstand—not to mention the intentional body collisions and elbows that are done behind the referee’s back.

It takes exceptional strength to endure all of these, which is why the body of an NBA player is engineered to defy the rigidity of both the game and their workout regimen. From Russell Westbrook’s extreme physique to LeBron James’ hulk-like frame, here’s how some of the NBA stars stay in shape even in the off-season.


Giannis Antetokounmpo

Aside from being unknown to many, the Greek Freak entered the league as a lanky man in 2013, standing 6’9” tall and weighing 190 pounds. Throughout the years, Antetokounmpo was able to establish himself as the future star of the Milwaukee Bucks, as he gradually flourished his career into a remarkable one while blatantly displaying his physical progress. Five years since becoming a pro, the Freak grew two inches taller and now weighs 222 pounds.



For Antetokounmpo and his teammate Thon Maker, who also has the same body type, the off-season has been all about working out with each other. As per Maker, building strength and “putting on lean muscle” through lifting a lot of weights were the emphasis of their training—a regimen that fits them considering their role of defending the paint from bruisers and post-up players. More than this, Antetokounmpo and Maker also intend to eat a total of six meals per day just to match what they’ve lost during their intense one-on-one workouts.

Apart from lifting weights, Antetokounmpo also brought his training to a whole new level. Just recently, the Greek Freak decided to try something different this off-season as he posted a footage of himself showing off his boxing skills.



Jimmy Butler

The four-time NBA All Star was surprisingly shipped to Minnesota Timberwolves last year where he went on to play with much younger and quicker stars like Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. At just 28 years of age, Jimmy Butler already calls the shots for the entire team. Not much has changed about his workout routine, especially now that he’s back under the supervision of his former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau—a chief tactician known for throwing his players into physically-demanding team practices.

Despite residing in a new team, Butler didn’t have to adjust his workout program based on his Instagram posts: From kettlebell workouts to working on his upper body by using the cable machine, he’s nailing it. Even while on vacation, Butler still finds time to work on his speed by doing a med-ball workout followed by a tense sprint.


Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook is probably the most explosive guard we’ve seen in this generation, thanks to his tremendous athleticism and tough mental fortitude. The thing is, Westbrook is purely a rare talent. He is the exact definition of ‘Mr. Do It All.’ He’s got plenty on his arsenal; he can shoot threes, he can play in transition, he can post-up, he can drive, he knows where to grab the rebound, he sets his teammates perfectly—Westbrook offers a lot to the table but he doesn’t seem to run out of fuel. So where does his stamina come from?

Westbrook has kept his workout routine inside the gym undisclosed for a very long time now. No one really knows how he works off the court, not even his teammates. But according to Dwight Daub, director of athletic performance for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russ’ workout is instability training. It’s designed to maximize his balance and stabilization.

Westbrook is perhaps the closest thing next to a prime Derrick Rose as they have the same style of play. Because of this, they’re more prone to suffering muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries if ever they lose balance in mid-air. This is why a fitness program that focuses on keeping their balance fits them.


LeBron James

LeBron James is nearing his 16th season in the NBA this October, only this time, he’s coming in to banner the Los Angeles Lakers name across his chest. Regardless of the new uniform colors he will don, James is pretty much still the king of the league for several reasons. Despite his massive frame, James easily fills in all floor positions, proving to be one of the most versatile players we have seen in this era.

Apparently, James has extended his creativity in the court beyond his lab, as he showed off his personal core and mind stability workout recently. Instead of using a body blade, James balanced a couple of kettlebells while balancing atop a physio ball. But how does the core and mental game affect this workout? According to trainer Chris Powell, C.S.C.S, the workout focuses on the spacial awareness and deep core stabilization. In this regard, James is training his core to react rapidly on unstable circumstances, which often happens in the game. Simultaneously, James is getting his core toughened while unconsciously training his mind to quickly respond to different situations in the court.

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