The most important muscle stretching focus for athletes that sprint regularly is the hamstring (or “hammy”). When players ignore these basketball stretches is when the common hamstring pull can occur. Pulling a “hammy” can be very difficult to recover from. Even when it’s minor, it can really slow down all aspects of your game. Perform one or both of the hamstring stretching routines on a regular basis.
- Laying Hamstring Stretch
Lay flat on your back, keeping your eyes focused upward; grab the back of the thigh right below your knee with both hands. Pull that leg up toward your chest (but not all the way) until the raised thigh is at a 90° angle relative to the surface you?re lying on. Straighten your knee as much as possible, feeling the stretch in your hamstring (but don?t force it). Repeat with the other leg.
- Standing Hamstring Stretch
Find a chair or similar object that is close to hip height. Raise your right leg up, keeping it straight, and rest your heel on the object. Stand far enough back that you feel a stretch in your hamstring (the most noticeable will be closest to behind the knee). Lean forward reaching toward the shin until you feel a stretch, then repeat with your other leg.
Lower Back/Abdomen Stretch
This basketball stretch is great for your core. Lay stomach down on the ground with enough room to keep your legs straight. Place your hands palm down on the ground about even with your chest. Keeping your legs on the ground, raise your upper body up, feeling the stretch in your lower back and your abdomens.
Your muscle stretching should also focus on hip muscles. Hip stretches are a great focus for basketball stretches since your hip muscles are very important for change of direction. Perform the following stretching routines to keep your hips flexible and improve your lateral quickness.
- Laying Hip/Buttocks Stretch
Lay with your back on the floor and start with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Now cross your right leg over your left knee/thigh, similar to if you were crossing your legs while sitting down. Grab the back of your left leg with both hands and pull toward your chest until you feel the stretch in your right hip and buttock. Now repeat with your left leg being crossed over the right leg to stretch your left hip and buttock.
- Sitting Hip/Back Stretch
Sit on your butt with your left leg extended straight in front of you. Cross your right leg over the extended leg, placing your foot flat on the floor about at the knee. Now reach behind you “twisting” to the right. Place your right hand on the floor behind you and your left elbow on the right side of your right leg (crossed leg). Apply pressure with your left elbow against your right leg so that you feel a stretch in your right hip. The back stretch comes from reaching farther back to get a good “combination” stretching exercise of your hip and your back. The emphasis is on your hip, however. Repeat switching legs.
Most athletes are familiar with this stretching exercise. Pulled groins aren’t as common as pulled hamstrings, but you definitely don’t want to ignore this muscle stretching routine.
Sit on the floor and “bow” your legs together in front of you so that your feet are touching each other flat and your knees are bent outward (creating a diamond shape between your two legs). Now grab your feet with your elbows resting on the inside of each respective knee. Lean forward slightly, feeling the stretch in your groin. You can also apply slight pressure outward with your elbows.
As with the list at the top of the page, I’ve emphasized that there are 2 calf stretches that should be performed for any sprinting athlete. You may already have this knowledge, but in all of my years of playing basketball and wondering why my calves were always tight, no one showed me the second calf muscle stretching exercise until recently.
Every basketball player knows how important calf strength is to their game, so all basketball stretching routines should include calf stretches.
- Calf Stretch #1 (commonly known)
The first calf stretch is one that is commonly seen, especially in sprinters. Stand facing a wall or something stable that you can put both palms on to “push off.” You’re legs are going to be in a staggered position, with the calf you are trying to stretch in the rear leg. If you want to stretch your right calf, for example, then you are going to stand facing the wall/object and have your right foot planted firmly on the ground at a 90° to the wall/object. Keeping your back straight and your left leg flexed/bent about halfway between the wall and your right foot, lean into the wall/object until you feel a stretch in your right calf. Repeat this with your left foot planted in back.
- Calf Stretch #2 (less commonly known)
This calf stretch is one that no one had shown me until recently. It’s very similar to the 1st calf stretch, but focusing on the other part of the calf that other muscle stretching routines tend to forget.
Start facing an object that you can “push off” as explained above. This time, though, your legs aren’t going to be staggered as far apart and you’re going to be in more of a “seated” position in which both legs are bent (your back leg isn’t going to be stretched straight behind you). While bending down at both knees with the right leg slightly staggered behind the left (still at a 90° angle to the wall), keep your back straight and lean/push into the wall until you feel a stretch in your right calf. Repeat with your left leg staggered behind to stretch your left calf.
The quad stretch may be one of the easier basketball exercises to execute. Stand, and if needed, face something that can help support or balance you. Bend your right knee and lift your right foot behind you, pulling it toward your buttocks. You should feel a stretch in the front of your right thigh. Now repeat, grabbing your left foot and pulling it up behind you to stretch your left quad.
Upper Body Muscle Stretching
Shoulder/Upper Back Stretch
Clasp your hands together behind your back. Leaning forward, lift your hands up towards your head as far as you can go to get a comfortable stretch in your shoulders and back.
Your triceps help with long range shooting, so your muscle stretching routine should include them as well.
With both arms above your head, grab your right elbow with your left hand. Your right elbow should be bent so that your arm is somewhat folded in half. Pull your right elbow toward your head and slightly down to feel a stretch in your right triceps. You may also feel a stretch in your right shoulder. Repeat with your left arm.
Stand facing a wall or other immovable object. Place your right hand on the wall with your open palm at chest (pectoral) height. Keeping your hand on the wall, turn your body toward the left until you feel a good stretch in your right pec. Repeat with your left hand on the wall to stretch your left pectoral.
Note that this stretching routine is a great way to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome as well, especially if you’re spending a lot of time on a computer.
Like your triceps, your wrists are also very important in basketball, especially for long-range shooting. They should be included in your muscle stretching routines as well, perhaps most importantly when you are lifting heavy weights that your wrists have had to support.
Extend your right arm straight out in front of you, palm up. Now grab your hand and fingertips of your right hand with your left hand and pull it down and back so that you feel a stretch in your right wrist and forearm. Repeat this with your left arm extended.