James Harden has put up truly historic numbers throughout his career so far. The 2018 MVP and 2019 runner-up has not lucked into this. Harden works hard during the offseason, not only to stay in shape for basketball but to add dynamics to his already complex game.
The 29-year-old’s work ethic has propelled him from college star to Sixth Man to one of the most dominant scorers of all time. Here, we look at Harden’s rise to stardom and how he attributes his workouts to much of his success.
The rise of James Harden
Since his playing days at Arizona State, Harden has had “superstar” written all over him. With the Oklahoma City Thunder, he seemed like the final piece of a three-headed monster that included Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
By his third year, Harden was the best sixth man in the NBA. He wanted a bigger role than he had with OKC, who’d recently lost to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. In a surprise preseason trade, Harden joined the Houston Rockets.
Although it took some rotating between coaches and teammates — including a failed experiment with Dwight Howard — Harden not only became an NBA superstar, he became a perennial MVP candidate.
How does he do it?
A look at Harden’s statistics, specifically scoring, shows a fascinating trend in his game. Except for 2013 and 2014, in which his scoring took a half-point dip, Harden’s scoring has increased every single year since he joined the NBA. This is partially reflected by Harden’s usage rate of a staggering 40.5%, over 7% higher than the second-place player, Joel Embiid.
With this kind of usage, Harden has to be in tip-top shape. His trainer recently sat down with Men’s Health to discuss how Harden does it.
Harden rarely misses a game, even if he’s hurt. This is a testament to his conditioning, but performance specialist Paul Fabritz deserves some credit, too. Fabritz’s company, PJF Performance, works with several NBA players who want to get the most out of their physical gifts.
Concerning resiliency, none of these athletes, which include Embiid and Mo Bamba, are as impressive as Harden. A fascinating blend of brute strength and speed helps Harden drive toward the basket and step back from the three-point line. His workout includes both normal exercises anyone can do in the gym and ones that require advanced equipment.
Men’s Health details Harden’s workout. It starts with a dynamic warmup meant to increase body heat, stretch muscles, and warm up the nervous system. This includes high skips, over-unders, a walking hamstring stretch, quad stretch, Frankenstein kicks, an adductor stretch, and a hip-flexor stretch.
Next, mobility drills include a high skip into a deep squat and a quickline into a stick. Then, Harden activates his core with Eurostep stability drills — maintaining his legendary handles — and a Da Vinci Plank that strengthens his core.
Harden concludes the workout portion with a high-intensity workout of weighted jumps, one-arm dumbbell presses, rear-foot elevated split squats, and inverted rows. After recovering with an active hamstring stretch, a Samson stretch, 90-90 get-ups, and a kneeling ankle mobility drill, the workout is over.
As you can tell, Harden’s workout is intense. But it covers all the necessary fields a player like Harden needs to succeed. Do you think you could last these drills?