There is a common perception that physical attributes like height and reach matter more in basketball than in any other sport. And to some extent, that is entirely true.
But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to work hard on your fitness if you are tall and have long arms! In fact, thanks to the way the sport has evolved in recent decades, fitness and workouts are more important than ever before to improve your basketball skills. Without a focused workout plan, you will not have the explosive speed, agility, and lateral movement that basketball demands.
So if you are really serious about the sport and want to do well in it, you are definitely going to need these workouts.
20 Exercises to Improve Your Basketball Skills
1. Front Squats
Strong legs are essential in athletics and sports, especially a game like basketball where you are on the move at all times.
Fronts squats are an essential exercise that helps build up your leg muscles.
When you do front squats correctly, all the muscle groups in your legs are engaged.
To get it right, remember to keep your chest up, with back straight and flat. During the squatting motion, push your hips down using a motion similar to sitting down into a chair.
The weight of your body should be evenly poised on your heels. Your elbows should be kept high throughout the exercise.
2. Clean High Pull
Regardless of whether you are on the offense or defense, you need explosive movements to grab those rebounds.
To improve your on-court rebound skills, you need weight training exercises that can translate high power into quick movements.
The clean high pull is one of the best exercises for that since it involves three major joints in your body.
In this exercise, your hip, knee, and ankles are extended.
This helps to improve your basketball skills like jumps, reactions, general awareness, and resistance to injuries.
As always, keep your back flat and the chest up. The power should be coming from your hips, with the shoulders in front of the bar for the fullest hip extension.
When dribbling the ball, or reaching out for a rebound, your hands are involved in pulling movements as opposed to pushing movements.
These movements require stronger biceps and upper back muscles.
And chin-ups are a straightforward way to strengthening these muscle groups.
Focus on getting the fullest range of motions possible when doing chin ups.
It can be hard, and you might find yourself flagging sooner than you expected. If this happens, just seek the help of a spotter or a band to keep up the work.
4. Power Lunge
Remember that part about the importance of explosive jumps in Basketball?
Well, this is another exercise to improve your jumping power and speed.
Just like squats, lunges are great for your leg muscles.
But they are better than squats in improving your balance and movement skills as well.
Try to keep your feet at a comfortable walking distance apart when you are in the initial lunge position.
Again, remember the chest up, shoulders back stance.
The focus should be on exploding into movement and then landing back in the same lunge position while maintaining your posture and form.
5. Towel Rack Rows
This is the second set of exercises for upper back and arm muscles.
Wrapping a couple of towels around the bar adds a different dynamic to this exercise.
It will help improve your gripping strength as well.
When doing this exercise, keep your body straight, especially the legs.
Initially, you may have trouble doing this workout properly, possibly due to lower strength levels.
In that case, you can start with bend knees. This will make towel rack rows much easier to perform.
As your fitness levels improve, you can try it with your legs straight.
6. Dumbbell Jump Squat
This is another exercise that contributes to increasing the strength and power in your lower body muscles.
It will help improve your ability to make explosive vertical jumps which can help you come out with a favorable outcome in those aerial duels.
But to get the most out of this exercise, you need to put a lot of focus on speed.
Faster reps are very important here, so don’t use very heavy dumbbells.
Anything within 15 to 30 percent of your max squat weight should be more than enough for this exercise.
The form should be similar to what you maintain for squats, but with dumbbells at your sides. Do pay attention to your landings.
You should be looking at getting off the ground without too much delay.
7. Push Jerk
So far, we have seen workouts that focus either on your lower body or the upper body muscles.
Doing push jerks require extra coordination between the two halves of your body.
So this exercise will help improve the overall synchronization of all the different muscle groups in your upper torso and legs.
Improved coordination between upper and lower body will help you perform moves better on the court.
Try to drive the momentum upwards with your legs before starting the press with your arms.
Your knees should be slightly bent when catching the bar. And once it has cleared your face, force the bar to finish above your head by slightly pushing your head down.
8. Close Grip Bench Press
When improving upper body strength, your triceps should be a critical focus area.
This is one of the best exercises for improving this particular muscle group.
In fact, it is much better than a regular bench press at enhancing your upper body strength.
When trying this exercise, keeps your hands at maximum shoulder width, and no more than that.
Your butt should be on the bench throughout the motions, with the feet firmly planted on the ground.
Pay particular attention to your elbows. They should not stray from close to the body.
9. Dumbbell Step Ups
Balance is crucial when you are continually doing pivots and lateral movements in basketball.
These step ups will train your lower body muscles and joints, one leg at a time.
This helps eliminate strength imbalances between both your legs.
It also improves your overall balance, making it a valuable exercise for basketball.
During the step ups, keep your chest positioned up.
When you initiate the move from the front foot, focus on your knee.
Once it reaches the upward position, hold it there for a second before coming down.
10. Barbell Curl and Press
The addition of a press routine adds some useful versatility to the standard barbell curls.
The standard version only works on biceps.
Along with the biceps, shoulder muscles are the ones that contribute the most to a sculpted and muscled look.
They are called mirror “muscles” and add the most to a players confidence levels.
The addition of a press ensures that you get a routine that works both the biceps and the shoulder muscles in one go.
The end result is better upper body strength, a better physique, and improved confidence on the court.
Perfect form and posture is the key to pulling off effective barbell curls and presses.
Avoid using your back or legs to do these movements.
11. Lateral Lunge
This exercise works on a group of muscles we haven’t focused on so far: the hips and groin muscles.
The lateral lunge works on these muscle groups exceptionally well.
And the action you take when you perform these lunges are similar to the ones you execute when performing sideways defensive shuffles.
So you basically kill two birds with one stone here.
Remember to keep your feet flat, and toes pointed straight when performing the lunges.
Squat as low as possible onto your leading leg, and hold the position for a couple of seconds.
You should ideally perform ten reps on one leg before switching to the other.
12. Glute Bridge
Glutes are another set of muscles which are vital to performing powerful and fast jumps.
The glute bridge is a fantastic exercise to improve the performance of your glutes.
These exercises improve the firing of these muscles and fine-tune the muscle engagement patterns.
You should be able to get more explosive jumps with this exercise.
Lie down and place a rolled up towel between your knees to perform the glute bridge.
Keep your feet flat, and knees bent at 90 degrees.
Move your hips up by squeezing your glutes until only your heels and shoulders touch the ground.
Then lower the hips, but do not touch the ground with them.
13. Physio Ball Leg Curl
This is another exercise that works on the lower body muscles, a bit like the glutes exercise above.
This variation of the leg curls focuses on extending your hips and forcing your hamstrings to shoulder the extra burden.
This exercise aims to improve the strength of your butt muscles and your leaping ability.
You will obviously need a physio ball to perform this workout.
Lie down on your back and put your heels on the ball.
Again, like in the glute bridge, use your glutes to raise and pull the hips towards you.
Try to make sure that the hips never touch the ground, or even drop as the ball comes towards you.
14. Lateral Bound
As the name suggests, explosive lateral power is your ultimate aim with this workout.
These steps will ensure that you can perform fast cuts better on the court.
Your defensive skills will improve considerably due to the improvements in lateral movements.
This exercise involves placing your balance on one foot and then squatting slightly.
Your other foot should be on the ground.
Use your legs and glutes to shift to the other leg.
Make sure that you hold your balance and land on the other leg only.
15. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
Coaches are quick to drill it into you that jumping should come from the hips, not the knees.
You should learn to hinge from your hips to get more powerful and explosive leaps.
The Romanian version of the Deadlift focuses on core muscle groups like the hamstrings, glutes, and back.
Thi workout will improve the strength in these areas.
You will require dumbbells for this exercise.
Make sure that the weight of the body is in the back area of your feet when you are standing.
Keep your back straight as you lower the dumbbells by shifting your hips back.
When you return to the original position, you should be using your hamstrings and glutes to push up.
16. Alternating Dumbbell Press
This one works on all the areas of your body which work together when you are performing things like jump shots.
A good jump shot requires a complete extension from the lats, all the way through your back, combined with adequate stability in your shoulder region.
The alternating dumbbell press works on your back, the latissimus dorsi (lats), and the shoulder muscles.
When doing this press, you have to hold the dumbbells in both arms on the outside of your shoulders.
Remember to keep your palms facing the thighs, and then bring the weights to your chest.
Lower one to your shoulder and then push it back up again.
Visualize a punching motion towards the ceiling when performing this exercise.
17. Goblet Squat
The goblet squat is a workout for the entire lower body muscles.
It helps increase strength in that area, and develop your lower body power.
As such, it is a good exercise for generally improved performance in basketball.
This is a workout that you do with the help of a kettlebell.
When at rest, hold it to your chest, as if you are about to drink from it.
Keep your weight on your heels, and squat while keeping the ball touching your chest.
Avoid lifting your toes. At the down position, your elbows should touch your knees.
This is a standard workout that almost accurately mimics the extensions and movements that you would require your body to do while performing a jump shot.
So this is something that works on your shoulders, back, lats, and the wrists.
Do it often to improve your overall back strength.
You will need a sturdy bar to hang from, with your hands in an underhand grip.
You can also use an overhand grip.
Do not forget to reach the full extension whenever you do pull-ups.
Otherwise, your muscles are not wholly extended as they would be in a jump shot.
19. Single Leg Hurdle Hop
This is an exercise that forces you to absorb forces of landing impact on one leg.
This will help condition your legs to avoid injuries in this situations better.
A lot of basketball injuries are caused by improper landings on your feet.
This workout requires a row of hurdles, set up in a line.
When you hop over them, try to land on on a single leg, and hold that leg.
The aim should be to learn how to do soft landings, where the force of impact is absorbed up the leg, through the hips, and into the glutes.
20. Medicine Ball Squat To Press
This is another exercise that mimics a common move that you will be performing on a regular basis on the court: the explosive jump.
When done properly, the bending of the hips will help you gain the optimal technique and improved power delivery for jumps.
The start of this routine is not too dissimilar from the goblet squat.
Instead of the kettlebell touching your chest, here it is a medicine ball.
Keep the ball at your chest level when performing a squat.
Then you should launch the ball straight up in the air, extending through the hips.
Some of the best exercises for basketball players are those routines that accurately mimic some of the frequent moves they have to pull on the court.
There is no emphasis on one particular area of the body since this is a sport that brings both upper and lower body muscles into the action.
You have to work your hips, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, lats, biceps and triceps, not to mention overall balance and coordination.