Top 10 Basketball Strength Exercises to Improve Your Game

Oct 03, 2019

Local basketball players

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Over the past few decades, the world of sports has undergone quite a transformation. Today’s athletes are expected to be stronger, faster and better than they were even as little as 40 years ago. It goes for any sport, really. Bodybuilding, football, tennis, and yes, basketball.

We all like to improve our b-ball game a little bit from time to time. You’d think you could only do this by, you know… actually practicing basketball. But this isn’t entirely true. You can also up your game by strengthening the muscles that are involved in playing. Doing a few exercises won’t turn you into the next Michael Jordan or anything like that, but they’ll go a long way if you’re just looking to get an edge on your hobbyist opponents.

Since I’m already frequenting the gym multiple times a week, I figured I might as well start doing these kinds of exercises. Kind of feels like hitting two birds with one stone. So without further ado, let’s have a look at some useful basketball strength exercises.

1. Dumbbell Jump Squats

In the position of center or power forward, the ability to jump is crucial for dunks and rebounds. In fact, NBA players have an incredible average vertical leap of 28 inches, more than twice the national average. If you want to do very high vertical jumps, then this is the exercise for you. This exercise is meant to be done very fast to train that explosive strength. You perform it by holding dumbbells, then squatting, then jumping. Don’t do this with very heavy dumbbells since they’ll slow down the exercise. Keeping up the tempo is important, so go with lighter dumbbells.

2. Power Lunges

Power lunges are a leg-strengthening exercise that you can use to improve upon your jumps. It is performed by putting one leg in front of you, putting the other leg behind you and then bending the knees.

This is your starting position. Then you jump up from the ground and whilst in the air, you turn the back leg into the front leg and vice versa. If you want to increase the challenge, do this while holding dumbbells. Sore leg muscles guaranteed!

A woman doing lunges while holding a barbell

3. Close Grip Bench Presses

If you know what a bench press is, then the close-grip bench press should be a piece of cake for you. You perform it by doing a bench press with your hands’ grips pretty close to each other. You don’t grab the bar as wide as you can with this bench press.

Instead, you grab the bar right above your own shoulders. Performing a bench press this way will activate your triceps as well. The upper body strength you develop with this exercise will help you shoot hoops more easily and efficiently.

4. Clean High Pulls

Clean high pulls are going to help you further maximize your jumping height. They are performed by lifting a barbell up from the ground to your chest, while you are in a slightly bent-over position. As you pull the barbell close to your chest, you do a little jump.

You’d think a little jump added into the mix, won’t make such an exercise much harder. But try it. You’ll be whistling a different tune soon enough!

5. Barbell Curls & Presses

This exercise is for both strengthening your biceps as well as your shoulders. You perform it by grabbing a barbell with your upper arms next to your body and your lower arms extended. This is your starting position. Then you curl the barbell to your chest. This is the part that works out your biceps.

Then, instead of lowering it back down as you’d do with a regular curl, you press it up overhead. This is the part that works out your shoulders. You then lower the barbell to your chest. Then you lower the barbell back to an extended position.

6. Chin-Ups

Chin-ups are going to increase your arms and back’s pulling strength. They are performed by doing pull-ups on a high bar, where you have to pull yourself up enough that you can lift your chin above the bar for a bit before you let yourself lower down in a controlled manner again.

There are plenty of situations in which you’ll need to catch a ball and pull it toward you in this game. Pulling strength helps you do this swiftly.

A man doing chin-ups from behind

7. Push Jerks

This exercise is kind of like an Olympic lift. You’ve seen Olympic lifters grab a barbell and then push it above their heads in a quick, jerky motion. However, unlike an actual Olympic lift, you don’t have to squat for this one.

You perform it with a light barbell held close to your chest, with no to little weight on them. Then bend the knees a little, then do a little jump and all the while heave the barbell above your head and immediately let it lower. This exercise will help you in becoming more coordinated and stable.

8. Dumbbell Step Ups

Basketball engages every joint in your lower body, and this basketball strength exercise is a great one for making your legs stronger. You perform it by holding dumbbells in your hands, that you simply let hang beside your body. Then, you put one foot on a bench, so that this foot is elevated, much like it would be if you were to put it on the first step of a set of stairs.

This foot never leaves its place during the exercise. Raise your other foot as if you were going to put it on the next step of your imaginary stairs. You never place this foot on the bench. Instead, you now let it go down back to the ground. You’re working out one leg at a time here. And it’s the leg that’s on the bench.

9. Front Squats

The position of point guard is absolutely crucial in basketball. Point guards are so crucial that they account for 22.9% of NBA salaries, the highest of any position. The position requires extreme speed and maneuverability and strong legs are essential.

Front squats are a fantastic way of strengthening your legs. The longer you can dribble and the higher you can jump, the more valuable a player you’ll be. The front squat is performed by taking a barbell, holding it to your chest with your hands underneath it, and then doing squats. Feel free to put some weight on the barbell if you’re looking to up the challenge.

10. Towel Rack Rows

A great exercise for improving your pulling strength. This exercise is performed by hanging two towels on a low-hanging bar and using the towels to pull yourself up while keeping your feet on the ground.

It’s kind of like a pull-up, except that you make it a little lighter on yourself. Because your feet are on the ground, you won’t have to pull your entire body weight. It’s a great exercise when you no longer have the strength to do full-bodyweight pull-ups.

Get On Those Basketball Strength Exercises!

The strength exercises above are going to go a long way in helping you improve your basketball game, just so long as you perform them on a frequent basis. You will be able to do most of these at home. All it takes is a few dumbbells and barbells and you can get started.

You can do any one of these basketball strength exercises for a few minutes per day. Or you can do a number of them on a number of days per week. Or you can do them all on one day of the week… as long as you make it a habit. Because that’s ultimately where all your success is going to come from: your daily routines. And that’s true for basketball, as well.

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.