Michael Jordan and Kawhi Leonard. What do these two have in common? They have the biggest hands relative to their size, and that’s saying a lot because the NBA is a melting pot of the elite and the freak athletes. They also do a good job taking advantage of those giant mitts by regularly palming a basketball even under difficult game situations. One thing is sure, though, outside of their natural gifts, basketball superstars like MJ and Kawhi learned how to palm a basketball before they became adept at it.
Now, maybe you’re wondering: Do I really need to know how to palm a basketball? Yes, by all means! Knowing how to palm a basketball helps in ball handling, shooting, dunking, and other bizarre situations, not to mention it looks pretty cool. We hope you’re now ready for this information since we are giving away the secrets of the trade on how to palm a basketball.
How Does Palming a Basketball Work?
Simply put, palming a basketball means you can grip the ball securely with one hand. (Another basketball term called carrying or palming is a dribbling violation that happens when a player puts his palms underneath the ball and then dribbles it afterward. That is not what this article means.) Contrary to the term, “palming” does not really work by using any part of your palm to hold the ball up. All the grind is done by the fingertips, mainly, by the thumb and the ring finger.
Learning this technique will give you tons of advantages, especially in finishing at the rim, making passes, and executing fakes. It will also make you learn how to grip a basketball when shooting, which is an absolute asset in the game of basketball.
In case you might be asking yourself, how does palming a basketball work? The secret is all about physics. The wider your fingers can go, the larger the pressure that you can apply to the basketball. (This is why hand size is one of the most significant factors in your capacity to palm a basketball. We will discuss more of that later.)
Second, it wouldn’t matter if you have big hands, the next thing to consider is the strength of your grip and how long you can grip the basketball. The good news is that you don’t need genetics to do this part for you; you can improve grip strength and longevity through hand and finger exercises.
Is Palming a Basketball Hard?
It does sound like a lot of work. Well, as the adage goes, no pain, no gain. However, the obstacles in learning how to palm a basketball lie way more than intense exercise and lactic acid buildup. We touched it a little earlier, and we will mention it here again: Genetics, or having inherently small hands, is the biggest barrier in learning the skill of palming a basketball.
To be honest, there is no minimum hand size that dictates whether you can palm the basketball or not. It’s also not solely about hand length but also your hand width. In our opinion and experience, hand width, or the distance between your hand and pinkie, is a more powerful determinant whether you can easily palm the ball or not.
However, that’s just one side of the story. Not everyone has MJ or Kawhi’s hands, so pretty much every article or video out there that teaches how to palm a basketball is made with normal-sized hands in mind.
Speaking of videos, we find these tips on Dre Baldwin’s YouTube channel particularly helpful for players with small hands. It teaches you how to leverage your grip by using the seams of the basketball and introduces you to interesting palming exercises as the banana peel squeezes.
Check this video right here:
Another video by Train Smart HQ also has some helpful tips for basketball players with small hands. The guy also talks about the banana peel squeezes, but he also discusses the squeezing motion concept a little longer than the first video, so there might be some more things you can pick up here.
What are Some Drills to Improve Your Palming Skills?
Fortunately, you don’t need any special equipment for these drills. You can basically break these drills or exercises down to hand stretches and grip-strengthening exercises. After that, we are going to look at some uncommon ways to improve your palming skills.
This group of exercises is the most basic. The idea is to get your hand accustomed to the spreading motion you do while palming the ball.
Hand stretch exercises include finger stretching (starting with the fingers all extended and then grouping them into a fist), claw stretches (hand out in front and try to touch the joint base by your fingertips), palm stretches (palm down on a flat surface and extending your pinkie as far as you can), and thumb stretches (hold out a hand in front with palms facing away and stretch your thumb as far as possible in both directions). Do each stretch for 30-60 seconds with at least 3-4 repetitions at a time.
There are three types of grip strengths to keep in mind: the crush grip, support grip, and the pinch grip.
The crush grip is the type of grip that helps you squeeze something, like a can of soda. The support grip is used when you want to support or hold your weight, such as when doing pull ups. The grip strength to palm the basketball has much to do with the pinch grip. The pinch grip is when you grip something (in this case, a basketball) with it resting on the thumb on one side and the rest of the fingers on another.
To improve grip strength, you can do several exercises such as fingertip pushups, palming using smaller balls, palming a basketball horizontally, and using finger stretchers. Among the four, fingertip pushups are the hardest, while the two palming exercises are probably the most intrinsic. Palming the ball horizontally is especially helpful for those that are just starting since the thumb aids in keeping the ball in place. You may feel a little stinging pain on your forearm, but you will see a gradual improvement in the maximum amount of time you can palm the ball in this way.
Other Methods and Exercises
As previously mentioned, finger strength and grip strength are two keys that can unlock the possibility of palming a basketball. The hand stretches and grip-strengthening exercises mentioned above will help a lot. However, if you want to boost the rate of your improvement, you can do so with some unorthodox exercise techniques such as:
If there’s one way to exercise the three grip strengths all at once, it’s wall climbing. You can feel the lactic acid buildup like there’s no other, and afterward, you should also notice an improvement in your grip strength as soon as you palm a basketball.
Not everybody has easy access to a wall-climbing facility, but I bet there should be a gym nearby. When working out, try incorporating plate pinching, where you put two 5-lb plates together and holding one down with your thumb and the other plate with your other fingers.
Reverse Curls and Pullups
These exercises are mainly for support grips, but you can modify these exercises so that it will strengthen your pinch grip. How can you do that? Simply use an overhand grip as you hold onto the dumbbells and bars.
Wrapping Things Up: Palming a Basketball
Palming a basketball is not the most critical skill you can have for the sport, but it gives you lots of advantages. It will help you finish at the rim better, makes your passes more accurate, makes your ball handling tighter, allows you to make plays for others from the post area, among other things.
Now, it’s not all about size when we’re talking about how to palm a basketball. Sure, basketball players with bigger hands may master the skill quicker, but it ultimately depends on the strength of your grip. For that, you can do hand stretches such as the finger, claw, palm, and thumb stretches.
After that, the next step involves strengthening your pinch grip (You can do this by gripping something by resting it on one thumb on one side and the rest of the fingers on another). This is probably the hardest part because these are not merely stretches to warm your muscles or tendons up; these are exercises that involve hard work. You can do so by using plates (called plate pinching), doing fingertip pushups, or by utilizing an overhand grip while doing curls and pullups.
If you have checked out the videos, most of the tips there revolve, not on pinch grip exercises using weights and other equipment, but by using a basketball. We think that makes absolute sense because, after all, you are learning how to palm a basketball in the first place.
In this method, banana peel squeezes are particularly useful. It involves passing the ball using your fingertips from your right to left hand with your palms facing upwards, as you make a squeezing motion. Of course, you can’t take for granted the type of basketball that you use because some balls (usually the more expensive ones) are grippier than others. It is a small factor but a factor, nonetheless.
With all of these said, you can see that knowing how to palm a basketball is more about a sound technique using finger and grip strength over natural talent. After all, not everyone is Michael Jordan. With the tips mentioned in this article, we are hopeful that you’d start training this handy basketball skill and begin dominating the hardcourt in a “gripping” manner.
Did you enjoy this article? You might also like our other basketball FAQ articles here.
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