Basketball Stretches and Flexibility Exercises

Basketball stretching exercises to improve your game and do away with basketball injuries for good.

by Brad Walker | First Published July 7, 2007 | Updated July 16, 2017

Basketball Stretches and Flexibility ExercisesIn basketball, two teams comprising of five players each throw a ball through a 10 foot high hoop or basket. Throwing the basketball upwards and through the basket accrues points to the player’s team. The team with the higher score at the end of the game wins. There are four quarters of 10 minutes each in international competition.

A basketball court has a basket at either end. Players advance towards the opposing team’s basket while bouncing or dribbling the ball or by passing it to a fellow team member. Aggressive physical contact with the opposing team players is not permitted. Players can, however, intercept passes and block attempts to score baskets.

The game was invented in December 1891 by Dr. Naismith, a physical education instructor from Canada for his students in Springfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Naismith had borrowed elements from a popular children’s game called ‘Duck on a Rock’.

The first official basketball game was played at Massachusetts YMCA gymnasium, Springfield on January 20, 1892.

Anatomy Involved

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

Basketball Stretching ExercisesLike many athletic injuries, those occurring in basketball may be classified as overuse injuries and traumatic injuries.

Overuse 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.

Traumatic injuries
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 below each stretch.

Basketball hip and quad 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.

Basketball core and side stretch

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.

Basketball lower calf and Achilles stretch

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.

The Stretching Handbook, DVD & CD-ROMWhile the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of stretches.

To do away with stiff, tight muscles and joints, and become loose, limber and pain free, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility. In no time you'll...

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If you’d like to be able to bend, reach and turn without restriction or discomfort, all the stretches you need are right here.

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Get back to the activities you love. Whether it’s enjoying your favorite sport, or walking the dog, or playing with the grand kids. Imagine getting out of bed in the morning with a spring in your step. Or being able to work in the garden without “paying-for-it” the next day.

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Brad Walker - AKA The Stretch CoachAbout 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.