Strength Exercises That Transfer to the Basketball Court

Basketball drills are useless if you lack strength. Improve your game by gaining explosive power with strength training exercises appropriate for basketball players.

Brandon Jennings Squat Row

NBA All-Stars make it look easy. They're constantly active around the rim and shooting threes—just generally "doing all the dirty work."

Strength training is one way you can improve your basketball game to be more like the pros. Strong legs will make your vertical higher. Strong arms will help you get position and grab rebounds in the paint.

But you can't just use any old lifts in the weight room. The strength exercises you perform need to serve a purpose. Think about it. Doing your shooting drills on a toy kiddie hoop wouldn't transfer to the court. Neither does lifting like a weightlifter.

In order to carry over to your game,  lifts should mimic basketball movements. Athletes tend to get confused with this aspect of strength training. They read basketball movements and think they translate into basketball skills. That's completely untrue.

You don't want to shoot heavy medicine balls or perform a bunch of basketball drills with resistance. You want to strengthen the muscles you use in games and focus on the joint angles used in the sport.

Take jumping for example. During a jump you primarily recruit the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. So you need to focus on basketball exercises that work those muscles, while keeping in mind joint angles and recruitment patterns. The Barbell Back Squat, an exercise that focuses on triple extension, is a good one to strengthen your jumping movement pattern.

The following are the primary strength training exercises for basketball players. Around 80% of your results will be produced by the "big" lifts. The remaining 20 percent will come from the "assistance" exercises.

5 Essential Big Lifts for Basketball Players

Olympic Lifts

Olympic lifts have high carryover to the court because they involve powerful triple extension. The best ones are:


Squats work the primary muscles for jumping and sprinting (glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps). I prefer:


In my opinion, there's no exercise better for strengthening the posterior chain (backside of the body) than the Deadlift. When it comes to acceleration and first step explosiveness, nothing beats the Deadlift. (See also Become a Better Athlete With the Deadlift.)


Basketball players need to have strong upper bodies. But you need to learn to control your own body weight before moving up to exercises like Dumbbell and Barbell Bench Press. (Master these 10 Powerful Push-Up Variations.)


Basketball players need to have strong backs. The latissimus dorsi muscle is responsible for energy transfer between the lower and upper body. Building strength in your lats will improve every athletic movement by allowing force to transfer efficiently throughout the body. (Build A Strong Back With Pull-Ups.)

5 Essential Assistance Exercises for Basketball Players

Glute-Ham Raise

Glute-Ham Raise is great for strengthening the hamstrings, an important muscle group for sprinting, jumping and cutting.

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats are one of the best lower-body strengthening exercises. They are important for basketball players because they help build unilateral leg strength. Basketball is played predominantly unilaterally (e.g., running, defensive slide and cutting). That's why it's so important to do single-leg exercises.

French Press

The French Press works the triceps, of the most important muscle groups for shooting.

Anti-Rotation Holds

The core is one of the most important areas for a basketball player. It controls all of a player's movements. (See Build True Strength and Stability With Core Training.)

Calf Raises

Calf Raises won't be a major strengthener, but they'll help add a couple of inches to your vertical jump. More important, they will strengthen your ankles to prevent ankle sprains.

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