How Mavericks Star Harrison Barnes Uses Weights, Yoga, and Sports Psychology to Prep for the NBA Grind

The superfit forward shares some tips and advice for getting in optimal, game-ready shape.

Harrison Barnes dunks during NBA game
Mark Sobhani / Contributor / Getty

The NBA is back! And while many fans expect to see the Golden State Warriors repeat as champs, here’s a different scenario: The Dallas Mavericks, powered by their emerging star Harrison Barnes, knock off the Warriors in the West and claim the championship trophy. OK, that’s probably not gonna happen. Still, look for a big year from the 6'8", 225-pound Barnes, who led the Mavs in scoring with more than 19 points per game last season—his first in Big D after four years with Golden State (where he won the NBA title in 2015). We sat down with the superathletic 25-year-old at a Fitbit event in Montauk, NY, to find out what he does to excel on the court.

“A typical off-season training day for me starts with a 7:15 a.m. workout on the basketball court,” Barnes says. “I do my skill stuff until about 9. Then at 9:30 I go to CorePower Yoga in Dallas and do hot yoga. Sometimes I’ll mix in a yoga-and-weights class. Then I get a little lunch and come back to the gym and do a lift. Later in the summer, I start playing five-on-five pickup games.”

“On the court this summer, I worked on improving my ball handling, creating shots, and three-point shooting—I didn’t shoot a great percentage last year, so I want to get better at that. From a body standpoint, the biggest thing was to maintain strength but also build a bigger engine. I did that with interval training—high-intensity, timed workouts with quick breaks.”

“I don’t spend a lot of time with traditional lifting. I’m not gonna
get 300 pounds on the squat rack and max out. Early on in my career, I was lifting and trying to gain a lot of strength, but I was getting rigid, so I want to get that fluidity back. Which is why I incorporated yoga.”

“We lift on almost every non-game day. But the lifting is based on how much you played the day before. And it’s functional. You can be strong in basketball, but it has to be functional strength. You can have really strong arms and bench- press a lot of weight, but if you can’t use it on the court, then why are you doing it? I haven’t benched since college. My best was probably 285 pounds for one rep.”

“One of the biggest adjustments I made last season was on my days off,” Barnes says. “Instead of taking the full day off, I would walk on an incline treadmill, and I’d use the heart-rate tracker on my Fitbit to get my heart rate to 130 beats per minute and hold it there for 45 minutes to an hour. That is one of the hardest things to do. You constantly have to adjust the incline and speed to make sure you stay right at 130. But it builds your cardio base. So when I played the next night, I didn’t feel sluggish at the start of the game.”

“It’s true—I don’t drink. [Note: Barnes famously took his first sip of alcohol when he sampled a little champagne after the Warriors won the NBA championship in 2015.] I try to take care of my body as much as I can. I gotta cut out the sweets, though. That’s kind of my Achilles’ heel. Brownies à la mode are a guilty pleasure. But I definitely focused on my diet a lot this past year.”

I love the mental side of training as well. When I was with Golden State, Coach [Steve] Kerr was big into that. He learned from George Mumford, who was with the Bulls back in the day and worked with Michael Jordan. I read Mumford’s book [The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance] and loved it. I’ve been working with him. I think getting the mental approach right is just as important if not more important than all these other things that you do. If you’re not in the right mental state, you really can’t tap into your full potential.”

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