How to Do a Layup in Basketball (6-Step Guide)


If you want to win basketball games, your players must be able to finish at the rim consistently.

While knowing “how to do a layup” will sound easy to most players, it’s actually much more difficult than most people realize.

Think about it:

Players attack the hoop at varying speeds...

Players attack the hoop from many different angles...

And when they do get to the hoop, there’s usually a second defender waiting who will attempt to swat their layup into the 5th row.

Despite these challenges, players must learn how to score layups in a variety of situations if they want to experience individual and team success.

In this article, I’ll show you how.

I’ll start by teaching you (1) exactly what a layup is, (2) the six steps for how to do a layup, (3) the process for teaching layups to young kids, (4) the seven layup variations all players must master, before finishing with (5) some important layup tips.

Let’s get started…

What is a Layup?

Here’s the general definition most coaches would use:

“A layup is the action of a player dribbling towards the hoop, taking two steps, and then laying the basketball into the hoop off the backboard.”

For a traditional layup — this is correct.

With that said…

There are MANY variations of a layup (I’ll share 7 of them with you later in this article) and no two in-game layups are identical.

There’s an endless number of situations a player will face when they attack the hoop in a 5-on-5 game.

The two things all layups do have in common:

(1) All layups are shots close to the basket

(2) All layups are worth two points

basketball layup

How to Do a Layup (6-Steps)

Now, let’s talk about how to do a layup correctly.

Learning correct footwork and layup technique is crucial for young players.

We don’t want players to develop poor habits that will be difficult to break out of as they get older and advance to higher levels of basketball.

For the purposes of this beginner’s guide, I’ll assume players are executing a regular right-handed layup.

Here we go:

1. Eyes Up

The very first thing a player must do when they decide to attack the defense and finish with a layup is get their eyes up.

This is important for two main reasons:

a. To Lock onto the Target

The target they aim for will be either the hoop or the backboard depending on the player’s angle and speed.

Knowing which target to choose as the ball is released from the shooter’s hand is something players will get used to as they gain more experience.

b. To Read the Defense

Every time a player attacks the hoop, multiple defenders will step across to provide help and challenge the layup.

Players need to get their eyes up and use their peripheral vision to read these defenders.

This will help the player decide which layup variation will give them the best chance of scoring (or which teammate is now open to receive a pass).

2. Outside Foot Step (Long)

Remembering that we’re using a traditional, unguarded layup as the example for this blog post…

The first step a player makes as they pick up the basketball should be with their “outside” foot (closest to the sideline).

For right-handed layups, this is the right foot.

For left-handed layups, this is the left foot.

There are two important coaching points you should emphasize to players when you’re teaching them this step:

(1) Long Step

We want players to gain distance with the first step, and a long step also helps with the second point…

(2) Controlled

Players MUST be in control of their body as they perform their layup.

Too often we see young players sprint towards the hoop out of control and then launch the ball hard off the backboard.

Encourage them to slow down to increase their chances of scoring.

3. Inside Foot Step (High)

The second step of a traditional layup should be with the inside foot (closest to the middle of the court).

For right-handed layups, this is the left foot.

For left-handed layups, this is the right foot.

The key coaching point for the second step is the following:

“High Jump”

Along with ensuring players slow down and are in control of their layup, the emphasis to jump high will give young players the upward momentum they need to complete the layup.

This is done by driving the shooting-side knee up into the air as they jump off their opposite foot.

(Right knee on right-handed layups. Left knee on left-handed layups)

4. Protect the Ball

It’s crucial that a player protects the ball while attempting their layup.

Two things to watch out for:

a. Getting Stripped

Smart defenders will look to strip (steal) the ball from the offensive player during their two steps.

To prevent this from happening, the offensive player needs to (1) have strong hands and (2) keep the ball close to their body.

b. Getting Blocked

Tall defenders will attempt to block the shot during the upward shooting motion or as the ball leaves the offensive player’s hands.

To prevent this, the offensive players must use their non-shooting hands to protect the ball and increase the likelihood of getting fouled.

5. Follow Through

The fifth step when learning how to do a layup…

Teach your players to bring the ball up above their head, extend their arm, and then flick their wrist to guide the basketball into the hoop.

The traditional overhand layup is very similar to a regular jump shot when it comes to this part of the layup technique.

Important Note:

If you’re coaching very young players, you might find they push the basketball up from their chest instead of bringing the ball above their head before shooting… this is due to a lack of strength.

This isn’t a big issue while they’re young, but make sure they’re growing out of this habit as they get older and stronger.

6. Practice!

Now that your players understand correct layup technique, it’s time they start doing some serious layup practice!

A few important things for coaches to think about:

a. Different Angles and Speeds

Run layup drills that involve players attacking the hoop from different angles and at different speeds.

  • Left / right side
  • Front of the rim
  • Along the baseline

It’s important that they’re comfortable and confident driving to the hoop from anywhere on the court.

b. Right Hand and Left Hand

Allow players to mainly use with their dominant hand when they’re first learning how to perform a layup…

But make sure they start practicing with both hands once they understand correct technique and develop the strength to do so.

This is important to help them protect the ball and finish around good defenders as they get older and play against tougher competition.

c. Competition!

Almost immediately you should start running drills where players are required to attack the defense and finish with a layup against live defense.

Add both layup technique and layup competition drills to every practice.

For example:

Spend 10 minutes using a layup technique drill and then spend 10 minutes playing half court 2-on-1.

Your players might struggle against competition at first — they might commit a travelling violation, jump off the wrong foot, or rush their two steps — but they’ll benefit from the struggle in the long run.

how to do a layup

Teaching Layups to Kids - The Process

I’m guessing that most people reading this article are youth basketball coaches wanting to know the best way to teach layups.

If so, you’re in the right place.

I’m going to provide you with the step-by-step instructions.

These steps should be used to teach “overhand” and “underhand” layups to all players who have signed up to learn the game of basketball.

One final piece of advice before we get started:

Be patient.

These steps might seem simple to you… but to a young kid who’s trying to understand footwork, ball pickup, where to focus, distance, etc… it’s hard!

Let’s get stated…

1. One-Step Layup

The first step is to start players on the low block.

Since most players are right-handed, I recommend starting on the right block since this will be most comfortable for them.

Give everyone a basketball, line everyone up behind the low block, and then get them to execute the following:

a. Start with feet together

b. Take one step with their left foot (inside foot)

c. Jump off the left foot and shoot a layup off the backboard

2. Two-Step Layup

Next, let’s add a second step…

Get everyone to start one step back from the low block.

Reminding them that they don’t need to dribble the basketball yet, ask them to do the following:

a. Start with feet together

b. The first step is with their right foot (outside foot)

c. The second step is with their left foot (inside foot)

d. Jump off the left foot and shoot a layup off the backboard

Players grab their own rebound before joining the end of the same line.

3. One-Dribble Layup

Now let’s take another step back…

For the third step in this process, we ask players to take one dribble before completing their two steps and finishing with a layup.

Here are the instructions:

a. Start with feet together

b. The initial step is with their left foot. As this foot touches the ground, the player should take one dribble with their right hand.

c. As the player catches the ball, they take their first layup step with their right foot (outside foot)

d. The second layup step is with their left foot (inside foot)

e. Jump off the left foot and shoot a layup off the backboard

4. Multiple Dribble Layup

The final step when learning to shoot off the dribble requires players to retreat back behind the three-point arc.

From here, players will before multiple dribbles before gathering the ball, taking their two steps, and laying the ball in off the glass.

Here’s how it works:

a. Start behind the three-point line with a basketball.

b. Take multiple dribbles towards the hoop (eyes up!)

c. At the low block, take the first step with the right foot (outside foot)

d. The second layup step is with their left foot (inside foot)

e. Jump off the left foot and shoot a layup off the backboard

5. Catch and Layup

Another thing players must learn to do is receive the basketball while on the move and then finish with a layup without dribbling.

Players are put in this situation often during games…

They might make an off-ball cut to the hoop, receive a pass from a teammate on a fast break, or pass to a player in the post then cut off them.

My recommendation is to set up a quick “give and go” drill.

As follows:

a. Put one player on the free-throw line without a basketball.

b. Line everyone else up behind the three-point line with a basketball.

c. The player with the ball passes to the middle of the floor, sprints towards the hoop, and then receives the ball back for a no-dribble layup.

d. Change the “passer” every minute or two.


To help you better understand the whole process, check out this brilliant video from FIBA that shows the first four progressions:

Seven Layup Variations

As I spoke about in the step-by-step section, it’s important for players to master more than one type of layup.

When you’re playing a real 5-on-5 game, there will be help defenders trying to block / alter your shot when you get to the hoop.

Being comfortable with a variety of layups will allow players to finish around any kind of defense that’s thrown at them.

Here’s the must-know list:

1. Overhand Layup

This traditional layup is often the first one we teach young players. It’s similar to a regular jump shot in that a player gets their hand under the ball and “shoots” it off the backboard.

2. Underhand Layup (Finger Roll)

Also known as the “finger roll”. This involves players putting their shooting hand under the ball with their fingers facing forward, and then rolling the ball off their fingertips as they extend their arm to the hoop.

3. Floater

The floater is a great way for smaller players to score inside against bigger defenders. It involves a player “pushing” the ball up over the defense.

4. Off-Foot Layup

If you really want to catch the defense by surprise, an off-foot layup should be in your bag of tricks. This involves jumping off the same foot you’re shooting with. For example, jumping off the right foot for a right-hand layup.

5. Euro Step Layup

The Euro Step involves taking your first step in one direction, and then changing directions for your second step. This is a great way to step around defenders and change the angle as you complete a layup.

6. Reverse Layup

A reverse layup allows the offensive player to attack the hoop and finish on the opposite side of the rim. For players at high levels, the rim acts as protection from shot blockers.

7. Power Layup

A power layup involves performing a 2-foot jump stop before raising up to shoot. The benefit of this variation is it will give the player a stronger base, which is essential if you’re anticipating contact.

Advanced Layup Tips

Before you go, here are a few extra layup tips that will help players be more successful when attacking the hoop.

Some of the tips I’ve mentioned already throughout the article (but they need repeating), and some of them I’ve saved for this section.


a. Slow Down!

One of the main reasons for missed layups at the youth basketball level is players are going way too fast.

If you were to spend just 2 minutes sitting on the sidelines of an U10’s game, and I guarantee you’ll see a 100mph fast break that results in the shooter slamming the ball off the backboard.

Encourage players to slow down, use a long first step to gain control of their body, and then jump high off the second step to finish.

Control is key.

b. Create Space to Finish

Once a player gets past their defender off the dribble, teach them to step in front of the defender to “lock them behind”.

This creates space in front to finish with a floater or to draw the defense before dropping the basketball off to a teammate.

c. Swish or Backboard?

Coaches will often get players asking whether they should aim to swish the ball or use the backboard on their layups…

This is an impossible question to answer as every situation is different.

The best advice you can give players is to practice finishing with a swish and off the backboard from all angles and at all speeds.

The more finishes a player is comfortable with, the more options they’ll have when confronted by a defender during games.

d. Keep the Ball Tight

This is something I spoke about in the “protect the ball” section above…

When going through the two-step motion of a layup, keep a strong grip on the ball and hold it close to your body.

Smart defenders will attempt to strip the basketball before you go up into the shooting motion of the layup.

e. Don’t Be Scared of Contact

Getting fouled on a layup will give you a chance at a three-point play (or free throws) and will push your opponent one step close to foul trouble.

But many young players are scared of contact.

To avoid contact or getting blocked, they angle away from the defense giving themselves a much more difficult shot attempt.

Encourage players to embrace contact and attack the defender!

f. Practice Against Real Defenders

Learning layup technique is important, but all the individual layup practice in the world isn’t going to make you an elite finisher at the rim.

You must practice scoring against live defenders.

Once you’re comfortable with technique, it’s time to add defense take your finishing skills to the next level.

  • 1-on-1
  • 2-on-2
  • 2-on-1
  • etc

These will all help build the skills you need.


Learning how to do a layup is crucial for all young players.

Because they lack strength to make outside shots consistently, 90% of points scored in youth basketball are from layups.

Start by using the four progressions outlined in this article to teach them the basics, and then progress to teaching them the seven layup variations and also adding defenders.

If you do this well, your team should have no trouble attacking the hoop and scoring against any defense.


how to do a layup, layups

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