Level up with these ten warmup and cooldown basketball stretches from pro trainer Paul Fabritz to improve your athletic performance and kickstart recovery.
Benefits of Stretching for Basketball
If you’ve got dreams of improving your skills on the court, then dribble, shooting and defense drills will only get you so far. When performance trainer Paul Fabrtiz works with his college and professional athletes, he focuses on training muscles that are integral to the game, and one thing he never skips are the warmups and cooldowns.
“Before a game, it’s important to warm up to increase body temperature, which allows you to be less stiff and more athletic. A big part of the warmup is the stretching, but another big part is the activation,” coaches Fabritz. Although the whole body gets prepped while warming up, he emphasizes the importance of activating these four muscles that are key in basketball: hip flexors, adductors (the groin area), lats, and ankles.
Here, Fabritz walks you through warmup and cooldown stretches to do before and after a game or a workout. These are the same stretches he uses when he’s training pros like James Harden, so if you want to improve your performance and become an absolute force on the court, follow along.
DYNAMIC WARMUP BASKETBALL STRETCHES
QUAD STRETCH WITH A LEAN
Muscles We’re Stretching: Quad and Hip Flexor
Why: These are two of the most important muscles when it comes to jumping higher, so be sure to stretch them out to be more explosive on the court.
1. Lift one leg and grab your foot, pulling your heel to your hip. You’ll feel a stretch in your quad, the front of your thigh.
2. Lean your torso forward, as parallel to the floor as you can. This works your balance and gives more stretch in your hip flexor, or the front of your hip.
3. Return to an upright position and take three steps forward.
4. Repeat sequence on the alternate leg for a total of 10 reps.
Muscles We’re Stretching: Adductors (a.k.a the groin muscles)
Why: This is the most frequently strained muscle in basketball, so it’s important to get thoroughly warmed up and mobilized to prevent injuries.
1. Standing upright, skip to the side for a two-count, landing in a lateral lunge.
2. Bend into your right knee, straightening your left leg.
3. Shift to bending into the left knee, extending the right leg. You’ll feel a stretch in your inner thigh and groin area.
4. Stand upright and skip twice again laterally, dropping into the lateral lunge on both legs.
5. Repeat this sequence 5 times in one direction, and 5 coming back in the other.
Muscles We’re Stretching: Posterior chain, Lats
Why: The lat muscles are important for getting proper elevation in our shot. This is one of the most important stretches for warming up your shooting mechanics.
1. Find a pole or a wall and bend so your torso is parallel with the ground, hinging at the hips.
2. Send your hips back to feel a stretch through the posterior chain, which includes the hamstrings, the glutes, the back muscles, and the lats.
3. Rotate to your left to feel a stretch in your right lat muscle.
4. Rotate to your right to feel a stretch in your left lat muscle.
5. Complete 10 rotations on each side.
STRAIGHT LEG SKIPS
Muscles We’re Stretching: Hamstrings
Why: When you’re running fast and jumping high, elasticity is the key. This movement is a great way to get more elasticity in the hamstrings.
1. In a standing position, kick your leg out in a skipping motion, extending your leg fully to feel a stretch in your hamstring.
2. Alternate leg kicks with each step.
3. Move slowly, and work your way up to higher kicks until your leg is almost parallel to the floor with the thigh at the top.
4. Do 20 kicks per leg, totaling 40 kicks.
WALL SIDE GLUTE ACTIVATION
Muscles We’re Stretching: Glutes
Why: The glutes are the number one muscle to activate for running faster and jumping higher. Be sure to rev up this muscle before every workout and game.
1. Place your hands on a stable surface like a wall or a pole and lean into it at about a 45-degree angle.
2. Lift one knee so that your thigh is parallel with the floor, and drive down into your standing leg, squeezing your standing glute as you push into the wall.
Why: Stretching and lengthening the soleus muscle within the ankle to help us jump higher, land lower, and explode past defenders better.
1. Place your foot on a small step or stair tread that is about 6 inches or less off the ground.
2. Descend into a low lunge, driving the forward knee beyond the toe to challenge your ankle mobility. Be sure to keep your heel down to get the most out of the stretch.
3. Hold for 3 seconds before standing up. Repeat 8 reps on each side.
Even though these are cooldown moves, it’s important to perform a general cardio cooldown before hopping into static stretches. After a basketball game or a cardio workout, Fabritz suggests ramping down your heartrate over a five-minute period; “Jog, then go down to a slower jog, then to a fast walk, then a slow walk.” Though this may seem simple, Fabritz emphasizes that it’s an effective way to get the blood circulating to help begin the recovery process.
Once you’ve slowed yourself down, it’s time to sink into recovery even more with these essential cooldown basketball stretches. By holding static stretches, you’re re-lengthening the muscles that shortened during the workout. Plus, stretching and breathing deeply signals to your parasympathetic nervous system that it’s time to chill, and that’s where the recovery happens.
While you’re stretching, try Fabrtiz’s 7-11 breathing technique, where you breath in through the nose for 7 seconds, and exhale through the nose for 11 seconds.
Muscles We’re Stretching: Glutes and lateral hip area
Why: Glutes get a big workout during basketball, and this stretch re-lengthens the muscles and kickstarts the recovery process.
1. Sit down on the right side of your hip with your right leg in front and left leg behind you.
2. Bend both legs so that each is at a 90-degree angle, and lean toward your front leg, bringing your chest down to your right knee as close as is comfortable.
3. Rest your forearms on the ground and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
HALF KNEEL QUAD/HIP FLEXOR
Muscles We’re Stretching: Quads (front of thigh) and hip flexors
Why: Helps lengthen the muscles responsible for stride length and speed on the court.
1. Using a pad or a pillow, place your left knee onto the cushion and your right foot on the ground in front to create a half-kneeling position. It can help to hold onto a wall or pole for added balance.
2. On the grounded left leg, pull your foot as close towards your hip with your left hand as is comfortable. If you don’t have the range of mobility in your quad to pick it up, keep your foot on the ground.
3. Lean forward, keeping your back straight, breathing steadily to feel that stretch in the left quad and hip flexor.
Why: Lengthening the adductors helps prevent injuries and improves lateral motion for defensive plays.
1. Using the cushion, come into a half-kneeling position with your left knee on the cushion and your right leg extended straight out to the side.
2. Sit your hips back toward your heels, bringing them as close as possible.
3. Place your forearms on the ground in front of you and take some deep breaths, feeling the stretch in the groin.
4. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
DOWNWARD DOG WITH HEEL MODIFICATION
Muscles We’re Stretching: Posterior Chain (the back of the body containing calves, hamstrings, glutes)
Why: The three angles of this stretch help lengthen all the muscles in the posterior chain in a balanced way.
1. Starting in a push-up position, send your hips up toward the ceiling, keeping your back and legs straight.
2. Turn your heels out so your toes are pointing inward and hold for 10 seconds.
3. Turn your heels and toes straight forward and hold for 10 seconds.
4. Turn your heels in and your toes outward, and hold for 10 seconds.
Stretching for Success
If you’re looking to improve your game, Fabritz suggests doing these stretches every day to help stay flexible and prevent injury on the court. Just like the pros he works with, you can get the most out of your basketball training and kickstart your recovery with these warmup and cooldown moves.