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Basketball Stretches and Flexibility Exercises

Basketball stretches to improve your performance and do away with basketball injuries for good.

by Brad Walker | First Published October 31, 2010 | Updated November 12, 2018

An appropriate mix of skill, stamina and strength is essential for the game of basketball. If you desire to be in perfect shape to play basketball then regular basketball stretches will help. Basketball training helps take your game to the next level.

Muscles used in Basketball

Basketball Stretches and Flexibility ExercisesAll the muscles in the body play an important role in a game of basketball. Running, jumping and pivoting involve muscles throughout the trunk, legs and feet. The quadriceps and hamstring muscles also play a crucial role in these activities. The most critical activity in basketball is the vertical jump, an activity that involves several muscles including the abdominals, calf muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteus muscles. Your basketball stretches should target all these muscle groups.

A free throw in basketball involves the upper body muscles, such as the rotator cuff muscles, coracobrachialis, latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, brachioradialis, triceps brachii, anconeus and pronator teres. A range of hand and finger muscles also play a pivotal role. These include the palmaris longus, flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor carpi radialis, extensor carpi ulnaris, extensor carpi radialis longus, flexor digitorum profoundus, extensor indicis, extensor pollicus longus, etc.

Most Common Basketball Injuries

Like 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 tendonitis, 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 Benefits of Basketball Stretches

Stretches for BasketballRegular basketball stretches help to keep injuries at bay by ensuring a healthy and agile body. This routine especially protects players from overuse injuries, such as patellar tendinitis, also called jumper’s knee, in which the player feels pain in the tendon below the kneecap. Achilles tendonitis is also common, which is characterized by pain in the back of the lower leg, above the heels.

Other benefits of incorporating a regular basketball stretching exercises into your basketball training include: increased range of motion; improved posture; reduced fatigue and improved co-ordination.

Despite the numerous benefits, it is important to bear in mind that stretching can have detrimental effects when done incorrectly. Improperly done stretches can over time cause permanent damage to ligaments and joint. When performing the basketball stretches below, be sure to warm up first and if any of the exercises cause pain or severe discomfort, discontinue immediately. Review my article on the rules for safe stretching for more information.

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.

Watch the Basketball Stretches below

Click on the play button below to watch the 10 minute basketball stretching exercises video.

While 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 and stretching routines.

Get over 150 of the best daily stretch routines to do away with injuries; increase your flexibility; improve your sporting performance; and become loose, limber and pain free.


Brad Walker - AKA The Stretch CoachAbout the Author: Brad Walker 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 (author page) 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 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.

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