Dynamic Basketball Warm Up Guide (20 Drills and Exercises)

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As a basketball coach, one of your responsibilities is making sure that your players are physically prepared before each game and practice.

One of the most important ways a player can prepare is with a proper basketball warm up.

Specifically, a dynamic stretching routine.

The reality is that a truly effective basketball warm up is overlooked by most players (especially at the youth level), which is why coaches need to make this a priority.

Everyone has likely seen the classic “stretching circle,” where one player or coach stands in the middle as the leader, and the other players circle around to follow.

While there is still merit to this method, most exercises done in this format are static stretches.

(A static stretch is one that focuses on stretching a muscle to its farthest point and then maintaining or holding that position)

In this article, we want to explain why your team should instead be getting ready with a dynamic stretching warm-up to prepare for practices and games.

First, I’ll explain why this is important...

Why a Dynamic Warm Up is Important

One of the primary goals of using a dynamic stretching warm-up routine is to get the muscles to their working temperature, and stretching them in order to improve their function.

While static stretching is designed to lengthen a muscle or a group of muscles and may feel as though it is providing a better stretch, sometimes it may actually lessen that muscle’s performance.

The purpose of stretching before a practice or a game is to prepare players to play at full speed, and dynamic stretching is designed to prepare the body for high intensity exercises.

Static stretching merely loosens those muscles.

While dynamic stretching is primarily designed to get blood flowing physically, it will also get blood flowing mentally for your players.

Dynamic stretching will not only benefit your players in the short term, but also in the long term.

Even though this is being used as a warm-up routine for an upcoming practice or game, dynamic stretching will also reduce the risk of injury in the long term.

20 Basketball Warm Up Exercises

There are hundreds of different exercises that can be considered dynamic stretches. Many of them also have different variations that you can explore.

Below are twenty examples of basic dynamic stretches that you can use to prepare your team for workouts, practices, or games at any level.

1. Walking High Knees

Work on the flexibility of your hips, glutes, and hamstrings with Walking High Knees.

Lift your knee as high as comfortable with each step, making sure to keep your chest up and shoulders back throughout.

As the name suggests, these are done at a walking pace, as opposed to the run that is often commonly used for high knees.

2. Knee Hugs

Similar to Walking High Knees, players should walk forward and use their arms to physically hug their knee up to their chest on each step to perform Knee Hugs.

Again, the hips, glutes, and hamstrings are the muscles that will primarily be activated with this exercise.

3. Jumping Jacks

Work the glutes, quadriceps, and hip flexors with Jumping Jacks - an exercise that everybody has done before.

Make sure your players are spreading their feet beyond shoulder-width apart and that their hands are nearly touching above their head on every repetition.

4. Backpedaling

Backpedaling will primarily activate the quads, and also the glutes, calves, and hamstrings.

As this is another exercise that all of your players have probably done before in some capacity, points of emphasis should be keeping their hips down and reaching back as far as they can to perform each step.

5. Ankle Pops

Ankle Pops should be similar to the motion of jumping rope, but instead your players will move forward with every jump.

The goal is to progressively improve the range of every jump throughout. Emphasize jumping lightly off the toes and keeping knees slightly bent.

While Ankle Pops are a dynamic stretch designed to strengthen the ankles and also work the quadriceps, this is also a chance for your players to work on coordination and rhythm.

6. Butt Kicks

This is another exercise that many of your players have probably done before, so emphasizing technique is important.

Make sure your players keep their ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders facing the direction they are moving, and set the goal of driving their heels up toward their butt as many times as possible over the allotted distance of the exercise. 

7. Quad Walk

The Quad Walk is very similar to Butt Kicks, but is instead performed at a walking speed. On each step, players should use their hand to physically pull their heel up to their butt.

This will again loosen up the quadriceps and hip flexors.

8. Over the Fence

To perform Over the Fence, players should face the opposite direction from where they will be traveling.

They should then lift one knee up as high as they can, and rotate the knee backward as though they are trying to step over an imaginary fence behind them.

Alternate legs, traveling backwards for the duration of the exercise. Over the Fence is designed to stretch the hamstrings, groin, and hip flexors.

9. Frankenstein March

One great exercise to work on hamstring flexibility is the Frankenstein March.

Keeping one plant leg straight down, kick the other leg up with the goal of kicking the fingertips on the opposite hand. Then alternate throughout the allotted distance of the exercise.

10. Lunges

Lunges are one of the most popular dynamic stretches, and can be a building block for many more exercises. It mimics the running movement that is essential in basketball, and most other sports.

Lunge forward with one leg by bending both knees and keep your trunk upright. Keep moving forward and repeat on the opposite leg.

Make sure the knee is stable during the lunge – keep the knee over the foot – don’t let the knee fall inward.

11. Low Lunges

While the lunges above will be done on the move, Low Lunges will be performed from a stationary position.

Your players should take a long lunge forward as though they are performing a regular lunge, and then bring the elbow of the same knee that’s forward down toward the inside of the ankle, and hold that position for 5-10 seconds.

They should then move their hands to each side of their forward foot and press the heel down toward the ground, and hold that position for 5-10 seconds. Then stand back up, and repeat on the other leg.

12. Side Slide

With feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart and staying low to mimic a defensive position, your players should step with their lead leg and push off with their plant leg.

This will increase blood flow and also enforce a defensive fundamental.

An emphasis point to focus on is that the feet should never come close to touching each other. In fact, they should always be at least 6 inches apart.

13. Squats

The act of squatting mimics the motion of jumping, which of course is a motion you want your players to be prepared for.

Standing in place with their feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, your players should drop their hips as low as they can, while also maintaining a straight back and keeping their knees centered over their feet.

14. Carioca

Carioca is meant to improve lateral movement, agility, and footwork. Face sideways and cross the trailing leg in front and then behind, and continue in the sideways direction.

If your players are performing this exercise in a down-and-back format, they should stay facing the same direction coming back as they were going down. 

15. Arm Circles

Arm Circles are another common exercise that your players have probably done before.

They should circle their arms forward using small controlled motions, progressively making larger circles. These will get blood moving, and will primarily work the shoulders, triceps, and biceps.

After 10 full Arm Circles forward, they should reverse the direction of the motion for 10 full Arm Circles backward.

16. Walking Lunge with Rotation

Lunge forward with one leg by bending both knees and keep your trunk upright. After you have lunged and your knee is a couple of inches off the ground, rotate your upper body with arms at shoulder level to same side as forward leg

Keep moving forward and repeat on the opposite leg. Make sure the knee is stable during the lunge, keeping the knee over the foot.

17. Inchworm

The Inchworm helps strengthen the muscles in the front half of the body while also stretching the muscles in the back half of the body, and is designed to get blood flowing.

Start with feet hip-width apart. Your players should bend down at the waist, reaching for their toes. After touching their toes, they walk out into a plank.

Once they’re in the plank position, they should drop their hips down and look up. They can then move back up, walking their hands back to their feet. Stand up and repeat.

18. Forward Leg Swings

To do Leg Swings as a team, spread your players out around the gym or whatever space you are in so that they all have their own space against a wall.

Players should reach out and put one hand on the wall for support, and face straight ahead.

Swing either leg forward and back like a pendulum, keeping a tall posture. Start with light, easy swings and progressively increase the range of motion.

They should do 20 swings per leg. This will increase blood flow, particularly to the hamstrings and hip flexors.

19. Lateral Leg Swings

Lateral Leg Swings can easily be paired with the Forward Leg Swings above. This time, your players should be facing the wall and reaching out in front of their body for support.

Swing one leg out to the side, and then back across the body. Again, start with light, easy swings and progressively increase the range of motion.

This will work the hips, and the inner thighs and outer thighs. 

20. Glute Walk

As you may have guessed by its name, the Glute Walk is meant to activate the glutes before a workout.

Much like Walking High Knees, players start by lifting one knee up as high as comfortable. If they lift the left knee, then the left hand goes on the left knee, and the right hand goes on the left ankle.

They should then pull their knee and ankle in towards the chest. Take a step, and repeat on the other leg.

The Perfect 5-Minute Basketball Warm Up

There are many more options for stretches that you can implement into your team’s dynamic warm-up, and of course, you will not have time to jam all of them into the preparation for just one workout, practice, or game.

Ideally, you should be able to get your team stretched out using some of the exercises above within 5 minutes. After all, nearly every coach has dealt with limited practice time, and you can not spend all of it on stretching.

In order to maximize time, you should organize the dynamic exercises you want to perform into 3 different groups.

1. Stationary Exercises

One of those groups is for exercises that are performed while standing in place (Arm Circles, Leg Swings, Low Lunges, etc…).

Spread your players out far enough so they have room to perform the exercises freely, but close enough that they can still hear you. These exercises can be done for 30 seconds each.

2. Slower Pace Exercises

Once you have completed the stationary exercises, line your players up across the baseline, and choose a few exercises that are done on the move, but at a slower pace (Glute Walk, Walking High Knees, Lunges, etc…).

Your players should perform the exercise from baseline to baseline, and then jog back to the original baseline between each exercise. Jogging in itself can also be considered a dynamic exercise.

3. Faster Pace Exercises

Now that your players are on the move, you can finish your dynamic warm-up with a few of the exercises that are done at a faster pace (Carioca, Butt Kicks, Ankle Pops, etc…).

Regardless of which exercises you choose, your goal should be to find a few within each of those groups that will start your players in a stationary position, and then get them moving, and ultimately to activate multiple muscle groups.

Since there are so many options, it can be great to mix the exercises up within your dynamic warm-up so that your players are not doing the same thing every single day.

Conclusion

A dynamic stretching basketball warm up is something that you can get done in a short amount of time that will have an impact in the immediate future, and also down the road.

Like just about everything else, basketball is evolving, and the process to warm-up to play basketball has evolved as well.

The days of holding one stretch in place for 30 seconds at a time have largely been left in the past, in favor of dynamic exercises that are designed to improve range of motion and mimic the actions your players will use while playing basketball.

Taking 5 minutes every time your team is together to go through a dynamic warm-up will get your players ready to play, it will reduce their risk of injury while playing, and it will better prepare them to perform to the best of their abilities.