How are the Raptors staying in shape during quarantine? We asked their trainer

How are the Raptors staying in shape during quarantine? We asked their trainer

An NBA-level workout, from the comfort of home

In early March, the Raptors retreated into mandatory self-isolation after a player on the Utah Jazz, their most recent opponent, tested positive for Covid-19. The NBA postponed the 2019-20 season, along with the Raps’ chances to repeat as champions. While the world is on lockdown, the players are tasked with staying in game shape, since it’s impossible to predict when they might be allowed back onto the hardwood. We spoke to Jon Lee, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, about the at-home fitness program he designed for the athletes.

Jon: As soon as we got the news that some players had to self-isolate, we worked on getting as much exercise equipment to the players as quickly as possible. A few of us were cleared by the health department to make deliveries. We got stationary bikes, dumbbells, benches and resistance bands out to the players, all while social distancing. We just dropped everything off at the door. You never know when we’ll start playing again. My aim is to keep the players physically and mentally fit so they’re ready to go on short notice.

I put together an ISO (isometric) challenge that uses bodyweight for resistance. It can be done in a space the size of the exercise mat. All you need are running shoes, a stopwatch and 24 minutes. To ramp up the intensity, the players can add weights, resistance bands or even household items. For a makeshift bodyweight, load up a backpack with books or cans of soup.

The routine consists of three rounds. The basic formula is a two-minute warm-up, two-minute upper body exercise, two-minute lower-body exercise, and two-minute full-body exercise, with 30 seconds of rest between moves and one minute of rest between rounds. But the timing is completely customizable to your fitness level. The two-minute intervals are designed for the Raptors, so it’s quite challenging. Everyday people can start with one minute of movement and 30 seconds of rest—or vice versa.

Isometric challenge

1. Warm-up

Run in place or do jumping jacks for two minutes. Then rest for 30 seconds.

2. Upper body

 As many push-ups as you can for two minutes, rest for 30 seconds. Load up a backpack for extra resistance.

3. Lower body

As many squats as you can for two minutes, rest for 30 seconds.

4. Full body

As many burpees as you can for two minutes, rest for 30 seconds.

Straight burpees are a really challenging exercise. If you can do 100 burpees in a day, that’s really good. For the average person, even 10 burpees will put them out of breath. Then you challenge yourself to do 25 at a time, then 50, then 100. It’s great for tracking improvement.

Alternate exercises

1. Drop lunge

Three to four sets of 8-10 reps.

2. Band bicep curl

Step on the bands to change the resistance of the weight, so the higher you step on the band, the more resistance you have. You could step on it shoulder-width apart and do bicep curls. That’s one of my favourite exercises.

3. Band tricep curl

Curl up and down, keeping your elbows in.


Take some time to do a couple of stretches. A good way to cool down is to do child’s pose, in which you bring your chest and forehead to the ground while resting on your knees. It really stretches out the lower back.

Then be sure to refuel. Nutrition is 70 percent of fitness. You can’t outwork the food you put in your body. If you eat poorly, it’s going to slow you down. But I think if you have a proper diet, you don’t need power bars or anything like that. They’re filled with unnecessary sugars. I’d rather have our players eat real food.

I also don’t think people drink enough water when they’re at home. They’re more conscious about it when they’re out and about or in the gym, but it’s so important to stay hydrated throughout the day. I recommend lots of fluids, mostly water.

Sometimes the players will take pictures or FaceTime me while they’re working out at home. I’ll look at each player’s cardio load, the number of miles they’ve gone on their exercise bike and how many calories they’ve burned. Then I’ll say, “That’s not good enough,” or, “That’s really good.” My main job is to keep them motivated. The best way to get ready for basketball is to actually play basketball, and that’s something we can’t do right now. But this workout is a great alternative until we can get these guys back into action.