Basketball

The strength-building, time-crunch workouts of a veteran NBA referee

Longtime NBA ref Marc Davis uses these time-specific, CrossFit-style workouts to stay fit on the road—and to keep pace with athletic superstars like LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant.

NBA referee Marc Davis
Thearon W. Henderson / Getty
Thearon W. Henderson / Getty
Equipment X

The life of an NBA referee doesn’t leave much time for working out.

Sure, they get plenty of cardio running up and down the basketball court each game—five miles of it, in fact—but to keep up with players like LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant, referees need to put in work off the court, too. But with new cities every night, long days of preparation, different timezones, hotels—it’s a grueling schedule that doesn’t leave much time to get into the gym.

“We can be up until 3 a.m., finishing the game from the night before, then be on the first flight in the morning,” 20-year veteran referee Marc Davis tells Men’s Fitness. “The days can morph into each other. Nobody really cares about how much sleep you got that night—you still need to call the game. It’s a physically demanding job, and our players are just so athletic, just incredibly talented. But you have to keep up.”

The tough schedule and limited free time is why Davis keeps a list of workouts broken down by length to make sure he always has something to do—no matter where he is, how much time he has, or what he has available—he has a way to get in a workout.

“I attack my workout based on the amount of the time that I have,” Davis says. “I keep a bunch of workouts in my phone, so whether it’s 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour, I have something I can do. I focus on mobility in my training; I do a lot of bodyweight squats, and kettlebell workouts. KB’s are great because you can use it for a lot of different areas and in all kinds of routines.”

Davis works out year-round to stay in shape, and he thinks that the way he trains can be helpful to people with busy lives. Much like the way Davis deals with his grueling schedule as a referee, people also have jobs, travel, families, and other responsibilities that may limit the amount of time they have to get in a workout or go to the gym.

“Doing something daily, even a short workout, my advice is to just get moving,” Davis says. “Your body wants to move and the more it moves, the better it moves and feels. Consistency matters. Doing something five, six days a week is much better than doing a whole lot once or twice. Stay accurate every day. In our society now, there's very little physical activity that's required for many jobs, and that can create a somewhat sedentary lifestyle. If it's just an hour walk—my crew, they make fun of me—but we always walk for an hour after lunch. It's just...It's cold, so what, we need some fresh air.”

Here’s a look at how Davis gets in his workouts when he’s working during the NBA season.

The 50-Minute Burner Workout

Exercise 1a.

Up-down plank pushup How to
Up-down plank pushup thumbnail
2 sets
20 reps
-- rest
Davis does a 'Tiger' pushup.

Exercise 2a.

Renegade Row You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Renegade Row thumbnail
2 sets
12 (6 left, 6 right) reps
-- rest
Davis does 4 rounds of 1a and 1b, alternating between the two.

Exercise 1b.

Double kettlebell squat press You'll need: Kettlebells How to
Man doing double kettlebell press thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest
Davis does a KB front squat and does it as heavy as possible (AHAP).

Exercise Alternate

Goblet Squat You'll need: Kettlebells How to
Goblet Squat thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest
Davis sometimes uses a Goblet Squat over the Double KB Front Squat.

Exercise Finisher

Kettlebell Swing You'll need: Kettlebells How to
Kettlebell Swing thumbnail
1 sets
100 reps
-- rest
Rest shortly after 15 swings, 25 swings, and 50 swings.

The 40-Minute Kettlebell Workout

Exercise 1.

Kettlebell Snatch You'll need: Kettlebells How to
Kettlebell Snatch thumbnail
6 sets
15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2.

Kettlebell Swing You'll need: Kettlebells How to
Kettlebell Swing thumbnail
5 sets
10 reps
-- rest

The 30-Minute Fat-Burning Workout This an every minute on the minute (EMOM), but at 2-3 minutes per set. Do for 30 minutes.

Exercise 1.

Burpee You'll need: No Equipment How to
Burpee thumbnail
1 sets
5 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2.

Kettlebell Snatch You'll need: Kettlebells How to
Kettlebell Snatch thumbnail
1 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3.

Mountain Climber You'll need: Medicine Ball How to
Mountain Climber thumbnail
1 sets
15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4.

Kettlebell Swing You'll need: Kettlebells How to
Kettlebell Swing thumbnail
1 sets
20 reps
-- rest

The 20-Minute EMOM Workout Do these moves every minute on the minute.

Exercise 1.

Close-Grip Pushup You'll need: Medicine Ball How to
Close-Grip Pushup  thumbnail
1 sets
5 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2.

Pushup How to
Pushup  thumbnail
1 sets
10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3.

Squat You'll need: Squat Rack How to
Squat thumbnail
1 sets
15 reps
-- rest
Davis does a "Hindu Squat" for this move.

The 10-Minute Time-Crunch Workout Alternate pushups and bodyweight squats in each set.

Exercise 1a.

Pushup How to
Pushup  thumbnail
1 sets
10 reps
-- rest
For each subsequent pushup move, do one less rep in the next set.

Exercise 2b.

Bodyweight Squat You'll need: No Equipment How to
Bodyweight Squat thumbnail
1 sets
2 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2a.

Pushup How to
Pushup  thumbnail
1 sets
9 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3a.

Pushup How to
Pushup  thumbnail
1 sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3b.

Bodyweight Squat You'll need: No Equipment How to
Bodyweight Squat thumbnail
1 sets
3 reps
-- rest
Continue alternating until you reach 10 reps (or until you get tired).
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