How to Improve Your Conditioning While Watching the Games

Training Session: Exercise Tips From the Experts

Greg Farnam Gregg Farnam (photo: NBAE/Getty Images)

With the men’s bracket of the NCAA tournament down to the Elite 8 and the women’s bracket down to the Sweet 16, there is plenty of great basketball to watch this weekend. 

But you’ve still got to keep active and well conditioned for when it’s your time to hit the court. So here’s another installment of the USA Basketball “Training Session,” with a tip on how to stay in shape while you’re in front of the television watching the action.

Minnesota Timberwolves head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam, who has been involved with USA Basketball for many years, suggests trying this back extension exercise.

“This is something the Timberwolves players will do,” said Farnam. “We usually do this for exercise in kind of our warm-up phase, to get the muscles ready for activity. It’s a basic, pretty low-impact activity that can benefit anyone from age 5 to 50.  It allows the muscles to get activated.”

Back Extension

Benefits: Working on lower back, gluteal muscles and abdominal muscles. Helps the core. Helps build strength.

Reps: 10-15 on each side

Sets: Do 1-2 sets during commercial breaks

Rest: One minute


Lay face down on the floor, arms straight out, almost in a Superman position… Legs straight out… Raise your left arm and right leg off the floor, about 2-3 inches… Keep your head and neck in line with the arm. Hold for 1-2 seconds, then slowly lower your arm and leg back to the ground… Now raise your right arm, left leg, 2-3 inches off the ground, hold it for 1-2 seconds, then slowly back down.

Farnam explained that a lot of strength and conditioning involves exercises you can see yourself doing, like presses and curls in front of a mirror. “A lot of the time the back is neglected,” he said. “I think this is a good exercise for kids, especially if they’re doing pushups and situps. It just kind of helps them balance the body.”

Snack Time

Of course, you can take some time to just relax and enjoy the college hoops action… and you might even want some refreshments. Before raiding the refrigerator or pantry, here’s a tip from Farnam about how to snack responsibly:

“If you’re going to snack at this time,” he said, “reach for a whole fruit – apple, orange, banana. Or you can have some veggies cut up – carrot sticks, celery sticks. Something like that is good to snack on during a sedentary activity such as watching TV.”

What if you’re the kind of person who likes to dip vegetables into something? “I would just say whatever you’re dipping it in – whether you’re putting peanut butter on a celery stick, or dipping it into ranch dressing -- the key is moderation. And look for a low-fat or no-fat option.”

All set? Enjoy the games!

Gregg Farnam is in his 16th season with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, his 13th as head athletic trainer. Farnam regularly works with USA Basketball during the offseason, most recently for the 2013 USA Basketball National Team during its Las Vegas mini-camp.  He also served as an athletic trainer for the 2012 USA Select Team, and in 2010 he served as trainer for USA Basketball’s National Team mini-camp. In 2001, he was trainer for the USA national team that won a gold medal at the Goodwill Games.

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