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By Land or By Sea: Inside Vucevic’s Training Routine

Swimming in the Adriatic Sea and running track helped Nikola Vucevic prepare for this breakout season.



Nikola Vucevic trains on land and in the sea to prepare for basketball.

The 7’0, 260-pound center is having a standout season for the Orlando Magic. In his third year, he is averaging 19.3 points and 11.2 rebounds while ranking behind only Pau Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins in double-doubles (39). His preparation began long before training camp with a diverse offseason strength and conditioning program back home in Montenegro.

Vucevic was introduced to swimming at a young age. His parents began taking him to a pool in Belgium, where he lived at the time, between the ages of five and six. During one trip to the beach, his flotation devices broke and he was able to swim on his own. He has been comfortable in the water since then.

Years later, Vucevic goes to the beach nearly every day during the offseason. He hops on a friend’s boat and goes out into the Adriatic Sea. Sometimes he swims to relax. Once or twice a week, he does it for a workout.

“Swimming is really hard,” Vucevic told Basketball Insiders. “I swim from the boat to the beach, and back and forth a couple times.”

Vucevic, 24, finds swimming benefits small muscles and joints, and can also help rehab minor injuries. He makes sure to be careful and tests the waters before jumping into them.

“I haven’t had any scary experiences,” Vucevic said. “I never go too deep and I always go where there are other people. I don’t push as hard as if I run, because if I run and I get tired I can just fall on the ground. If I swim and I get tired, I’d drown. I’ll always make sure I’m careful enough to where I have enough energy in case I need it.”

Back on solid ground, Vucevic spends a lot of time at the track over the summer. He follows a program mapped out by the Magic coaching staff, which includes 800s, 400s, 200s and 100s. He does distance training first to build up stamina and conditioning, then transitions into sprints closer to training camp.

It’s not always fun, but Vucevic knows it’s necessary. He also finds it more enjoyable than the alternative of a machine.

“The track is my least favorite, but it’s a great (workout) so I deal with it,” he said. “I don’t do much of the treadmill. I feel like it’s boring because you run but you kind of stand in place. When I really run, I feel better.”

Vucevic prefers to go to the track with a friend, someone faster than him who will push him to improve. When he hits the gym, though, he likes to go solo.

During the offseason, Vucevic lifts weights four to five times a week. As long as he has his Spotify playlist, he can power through a workout.

“I listen to a lot of house music, French rap,” he said. “I like old school American hip hop, but not new. I used to love 50 Cent, Jay Z, Kanye West from 10 years ago. I like something that’s fast. My favorite DJ right now is Calvin Harris. (I also like) Martin Garrix, Alesso and Hardwell.”

During the season, Vucevic maintains his conditioning from the summer throughout the NBA schedule. Outside of practices, he spends time in the gym improving his individual skills, from his post game to his jumper. He focuses on agility on the court and strength in the weight room.

Vucevic is conscious about taking care of his body. He takes hour-long naps before each game and clocks extra rest the morning after playing. He also gets massages and goes in the cold tub, which he described as “probably the hardest part.”

From icy waters to coastal beaches, it’s all part of Vucevic’s training to be a dominant big man in the NBA.


Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

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