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  • Stephen Garner, PT, DPT, BFR-1

Physical Therapy For Basketball Players: Four Simple Exercises for Long-Term Development

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

There's nothing more devastating than seeing an athlete get injured, especially if it's a career-threatening injury. From Derrick Rose to Yao Ming, we've seen how injuries can affect players and nobody wants to watch from the sidelines.

Being such a high-intensity and high-impact sport, proper training is essential for basketball players to boost athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Here are a few ways basketball players can make their training more specific to the sport while staying healthy.

Exercise: Stretch hip flexor/quadriceps

First, here is a great stretch to improve your hip flexor/quadriceps muscle length and hip and knee mobility:

By elevating the rear foot and reaching your arms overhead, we can take our pelvis, hip, and knee through a great stretch. Keep your knee right over your ankle, and the back knee directly under the hip. Go slow and controlled. 

Exercise: Rear foot elevated split squat

Secondly, a rear foot elevated split squat is a great exercise for a basketball player. This is a safer alternative to heavy back squats and research has demonstrated that this can greatly increase quadricep, glute, and hamstring strength.

You want your front ankle right underneath the knee, that way we can fully load all the hip musculature. You can vary this with different foot angles, weights in one arm, or both. The more variability the more we need to adapt which can challenge our neurological connection. There are also ways to continually progress this and program this.


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Exercise: Isometric exercise with an “active foot” or “floating heel”

Thirdly, this isometric exercise with an “active foot” or “floating heel” is an excellent way to get a maximum contraction in the hip musculature and in the feet.

Isometrics have great value in a basketball strength program as they allow for an easy mind-to-muscle connection and recruit more muscle fibers/motor units. With the exercises we do, we want to get maximum intent each time, meaning that everything we do is intentional and planned. I love adding the basketball for fun but also to challenge this isometric exercise even more by adding a perturbation in different directions. 

Exercise: Kettlebell alternating lunges/scissor jumps

Lastly, this kettlebell alternating lunges/scissor jumps exercise focuses on sport-specific deceleration. This allows your body to contract, relax, contract, and relax again.

It isn’t always about how much you can lift, but more about how quickly and efficiently you can lift while changing gears. Pausing at different points allows you to improve your deceleration, as well as organize and put yourself in a position to strike harder and faster. This dynamic exercise can be used as a warm-up, or during a workout as it challenges multiple planes of movement and wakes up our neurological system. A lot of basketball moves are all about the setup. Be smooth, be relaxed, and get faster!

With all of these exercises, take your time and do not rush your sets. This is not endurance training, utilize your rest time. We are also not looking to “chase the burn” with any of these. Some of these will have fatigue/burn, but some may not. We are not in the “no pain, no gain” mindset. We are ultimately looking for long-term development to keep you safe and healthy. Always listen to your body, and never push past joint pain (knee, ankle, back pain).

These are just a few ideas to mix into your current routine. The exercises themselves aren’t going to make or break you, it is all about how you program it. There is much more depth to this, and if you want to learn more or get on a full program, give us a call at one of our locations or come find me at our Carmel Valley office.

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Dr. Stephen Garner PT, DPT, BFR-1 is a Physical Therapist at Rehab United Carmel Valley. As a graduate of the University of St. Augustine's Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, Dr. Garner has always emphasized the implementation of treating the whole body as one, using Applied Functional Science, and developing an individualized plan for each person. Stephen specializes in sports rehabilitation and injury prevention. Throughout his four-plus years of experience, Dr. Garner has treated many high-level athletes and people of all walks of life to return to what they love pain-free.

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