March Madness Workout: Your Basketball-Inspired HIIT Routine

March Madness is almost here! As your favorite college athletes hit the courts to fight their way to the Final Four, why not follow their lead and turn your regular workout into a basketball-inspired sweat session? It takes serious athleticism to run up and down a court, cutting, jumping and shooting through 40 minutes of intense competition, and basketball players certainly have the bodies to show for it. Harness a bit of their competitive drive and challenge yourself to complete this high-intensity March Madness workout

What You'll Need: An indoor-outdoor basketball and some space. If you can, use an actual basketball court (many parks have them) to perform this routine. The court will give you the freedom to run and move around easily. 

A Note About Weather Acclimation: If you perform this workout outside, particularly if you do it on the first warm day of the year, be aware that your body may not be used to exercising in the heat. Keep water with you, and consider carefully whether you need to supplement with electrolytes after your workout. If your session is long and intense, if you sweat profusely or if the weather's particularly hot, it's important to prioritize nutrition for proper muscle recovery after you exercise.



march madness workout
Laura Williams

Before you dive into the meat of this routine, warm up with the following exercises: 

  • Jog around the court: Jog circles around the court for one minute in one direction, then turn around and jog another minute in the opposite direction.
  • Full court sprints: Sprint down the court and back again as fast as you can. Rest 10 seconds and repeat two more times.
  • Full court horse: Start on the baseline and sprint to the nearest free throw line. Sprint back to the baseline, turn around and sprint to half court and back again. Then sprint to the farther free throw line and back, then full court and back. This full series is a single horse. Rest one minute, then repeat two more times.

The whole warm-up should take about eight minutes, maybe a little longer if you decide you need more rest. If you don't have access to a basketball court, simply use the space you have and run in place, timing yourself for roughly 20 seconds per sprint and 40 seconds per horse. 

To perform the workout, complete each exercise as shown for 50 seconds, followed by 10 seconds rest before proceeding to the next exercise. After all eight exercises are complete, rest for one to two minutes. Perform the eight-move circuit four times for a 40-minute circuit workout—you'll have worked out just as long as your favorite basketball players!


Lay-Up Skips

lay-up skips
Laura Williams

Start in an athletic, staggered stance, feet hip-distance apart, one leg in front of the other. Hold a basketball in both hands at one hip. In a powerful movement, bring your back knee forward and up as you press through the ball of your front foot, propelling yourself into the air in a power skipping motion as you reach the ball into the air over your head. 

Land softly, knees slightly bent, in the position you started. Immediately perform another skip on the same side. You may want to barely tap your foot down, essentially focusing the work on your stabilizing leg

Perform skips on one side for the full 50 seconds. You'll perform skips on the opposite side the second time through the circuit. 


Side Slides with Ball Taps

side slides with ball tap
Laura Williams

Use the paint of the free throw box on a basketball court or two cones set about 12 feet apart to designate your space. Start in the center of the space, knees bent, hips back, a basketball in your hands. Slide laterally to the right cone and reach down and across your body to touch the basketball to the cone, then reverse the slide and slide laterally to the left cone and bend across your body to touch the ball down again. Slide as fast as you can back and forth, keeping your core tight to protect your low back. 


Squat Figure Eights

squat figure 8s
Laura Williams

Squat low, hips back, your weight in your heels. Hold the basketball in both hands between your legs, arms fully extended. Let go with one hand and reach it behind you as you pass the ball backward between your legs to your waiting hand. Grab it with the hand behind you and swing the ball around your leg and back to the center, this time reaching your opposite hand behind you to collect the ball. Continue passing the ball around and between your legs in a figure-eight formation as you maintain a low squat. Remember to keep your core tight—as you lean forward and back and side to side, your abs will get quite the workout!

Pass the ball in one direction for the full 50 seconds. You'll switch directions and pass it the opposite way during the second circuit.


Unstable Mountain Climbers

unstable mountain climbers
Laura Williams

Start in a high pushup position with your hands centered on top of the basketball. Engage your core and keep your hips low. Draw one knee up toward your chest, touching the ball of your foot to the ground. In one movement, press through your palms and hop your legs into the air, switching the position of your feet, so your bent leg extends behind you and your straight leg is drawn up toward your chest. Continue hopping your legs back and forth for the full 50 seconds, going as fast as you can. 

If doing mountain climbers while balancing on the ball is too difficult, ditch the ball and do them with your hands on the ground. 


Between the Leg Lunges

between the legs lunges
Laura Williams

Stand tall, holding the basketball above your head, arms extended. Take a wide step forward with one leg and bend your knees, lowering your back knee toward the floor. As you do so, tilt your torso very slightly forward and bring the ball down, passing it under your front knee. 

Press through your front heel and return to standing, raising the ball back up over your head. Repeat the action on the opposite side, and continue these alternating forward lunges for the full 50 seconds.


Spider Squat

squat spiders
Laura Williams

Position your legs slightly wider than shoulder-distance, your toes angled slightly outward. Squat down and place the basketball between your legs on the floor. Check your form to make sure your weight is on your heels, your hips are pressed back and your knees are aligned with (but not in front of) your toes. From this position, reach one hand behind you and tap the basketball, then reach the other hand behind you to tap the ball. Reach the first hand back in front of you to tap the ball, following with your opposite hand. The backward tap-backward tap-forward tap-forward tap movement should continue as fast as you can for the full 50 seconds while maintaining a low squat. 

Bonus points! Try dribbling the ball instead of simply tapping it in place. 


High Plank

high plank
Laura Williams

Set yourself up in a high pushup position with your hands on top of the basketball. Position your legs wide for greater stability. Tighten your core and hold a plank steady for the full 50 seconds. 


Oblique Twists

oblique twists
Laura Williams

Finish up the circuit by working your obliques. Sit on the ground, your knees bent, heels touching the floor and lean back slightly to form a "V" position with your upper body and thighs. Hold the basketball in your hands in front of your belly button. With your core tight, twist your torso to one side, tapping the ball down outside your hip, then twist all the way to the opposite side, tapping the ball down again. Continue the side-to-side twist for the full 50 seconds. 

After completing the oblique twists, rest for one to two minutes, then perform the circuit three more times. Remember to switch sides when performing the lay-up skips and the low squat figure 8s. 

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