As a youngster, I always thought that stretching before basketball games and practices was a waste of time.
That all changed during high school after I suffered a strained hamstring in a pickup basketball game. I didn’t stretch before the game and paid the price with a painful injury.
Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Always stretch before playing basketball.
If you’re not sure what stretches to do, here are 8 of the best basketball stretches you can do to help improve endurance and flexibility before playing a game.
1. Dynamic Quad Stretch
Description: To perform the dynamic quad stretch, the basketball player will grab their right foot with their right hand while simultaneously raising the left arm toward the sky. After holding the stretch for a second or two, the player will take a step and do the same thing for the left leg.
After getting comfortable with this stretch, the player can then focus on pushing through the hips during the movement to help loosen up the hip flexors. Players can also add in a heel raise during the stretch to loosen up the calf muscles.
Muscle groups it stretches: Quads, hip flexors, calves
Why this stretch is so important: The quadriceps muscle is the largest leg muscle and it can be prone to injury. The hip flexors can also be strained during intense physical activity if they aren’t stretched properly.
Completing this stretch will help the athlete prevent injuries to all leg joints and each ACL.
2. Straight Leg Skips
Description: Start in a standing relaxed position. Complete a skip while extending your right leg out as far as it will go. Do the same motion with the left leg.
Don’t worry about how high your leg will go at first. Simply focus on warming up the hamstrings.
Muscle groups it stretches: Hamstrings, glutes
Why this stretch is so important: Basketball players need plenty of flexibility and range of motion in their hamstrings to be able to run and jump during practices and games.
Straight leg skips do a great job of loosening up the hamstring and glute muscles. These skips work well during a pre-game warm-up jog.
3. Butterfly Stretch
Description: Start by lying flat on the gym floor. Get both legs into the butterfly position by flaring out both knees and making the bottoms of the feet face each other. Use both hands to put a slight amount of pressure on the thighs.
This will loosen up the groin muscle. Take a short rest and then repeat the process while trying to stretch just a little bit further. Ideally, players should complete three to five reps to fully stretch the groin.
Muscle groups it stretches: Groin, hips, butt
Why this stretch is so important: This stretch is the best way to stretch the groin muscle. This is important for players because of all the quick cuts and agility movements that a basketball game requires.
Groin strains can often sideline players for several weeks, so getting the entire groin area loosened up before games and practices is a big deal. It’s easy to see why the butterfly is considered one of the most vital static stretches.
4. Arm Circles
Description: Arm circles are a popular warm-up exercise for all kinds of athletes. Start by spreading your arms out and completing some tiny circles with them.
Next, gradually make the circles bigger until you are reaching a full range of motion. Then move on to doing both tiny circles and large circles in reverse. Lastly, swing both arms over your chest and slap your back slightly.
Muscle groups it stretches: Shoulders, arms, chest
Why this stretch is so important: It may not seem like it, but the shooting motion that basketball players make is incredibly stressful on the shoulders and rotator cuffs. Warming up with some air circles is a great way to make sure your shoulder muscles are ready to shoot the ball.
5. Forward Lunge
Description: The forward lunge is one of the best dynamic stretches for basketball players. To do this stretch properly, start with both of your knees on the floor.
Next, extend one leg back behind you while bending your front leg. Keep your front leg bent while using your hands to lightly push against your front leg. This will help straighten your back leg.
The goal of the stretch is to get your front knee over your front ankle. You can also loosen up your torso by raising one arm and bending to the side. To get an even deeper stretch, try to push your chest and shoulders back as much as possible.
Muscle groups it stretches: Hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, calves, and trunk
Why this stretch is so important: Basketball is incredibly demanding on the leg muscles. Since lunges stretch virtually every muscle in the legs, it is considered one of the best stretches for basketball players.
6. Triceps Stretch
Description: For the triceps stretch, the player will start in a standing position with the right elbow bent. Next, the player should point the right elbow toward the ceiling and let the right hand touch the neck area.
Then, place the left hand on the right elbow to push it back a little further and give it a good stretch. After holding the stretch for at least 30 seconds, do the same stretch with the other arm. Complete two to three reps with each arm.
Muscle groups it stretches: Triceps, torso, shoulders
Why this stretch is so important: When warming up for a game, a lot of players don’t pay enough attention to their upper bodies. The triceps stretch is one of the best upper body stretches for basketball players because it’s the most effective way to get ready to complete the shooting motion.
The last thing a basketball player needs is a strained triceps muscle, which would severely limit his shooting ability. The triceps stretch helps prevent this from happening.
7. Knee Hugs
Description: The player should lie flat on his back with his toes pointed upward. Lift the right arm overhead while bending the left leg.
Next, grab the knee cap with the left hand and pull the leg toward the chest. Hold the stretch for a few seconds to loosen up the lower back muscles. Repeat the process with the alternate leg.
Muscle groups it stretches: Lower back, glutes, hamstrings
Why this stretch is so important: A lot of basketball players may not realize it, but all of that running during practice or games is incredibly hard on the lower back muscles and spine. The constant pounding can lead to back tightness and pain, which can negatively affect the player’s performance on the court.
Any type of back tightness will hinder a player’s ability to run properly because it limits the player’s hip extension. When the hips don’t extend properly, even more pressure is put on the lower back, which makes the pain even worse.
Knee hugs help loosen up the lower back muscles, which helps reduce or even eliminate back tightness. It’s a good idea to complete knee hugs before any type of basketball activity.
8. Calf Stretch
Description: Have the basketball player face a wall and stand about one step in front of it. Place the left foot slightly behind the right foot. Stabilize the body by leaning into the wall with your arms slightly bent.
To further increase the stretch, slightly bend the right knee. The player should feel a deep stretch in the calves and the Achilles tendon.
To combat any type of ankle tightness, place a towel underneath the toes of the foot. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Now, switch and complete the stretch for the other foot.
Muscle groups it stretches: Calves, soleus
Why this stretch is so important: A good calf stretch should be part of any basic stretching routine. This is especially true for basketball players since they use their calves to run and jump.
This stretch helps prevent calf injuries. It also helps prevent sprained ankles, which are common amongst basketball players.