Stretching & Warming up
(NOTE: If you have any injuries, or even think you might, or you have health problems of any kind or feel any sort of unusual pain or discomfort, consult a doctor. These stretches are all very standard. None of them should cause pain. If they do, stop.)

Very few sports are as demanding as basketball. Ping-pong, bowling, or checkers perhaps, but few others. It's essential that you stretch key muscles before putting them to real work.

Warming up

Before you do anything, the body needs a warmup, lasting 5-10 minutes. Lightly jog around or jump rope until you start to sweat.

About Stretching

Once you're warmed up, immediately go into your stretches. The purpose of stretches, in case you don't know, is to increase the range of motion of your joints. And note that basketball flexibility takes time to achieve. It doesn't happen overnight. Do not bounce as you stretch. You stretch slowly, leaning/pushing into the stretches so that you feel them working, but no pain should result and you shouldn't feel anything extreme. Focus your attention on the area you're stretching. Breath slowly. Hold each stretch for 15-25 seconds. Perform each stretch twice. Do not over-stretch. When in doubt, stretch easier, not harder. Again, if anything really hurts, stop stretching. Muscles are not to be torn or yanked, they are to be eased into the stretches.

Sports / Basketball Stretches

Stretching: Hamstring Stretches

Your hamstrings are the muscles on the back of your upper legs. Sit on the floor. Cross your legs in front of you. Slowly straighten your left leg with your toes always pointing straight up. Keep your right leg bent, with the bottom right foot against the inner part of your left leg. Lean forward from the hips until you start feeling your hamstring stretch. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds. Now switch legs and repeat entire stretch.

Stretching: Back Stretches

Lie on your back, legs flat on the ground. Hold your right leg just below the knee and slowly raise it towards your chest. Keep your leg straight (or as straight as possible) and your head down during this. Hold for about 25 seconds. Lower the leg. Switch legs. Repeat. Do this with each leg 3-5 times.

Stretching: Calf Stretches

Stand near a wall. Lean your forearms against it, with feet flat on the ground. Lean your forehead against the back of your hands while they're on the wall. Bend your left knee, bringing it towards the wall. The right leg remains straight while doing this. Start moving your hips forward. You will feel your right calf stretch. Hold for about 20 seconds. Rise to a standing position and switch legs and repeat.

To stretch your Achilles tendon, do the above while bending slightly at the knee.

Stretching: Groin Stretches

Sit on the floor. Forming a circular shape with your legs, join the soles of your feet together and hold them with your hands. Lean your elbows on the inside of your legs. Lean your upper body forward from the hips. You'll feel a stretch in your groin. Hold it for 20 seconds, slowly sit up, and repeat this from the beginning once or twice more.

Stretching: Shoulder Stretches

Stand up. Put your right hand over your left shoulder. Put your left hand on your right elbow and pull that elbow toward your left shoulder. You'll feel your right shoulder stretching. Hold it for 20 seconds. Then reverse everything and repeat.

Stretching: Arm Stretches

Loosen up your arms/shoulders by sticking them straight out (sideways), swirl them in small tight circles, make the circles wider and wider until you're basically swinging your arms in a circle that goes from the floor around to the ceiling. That should take about 30 seconds. Do this again but swirling your arms in the reverse direction.

Vertical Leap Exercises - Jump Higher

Deep Knee Bends --- Be standing. Slowly bend at the knees while keeping your back straight. Slowly crouch down as low as possible (it shouldn't hurt) and slowly rise back up. Do this 15 times. Over time increase to 20, 30, etc.

Deep Knee Bend Jumps --- Be standing. Crouch down as described above but fairly quickly, almost touching your bottom to the ground, then explode upwards as high as you can. The moment you land, immediately crouch and launch back up again. Do this 15 times, and when you can, increase to 20, 30, etc.

Toe Raises --- Stand regularly, then raise up onto the tips of your toes. Lower back down. Don't just rock up and down, do it slowly (not too slowly) but steadily. Repeat 30-50 times.

Toe-Raise with Weights --- If you have any sort of weights, holding/wearing them while doing these toe raises will help. Use small weights (a mere 5 or 10 pounds is fine) and work your way up.

Stomach Crunches --- We believe that sit-ups are bad for your back. Stomach crunches, where while lying on your back, using your ab muscles and keeping your back straight, you rise up just enough to lift your shoulders off the ground, are better. Do them often - perhaps for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night.

Jumping Rope--- Jumping rope definitely helps your vertical leap. Jump rope while watching tv or something. Make it a habit.

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