Basketball Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Basketball stretching exercises to improve your game and do away with basketball injuries for good.
The game of basketball involves two teams, each made up of five players. The object is to throw a ball through a 10 foot high hoop or basket, according to established rules of the game. Throwing the basketball upward and through the basket accrues points to the player’s team, with the highest score at game’s end deciding the winning team. Basketball games consist of four quarters of 10 minutes each in the case of international competition or 12 minutes for NBA (National Basketball Association) games.
If you’re looking to improve your basketball game or just seeking to prevent basketball injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that’s just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
The basketball court contains a basket at either end, with teams advancing in turns toward opposite ends in order to attempt to score baskets. Advancing toward the opposing team’s basket is done by means of bouncing or dribbling the ball, or by passing it to a fellow team member. Players are not allowed to interfere with opposing team-members through aggressive physical contact, but may intercept passes and block attempts to score baskets.
Professionally, basketball is most commonly played indoors, though it is a highly popular amateur sport, played in standard form and variations (including one-on-one) for recreation in many countries. The game appears to have been invented in December 1891, by Dr Naismith, a physical education instructor from Canada, as a form of gymnasium recreation for his students in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith used a suspended peach basket in this earliest form of the game, though modern baskets are constructed from metal, with fiber netting that the ball passes through after a successful basket. As a standard basketball had yet to be developed, Naismith’s version made use of a soccer ball instead.
The original game seems to have borrowed elements from a poplar children’s game of the time, known as Duck on a Rock, though Naismith dubbed his new sport “basket ball.” The first official basketball game took place in the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA gymnasium on January 20, 1892. Nine players competed on a basketball court roughly half the size of today’s National Basketball Association (NBA) court.
Basketball involves muscles throughout the body. Running, pivoting and jumping employ a full range of muscles in the feet, legs and trunk, with particular concentration in the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. The vertical jump in basketball is critical and involves a range of muscles, particularly:
- Abdominals: These muscles are flexible, supporting the back through a range of motion. In particular, the abdominal muscles on the sides, which assist in turning and twisting, known as the obliques, work the hardest, especially in the execution of the jump shot.
- Calf muscles: Located at the back of the lower leg, these muscles are used intensively to achieve vertical height when jumping.
- Hamstrings: These powerful muscles run along the back of the thigh, from the lower pelvis to the back of the shin bone. Hamstrings function to extend the hip joint and flex the knee joint.
- Quadriceps: Located in the knee, the large thigh muscles known as quadriceps muscles are connected to the patella (kneecap) by the quadriceps tendon, while a separate tendon – the infrapatellar tendon – connects the patella to the top of the tibia (shin bone). Quadriceps are a focus of training for basketball players, especially for in order to improve jumping capacity.
- Gluteus Muscles: Known as glutes, these muscles, are responsible for a large portion of the upward thrust necessary in the vertical jump. The gluteus maximus originates along the crests of the pelvic bone crests and attaches to the rear of the femur. Its primary function is hip extension (as the thigh moves to the rear).
As a strong vertical jump gives the athlete considerable advantage in scoring, all five of these muscle groups should be equally targeted in basketball training.
During the free throw in basketball, numerous upper body muscles are employed, including rotator cuff muscles, deltiods, coracobrachialis, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major, biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, triceps brachii, anconeus, pronator teres, and pronator quadratus.
A multitude of muscles in the hands and fingers come into play, including the flexor capri radialis, palmaris longus, flexor carpi ulnaris, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor carpi radialis brevis, extensor carpi radialis longus, flexor digitorium superficialis, flexor digitorum profoundus, flexor pollicus longus, extensor digitorum, extensor indicis, extensor digiti minimi, extensor pollicus longus, extensor pollicus brevis, and the abductor pollicus longus.
Most Common Basketball Injuries
Like many athletic injuries, those occurring in basketball may be classified as overuse injuries and traumatic injuries.
Overuse injuries occur when a particular area is put under continual stress and becomes damaged in the process, causing pain, loss of movement, in many cases, swelling. One such injury common to the sport is patellar tendinitis, also known as “jumper’s knee,” which is characterized by pain in the tendon just below the kneecap.
Another typical overuse injury is Achilles tendinitis, involving the tendon connecting the muscles in the back of the calf to the heel bone. The result of this injury is pain in the back of the leg, slightly above the heel. In more severe cases, the Achilles tendon can tear, requiring medical treatment and immobilization of the injury to allow healing.
Shoulder injuries involving overuse are not uncommon and may involve the tendons in their shoulders. The rotator cuff of the shoulder is made up of four muscles, attached by tendons to the shoulder bones. Inflammation and pain can result from overhead activities, including throwing the basketball.
Unlike repetitive or overuse injuries, traumatic injuries result from a sudden forceful event. Among the most common traumatic injuries in basketball are jammed fingers, which can range in severity from minor injury of the ligaments, to a fractured bone. Such injuries require adequate care and may need to be splinted to ensure proper healing. Muscle pulls or tears are common basketball injuries, often occurring in the large muscles of the legs.
- Ankle sprains may be the most frequent basketball injury, often occurring when one player lands on another’s foot or during a rapid change of direction. The result causes the stretching or tearing of the ligaments connecting bones and supporting the ankle. Ligaments tearing may be partial or complete.
- Knee injuries Knee injuries are potentially dangerous and debilitating. The knee may be sprained, with a tearing of ligaments or joint capsule. Twisting the knee can tear the meniscus – tissue acting as a cushion between the bones of the upper and lower leg at the knee. This injury may require surgical treatment.
Tears to ligaments supporting the knee may also be serious. A tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the more common ligament injuries. Tears in the ACL require prompt medical attention and may require surgery.
Injury Prevention Strategies
- Proper warm-up is essential. Jumping jacks, stationary cycling or running or walking helps limber up muscles, preventing strains and other injuries.
- Be aware of the position of other players on the court, to avoid collisions.
- Proper, snug-fitting and supportive footwear can help avoid injuries. Cotton socks absorb perspiration, also providing extra support to the foot. Use of ankle supports can reduce the incidence of ankle sprains.
- Use of a mouth guard helps protect the teeth and mouth.
- Safety glasses should be used by those wearing eyeglasses.
- Basketball courts, whether indoors or out must be free of obstructions and debris
Further, players should be knowledgeable about first aid methods and familiar with first aid options for minor injuries including strains or sprains, facial cuts, bruises, or minor tendinitis.
The Top 3 Basketball Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for basketball; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.
Standing Reach-up Quad Stretch: Stand upright and take one small step forwards. Reach up with both hands, push your hips forwards, lean back and then lean away from your back leg.
Rotating Stomach Stretch: Lie face down and bring your hands close to your shoulders. Keep your hips on the ground, look forward and rise up by straightening your arms. The slowly bend one arm and rotate that shoulder towards the ground.
Single Heel-drop Achilles Stretch: Stand on a raised object or step and place the ball of one foot on the edge of the step. Bend your knee slightly and let your heel drop towards the ground.
Looking at photos and watching videos on your computer is fine, but to really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a free copy of my Stretching DVD & CD-ROM.
The exercises and recommendations on this page are just a small sample of the many stretching exercises presented on my free Stretching DVD. In total, you'll get 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you where ever you go.
The Stretching DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out my free Stretching DVD & CD-ROM for yourself.
About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the Stretch Coach and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.