10 Exercises to Make You Better at Basketball

10 Exercises to Make You Better at Basketball

Once you’ve mastered hoops’ fundamentals—how to properly dribble, shoot, pass, and trash talk—you can get better at basketball by fine-tuning the way you train off the court. This collection of exercises to improve your game, courtesy of former basketball coach, veteran baller, and Beachbody’s Director of Fitness Steve Edwards, will increase your stability, stamina, and strength while aiming to keep you off your team’s injured reserve list.

“When we were creating P90X2, I went over the training diaries of many NBA players, and these are movements almost all of those players did,” Edwards says.

Some exercises to get better at basketball you’ll recognize from P90X2 and INSANITY. Others were borrowed from Dr. Marcus Elliott and his team from the P3 Peak Performance Project. Edwards recommends a thorough warm-up before engaging in this workout, and performing one set of each exercise in sequence.

When one round becomes a slam-dunk, add another to make it more of a challenge. Also, we promise that’s the last cheesy basketball pun.


Exercises That Can Make You Better at Basketball

1. Front squat

A solid base is important if you want to get better at basketball. You don’t want to lose your balance every time some lummox hand-checks you.

“Along with making your legs, trunk, and lower back strong, front squats will teach your body proper biomechanical alignment,” Edwards explains. “Tall people tend to naturally squat wrong by bending forward instead of sitting deep—and that’s not a strong position. When doing these, only squat down until your knees are at 90 degrees, since that’s the range of a defensive stance.”

How to do it:

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise the dumbbells upward and rotate your hands so they’re in the same position they’d be for a barbell squat (might require a lower body “kip” [dynamic move to hoist the weight] if you’re using heavy weight).
  • Descend into a squat position while keeping your back straight, your chest upright, your elbows parallel to the floor, and your butt over your heels.
  • Once your knees reach 90 degrees, return to the starting position.

2. Lateral skater

Breaking news: NBA scouts are not attending your pickup games. So exiting the game without spraining or tearing anything should trump all other concerns.

Lateral skaters work the quads, hamstrings, and calves, all of which will ultimately improve your game. But they also play a key role in strengthening the entire pelvic girdle, especially the gluteus medius.

“The gluteus medius—a small muscle in the butt—helps with hip stabilization and puts your body into a biomechanical alignment that greatly reduces knee and lower-extremity injuries,” he says. No wonder the folks at P3 make them a staple in their basketball-centric workout routines.

How to do it

  • Stand in an athletic position with your feet close together; bend at the waist with your knees and arms slightly bent.
  • Jump off of your left foot and land on your right foot while keeping your left foot off the ground. The opposite leg from the one you’re launching off of will naturally pendulum across your body.
  • Reverse it (jump off of the right foot and land on the left foot).
  • Perform equal reps on each leg.

3. Heel slide

As Edwards notes in his blog, you’re far more susceptible to non-contact lower-body injuries when hip alignment is askew.

Enter the heel slide. The form can be tricky, but perfecting the movement enables you to maintain proper hip alignment.

“If the middle of your butt isn’t hurting by the time you’re done, you’re doing it wrong,” Edwards says. The downside: You’ll need adequate wall space, so contemplate taking down the enormous Kurt Rambis portrait to free up some room.

How to do it:

  • This one’s a little complicated, so we’re going to let Steve take it away in this video.
  • Perform equal reps on each side.

4. Side plank leg raise

In every facet of the game—shooting, defending, sprinting off the court in shame after launching an air ball—you’re using core strength. Strengthening your core is essential if you want to get better at basketball.

For side plank leg raises, Edwards suggests raising both the upper leg and arm to provide more stability and to force the hip into place. He also stresses the importance of pointing the toes down on your elevated foot.

“Turning the toes downward will strengthen the gluteus medius along with your core,” he says. “Pushing the belly button forward will help maintain verticality. When the upper leg hangs out from the body, it most likely means you’re using the back and gluteus maximus muscles (in other words, cheating) instead of the gluteus medius.”

How to do it:

  • Lie on your side, keep your legs straight, and prop yourself up on your arm or elbow.
  • Raise both the upper leg and arm (remember to point that upper toe downward).
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

5. Bulgarian squat

Bulgarian squats build lower-body muscles. They also provide a reason to thank Bulgaria for contributing something to the world.

When paired with split squat jumps (we’ll get to those next), the two exercises team up to both strengthen the legs and enhance explosiveness. Both are crucial when you’re working to get better at basketball.

“This is a basketball-specific movement that you use in the game,” Edwards explains. “You want your back leg to be about 12 to 18 inches off the ground with your back knee almost touching the ground, like a lunge when you descend. Finding the proper weight and distance to use here will be trial and error.”

How to do it:

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at your sides with your arms straight, or move them into the same position you would when doing a barbell squat.
  • While you’re in a staggered stance (your left or right foot forward), place the top of your back foot on top of a bench (or a chair, couch arm, or stability ball—whatever’s available or at your comfort level).
  • Perform an equal of reps per leg.

6. Split squat jumps

The folks at P3 rely on split squat jumps regularly with their basketball clientele. Why? They enhance explosive power off of one leg. That’s something players need to snag rebounds, hit jump shots, and execute 360-backflip dunks… or layups.

“Doing a heavy contraction exercise like the Bulgarian or front squat before a dynamic movement makes the latter move safer,” he explains. “Your muscles are thoroughly warmed up, so it’s much harder to injure yourself. The cool thing is that you also free up something called high-threshold muscle cell motor units that will help you jump higher.”

How to do it:

  • Start in a a split stance, and drop into split squat position so your front upper leg is parallel to the floor and your rear knee is almost touching the ground.
  • Jump upward and quickly switch the position of your legs so you land in the opposite stance.
  • Perform a squat and repeat.
  • Perform equal reps on each side.

7.  Squat hops to wall squat

“The first thing you do when you’re tired in basketball is start to stand up and lose the position where you are strong and laterally quick,” Edwards says. Beachbody Performance Energize can help with that, but if you can’t sink down into a stance and D up, you might as well wear the other team’s jersey.

This squat hop to wall squat duo will supply your lower body with strength and stamina.

“Go for speed, not distance,” he says. “Move as fast as you can, tapping the feet as quickly as possible. And when you’re done, do a wall squat until failure.”

How to do it:

  • Get into a defensive stance (legs bent 90 degrees, back straight, head up), arms out like you’re guarding someone.
  • Perform 16 jumps rapidly (4 forward, 4 sideways, 4 to the other side, and 4 backward) and repeat it 4 times.
  • Find a wall and get back into your defensive stance with your arms and fingers extended and your back against the wall.
  • Stay in that position until failure.

Something to consider: If you sweat worse than a broken spigot and you’re doing wall squats at home, Superman a towel over your back to preserve the paint.

8. Fingertip push-ups

Whether you’re shooting, passing, or giving someone a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag after blocking a shot, your fingers play a crucial role. And they take a serious beating during basketball games.

Fingertip push-ups will toughen your digits and boost strength in your upper body and core, helping to improve your game.

“Work up to 25 reps, but aim for 15 or as many as you can do to start,” Edwards suggests. “Do some of them from your knees to build up strength if you need to.”

How to do it:

  • Assume a push-up position (wide- or narrow-grip).
  • Support your body weight with your fingertips instead of your palms.
  • Keep your head, neck, hips, and torso straight, and your back and shoulders stable as you descend.
  • Push up and repeat.

9.  Line hops

Proprioception is an internal mechanism that allows us to do cool things like control our limbs without having to look at them while they work. That’s how we can drive without the need to stare at our hands and feet.

Trouble is, that can be a detriment with basketball. We remember how to run, jump, and shoot from balling when we were kids, but if we haven’t played in a while our bodies may not be conditioned to carry out those in-game movements without suffering an injury.

“Line hops help with neuromuscular patterns,” he explains. “Just jumping on the balls of the feet will help get your body used to [those movements] again, as well as help with speed and quickness.”

How to Do It

  • Tape an “X” on the floor.
  • Hop quickly over a line, changing direction after every 5 jumps.
  • After 30 jumps, rest 30 seconds and complete another set.

10. Curl to overhead press

Owning a Bieber-esque physique will get you punished in the paint and leave you out of position when you’re hit with a hard screen. In other words, don’t neglect strengthening your upper body if you want to get better at basketball.

“With this movement, you’re building strength through a squat position, which you spend a lot of time in on the court,” Edwards says.

How to do it:

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at your sides.
  • Perform a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Return to the standing position and do a biceps curl.
  • When the dumbbells reach your shoulders, flip your hands over and press them over your head by thrusting from your hips (called a push-press).
  • Reverse the move, slowly, to the starting position, and repeat.