Gaining Value From Repetitions


One of the most common questions asked in coaching is “How many reps”? The answer, unfortunately, is it DEPENDS!


Let’s look at a basic overview of the factors involved in determining rep count:

  1. Is the skill completely new? 
  2. What is the ultimate goal of the skill - to become faster, to develop skill acquisitions, etc.?
  3. How old are the athletes?
  4. What is the mental capacity of the athlete - do they lose focus easily, etc.?
  5. Have they had context about the skill - do they understand how it works in games?
  6. Is it in the early off-season, late pre-season, or the week before playoffs?


As you can see, reps are determined by many factors, even more than listed above.


Here is what I have used for years to program my rep-count. The first 1-2 reps are often “feel-out” reps for athletes, especially basketball players working on a speed skill.



  • They need to get their bodies moving correctly.
  • They need to become more kinesthetically and proprioceptively awake.
  • They need to shift to the speeds necessary to build specificity into the skill.


By the third or fourth rep, the athlete should have a foundation of movement down for that particular skill. Because of this, I will start to select specific cues/feedback to help guide the athlete. My feedback and cueing will reflect this if the skill is completely new versus an older one.


Around the fifth rep, I start to decide on a few things. Keep in mind this is for speed-type skills.

  1. How much volume is essential for today’s workout. Do I want to drive the skill deeper into a higher volume or move on?
  2. Is it time to add variation to the same skill to build the movement pattern bandwidth?
  3. Do I need to check for understanding, re-introduce, and give context as to how the skill is applied in games for greater learning?


If we talk about a skill like shooting, the rep count exponentially increases. For now, I’m keeping this to an on-court athletic speed skill.



The skill rep-count is way more important over the weeks, months, and years than in the moment. You can do more harm applying too high of reps in one practice if you allow frustration, poor patterning, and loss of context to creep in. But, if you stop while they are still feeling good and come back the next practice to the skill, they will significantly benefit.


Finally, although an athlete or team might need improvement on 5-6 different skills, working independently allows more space for learning. If you do five other speed skills with detailed teaching points in one practice, the athlete(s) will not have the capacity to absorb important nuggets per skill. Keep it focused and watch the growth occur.


Reps are a tricky programming factor. If you keep it simple, live for the next practice, and always give context about the skill, the repetitions will hold more weight.


The best coaches in the world understand teaching and learning. They value these! They also value concise communication. This is precisely why I created the Certified Basketball Speed Specialist course. It clears up all the confusion on teaching basketball-specific and general footwork.

Categories: art of coaching, basketball movement, basketball skills