Essential Basketball Warm Up Drills

  • January 18, 2015
  • / By Tom
basketball warm up drills

Photo By: KOMUnews

Using proper basketball warm up drills before each practice or game can allow the athletes to be more prepared to perform, get more out of each session, keep them healthy, and work on skill development.

There are two major categories of basketball warm up drills:

  • General – This is a broad category of movements that prepares the athlete’s body for any kind of physical activity. The preferred method for this is dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching has been proven to have a positive influence on explosive athletic performance that is needed for basketball.
  • Specific – These are the types of movements that prepare the specific muscles and movements that are used in a basketball game or practice. This can double as individual skill development by working on things

It is usually recommended that you begin the warm up with general work and then move to more specific work as the body gets warmer. You should also move from lower intensity exercises to higher intensity movements. Basically, you don’t want to have athletes walk into the gym and perform full speed sprints or jumping exercises. So for a basketball practice or game, the structure could look something like this:

  1. Jogging – This could be anything really that gets the blood flowing and the body warmer. Jogging is often a good choice, just because it is so simple and can easily be done by a large group on a basketball court. It can also be done in a progressive manner, moving from an easy to a more intense speed. Other options could include something like jumping rope or whatever works best in your facility.
  2. Dynamic Stretching – Some examples are below, but this includes things like high knees, butt kicks, easy shuffles, and arm circles. You’ll want to incorporate a variety and hit all of the muscle groups.
  3. Warm up with Basketball – By this time, most athletes should be sweating and ready to get to more basketball activities. You should have a list of basketball drills ready that you want to work on that day.

General Basketball Warm Up Drills

Remember, this is for getting the body warm, breaking a sweat, and getting the body ready for sharp, explosive basketball movements. You may have your own list of exercises you prefer and that is fine. Things like bodyweight squats, lunges, twists, or low intensity push-ups and sit-ups could all work, but here are a few more ideas:

High Knees

You have probably heard of high knees, but if not they are similar to jogging, except you lift your leading knee explosively into the air. This should raise the thigh to above parallel to the ground. You can see more in the video below.

Butt Kicks

In this, your trail leg reaches up and your heel should hit, or come close to hitting, your glutes. This is great for warming up the quadriceps. You can watch the video below for a demonstration.


Most basketball coaches focus on defensive slides as the only movement for lateral work, so it is a good idea to incorporate something else in the warm up. After all, basketball players don’t just move laterally when in a defensive slide. The carioca is great because it really targets the muscles that are used in side-to-side movement that is crucial in basketball. The video below demonstrates 3 different types of carioca, but you can also alter the knee level by raising it up when performing the exercise.

Specific Basketball Warm Up Drills

When you move on to your specific/ warming up with basketball time, you’ll want to keep in mind what you are warming the athletes up for. If the players are going to be mostly scrimmaging, or it is game day, you will have to work on a variety of drills and movements in a short period of time. You will have to get creative.

For a normal practice, you could switch the specific drills each day if you wanted. This gets down to how you want to structure a practice. There are a couple of options that could work:

  • Theme Days – In this scenario, the entire team would perform the same drills, of which there would be a theme for each day of the week. For example, Monday could be ballhandling, Tuesday post defense, Wednesday shooting, Thursday perimeter defense, and Friday post moves.
  • Position Groups – With this, you could use the same basic drills each day, but they would be different based on position groups. An example would be having point guards work on full court dribbling and defense, perimeter players could work on shooting and closeout defense, and big men could work on post moves and defense.

Here are 3 ideas for specific drills to warm up:

Drive and Kick

This is a good drill for point guards to work on ballhandling, passing, and spot-up shooting. It is a 2 person drill where one of the players drives to the basket and then passes to the other who is spotting up on the perimeter. You can see how it is done below.

Partner Shooting Drill

This partner shooting drill can be a great way for athletes to get a huge volume of shots up in a short period of time. To get the most out of this, have your basketball players shoot from spots on the court that they will be in games. Too many athletes spend too much time on shots they will actually take in a game. There are many ways to do partner shooting drills – such as back-and-forth or taking a set number of shots and rotating – and you can see one version below.

Mikan Drill

The Mikan Drill is great for big men, or any basketball player, at working on a soft touch around the basket and being able to finish with either hand. This was made famous by former Lakers great George Mikan. You can see a demonstration in the video below, but you essentially use 1 basketball and work on 1 handed layups, switching back-and-forth to work on finishing with each hand.

Weight Room

Warming up for the weight room can be similar, but with a few differences. You can follow the same structure with jogging, dynamic stretching, and specific movements. Just remember those specific movement need to be specific to the activity they will do in the weight room, not necessarily specific to a basketball game.

If you have your athletes lift directly after practice, they should be plenty warm and dynamically stretched. They only need to perform some specific movements for the lifts they perform that day.

There are many ways to approach this, but it can be as simple as having them perform “light” warm up sets before moving on to the “work” sets of the exercise. For example, if you have an athlete who is scheduled for 3 sets of 5 on the back squat at 185 pounds, you can have them perform a set at 95 pounds and then 135 pounds before beginning their sets at 185.

There is no such thing as a “perfect” routine and most basketball warm up drills come from real world experience to determine what will work best for you and your athletes. You should absolutely follow the research that you find, but ultimately comes down to what keeps athletes healthy and performing at their best.

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