Basketball Warm Ups

Jonathan Thompson
Playing basketball

Basketball is a demanding sport that challenges the strength and endurance of multiple muscle groups. Like any other activity, though, it's important to warm up before heading on to the court. A well-designed warm up will prepare your body for the game, helping you to perform your best and avoid injuries. However, in order to qualify as "well-designed," that warm up routine has to be specific for basketball and target the muscles you're going to be using the most.

1. Jogging

While it might seem pretty basic, the simple act of jogging is a perfect way to prepare for your game. After all, once things actually get started, you will be doing plenty of running. So why not run to warm up since the whole point of a warm-up is to simulate the coming activity at a lower intensity? Because jogging uses a imilar movement to running but is performed at a moderate intensity, it's exactly what you need and a great way to start your warm-up.

Jog for 5 minutes at about 60 to 65 percent of your maximum effort.

2. High Knees

By adding an exaggerated knee lift to the standard running form, high knee drills help loosen your hips and lower back, which will allow you to move more freely on the court. That extra lift, though, will also challenge your balance and coordination. While that's a useful skill, it also means high knees might take a while to master. After jogging, follow these steps to get comfortable with the movement.

  1. Stand upright with your arms at your sides. While staying in one spot, slowly lift your right leg until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Lower your left and repeat with the left leg.
  2. Perform the slow leg movement as described above but allow your arms to swing naturally as they would when you were running.
  3. Gradually speed up the movement until you're stepping as quickly as you can with good form.
  4. While maintaining this motion, run down the length of the court twice.

As you progress, focus on increasing the speed of your leg lifts.

3. Butt Kicks

While high knees warm up the muscles on the back of your legs and hips, butt kicks will target those on the front of your thighs. Ultimately, these two movements will complement each other to help you move as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  1. Stand upright with your arms at your sides.
  2. Keeping your back straight and your head forward, run down the court.
  3. With each step, kick your moving leg back as far as you can. The heel of that foot should come close as possible to your glutes. Land on the ball of your foot and repeat.
  4. Run the length of the court twice.

4. Toy Soldier

While you might feel silly performing this particular movement, toy soldiers are really one of the most effective warm-ups. By combining different motions into one complex exercise, toy soldiers simultaneously work your shoulders, back, and legs while building your flexibility, coordination, and balance.

  1. Stand upright with your arms at your sides and your legs about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keeping your left elbow straight, swing the arm behind you in a circle to bring it over your head and in front of you. The movement should resemble the classic arm circle. As your arm comes forward, kick your right leg as high as you can. The goal is for your left hand to touch your right toes gently.
  3. Repeat the movement with your right arm and left leg.
  4. Perform this exercise down the length of the court once.

5. Square Hops

Basketball requires you to make rapid movements, often while changing directions. Although the small muscles and joints of your lower legs don't tend to get a lot of attention, they're important for this aspect of the game. Hopping in a square will prime your ankles and calves while also building your speed.

  1. Stand upright with your arms at your sides and your feet touching.
  2. Hop forward lightly, landing on the balls of your feet.
  3. Quickly hop to the right.
  4. Hop back.
  5. Hop left.
  6. One square is one rep. Complete 10 reps as quickly as you can.

6. Heel Walks

The small connective tissue running along the shin tends to be troublesome for many athletes, primarily because they're hard to stretch in any meaningful way. As a result, basketball players and other athletes who run frequently often deal with shin splints. Use heel walks as a way to loosen these muscles and avoid this common injury.

  1. Stand upright and point the toes of both feet upright as far as you can so you're balanced on your heels.
  2. Slowly walk forward.
  3. Walk down the length of the court once.

7. Side Lunges

Although the large quadriceps and hamstrings that line the front and back of your thighs tend to get the major of attention in training, there are also plenty of important muscles along the inner thigh. Remember, you aren't just moving forward or backward during a game. You need to be able to move quickly in every direction. Side lunges will build the total flexibility of your legs and help warm up some of these often ignored muscles.

  1. Stand sideways on one end of the court with your feet together, your back straight, and your arms at your side.
  2. Take a wide step to the side with your lead leg.
  3. Quickly drop as low as you can into a lunge position, keeping both feet fully planted on the ground.
  4. Stand upright and bring your feet back together so you are now further down the court.
  5. Repeat this movement until you've covered the full court.
  6. Leading with the other leg, make your way back down the court.

8. Inchworm

Your legs aren't the only muscles that get worked during a game. The muscles in your back, shoulders, and chest all come into play when you catch, pass, and shoot. To warm up those muscles and increase their flexibility and power, use the inchworm exercise.

  1. Stand upright with your legs about shoulder width apart and your arms at your side. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
  2. Bend forward at the hips to place your hands on the ground in front of you.
  3. Walk your hands forward until you're almost in a push-up position.
  4. Walk your feet forward until you're back to the posture in step two.
  5. Repeat until you've covered the length of the court.

Possible Modifications and Alternatives

Granted, this routine is a bit of a generalization and may not work for everyone in every situation. For example, if you have an injury, you'll need to give that problem area some special attention. If a movement produces sharp pain in a muscle or joint, stop that exercise immediately. Do not push through the pain.

What can you do if you just don't have time to invest in this full warm-up? In that case, about two minutes of the infamous burpee should do the trick. This full-body exercise will hit all the target muscle groups. Since it's intense, though, you can keep the duration short.

  1. Stand upright with your arms at your sides and legs about shoulder width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and hips so you are in a squat position with your hands flat on the ground in front of you.
  3. Quickly shoot your legs back behind you and land in a push-up position.
  4. Perform a push-up.
  5. Jump forward so your feet are back under your hips.
  6. Jump upright. That's one rep. Repeat the entire movement.

Putting It to Use

The reality is many people tend to ignore warm-ups. This short sequence, however, can help improve your game and your overall performance while also actively preventing potential injuries. Getting in the habit of performing a short warm-up should be considered a vital part of any complete training routine.

Basketball Warm Ups