Preventing injuries and recovering from exercise are two important elements of practice planning. Studies have shown that Active Recovery removes lactic acid from the body twice as quickly as non-Active Recovery (rest). Include time for Active Recovery on practice plans and teach athletes how to recover during and after exercise.

During exercise, lactic acid metabolizes in the body. This lactate acid lowers the body’s pH level, which may impede performance by inhibiting key glycolytic enzymes and reducing the power of muscle contractions (Micklewright, Sellens, Gladwell, & Beneke, 2006, p. 315).

Basketball makes use of the Anerobic Lactic energy system 28.1 percent of the time. The rapid sprints, changes in directions, accelerations, and decelerations require athletes to practice and play at maximum intensity. The higher intensity of the exercise, the more blood lactate created. When blood lactate reaches a threshold, the athlete must lower their intensity level.

The Benefits of Active Recovery

After activity, the lactic acid is cleared from the body slowly. Compared to non-Active Recovery, more blood lactate is removed in a shorter period of time. A fifty percent recovery can be achieved in under ten minutes, instead of over twenty. Working at fifty to sixty percent intensity achieves optimal lactic acid removal.

Also, this activity triggers cutaneous vasodilation which brings more oxygen to muscles (Wilson, Carter, Cutler, Cui, Smith, & Crandall, 2004, p. 671). Relaxation and psychological recovery are also increased. Active Recovery can be continuous or intermittent. Athletes who maintain higher levels of personal fitness recover more quickly than those who do not (Monedero & Donne, 2000, p. 594).

Combined Recovery

Basketball players can also massage themselves between exercises or use a basketball as part of warm up and cool down exercises (Ford, 2011). Recovery which combines activity and massage clears blood lactate levels quickly between bouts of high intensity exercise and maintains levels of maximal performance. Massage techniques include stroking, effleurage (light touches), and taponement (rhythmic tapping) to the lower extremities (Monedero & Donne, 2000, p. 594).

Active Recovery during Practices

Practices should prepare athletes for games. A variety of dynamic drills at maximum intensity require athletes to be in top condition, which can be hampered by excessive blood lactate levels. In order to make the most of limited practice time, players should utilize Active Recovery.

Active Recover in PracticeActive Recovery exercises should have a work:pause ratio of 1:1 to 1:2. The intensity should be fifty to sixty percent of maximum intensity. General drills include: walking, jogging, and dynamic or static stretching. Sport-specific drills include: free throws, stationary dribbling, and low to mid intensity shooting.

Coaches can make Active Recovery a part of the practice routine in a number of ways:

  • Young athletes need as many repetitions as possible. Dribbling and shooting at a medium intensity level reinforce good habits and dissipate lactic acid.
  • During station work, high intensity skill stations can be mixed with lower intensity ones.
  • Instead of permitting athletes to leave the gym to get a drink of water, encouraging them to keep a water bottle and make use of it during periods of Active Recovery saves time and minimizes disruptions during practices.
  • Free throws are shot in sets of two, under pressure, after an interval of high intensity activity. An action as simple as pulling individual players out of the drill or scrimmage in order to shoot free throws will simulate games.

Incorporating Training Principles in Practice

In training sessions, coaches can pick two or three skills to emphasize. First, train the physical performance factors associated with the skill. Allow the players to master the technique before increasing the difficulty. Bring the drill up to game speed. Conclude by adding the defence, ideally as part of a competitive situation. Afterwards, finish with a brief Active Recovery time.

Active Recovery during Tournaments

When athletes play multiple games in a short period of time, lactic acid can contribute to fatigue and exhaustion. Players must look after themselves physically and mentally. Proper nutrition and hydration are essential. Degriefing and debriefing between games reduces mental fatigue.

After games or between games during games, a fifteen minute recovery interval removes lactic acid and prepares athletes for subsequent games. A combined recovery (rest-active and massage-active) improve the rate of lactate removal comparable to Active Recovery but conserves glycogen stores in muscles.

Cool Down Routine

Active Recovery after activity enables athletes to perform better the next day. A cool down routine should include a cardiovascular component and static stretching. The cool down routine returns the athletes’ heart rates back to its resting rate, lowers levels of blood lactate, and adrenaline, and reduces soreness for the next day. The routine should also help athletes calm their minds after intense physical activity.

Static stretching, even a couple of hours after activity, can still provide the benefits of Active Recovery (in addition to flexibility gains). Contrast showers (alternating hot and cold water) can increase vasodilation, replacing lactic acid in the muscles with oxygen.


Dehydration leads to fatigue, reduced anaerobic performance, impaired vigilance and decision-making abilities, muscle cramps, and a progressive decline in sport-specific skills. During activity, athletes should consume 150 to 350 millilitres (six to twelve ounces) every fifteen to twenty minutes. Afterwards, athletes should drink 475 to 650 millilitres (sixteen to twenty-four ounces) for every pound lost due to perspiration (Beck, 2009). Making rehydration part of Active Recovery encourages young athletes to drink enough fluid.


Snacks are also a part of a good recovery routine, in order to replenish what has been lost. For recovery after workout, consume 1.5 grams of carbohydrates for every kilogram of body weight and about six grams of protein total. If training to improve physical performance, consume at least seven grams of carbohydrates and 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (Sports Nutrition Advisory Committee, n.d.). Avoid high sugar snacks; suggestions include bagels, juice, bananas, carrots, chocolate milk.

List of Resources

  • Beck, L. (2009, June 18). The power of positive drinking. Retrieved August 6, 2009, from The Globe and Mail:
  • Ford, J. (2011, February 20). ATP Inc. Basketball Strength & Conditioning. Retrieved March 14, 2011, from Breaking Down the Basketball Warm-Up:
  • Micklewright, D., Sellens, M., Gladwell, V., & Beneke, R. (2006). Blood Lactate Removal Using Combined Massage and Active Recovery. Biology of Sport , 23 (4), 315-325.
  • Monedero, J., & Donne, B. (2000). Effect of Recovery Interventions on Lactate Removal and Subsequent Performance. International Journal of Sports Medecine , 21 (8), 593–597.
  • Sports Nutrition Advisory Committee. (n.d.). Sports Nutrition Resources. Retrieved October 1, 2004, from Coaching Association of Canada:
  • Wilson, T. E., Carter, R., Cutler, M. J., Cui, J., Smith, M. L., & Crandall, C. G. (2004). Active recovery attenuates the fall in sweat rate but not cutaneous vascular conductance after supine exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology , 96 (2), 668-673.

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