Basketball requires a lot of complex movements on both ends of the floor. From rebounding, shooting, or the simple act of dribbling, the game demands a lot from a player’s body. And whether it’s for improving sports performance or preventing injury, it would be beneficial to know, both for coaches and players, the most important muscles for basketball.
What Muscles are Mainly Used in Basketball?
Basketball, no matter what position you play, is an excellent workout for the entire body. It requires all six major muscle groups to work. However, it’s important to note that the core, leg, and arm muscle groups are more involved than the rest.
From the core muscles that stabilize the entire body, the leg muscles that promote agility, speed, and leaping ability, to the arms that primarily interact with the basketball, strengthening these muscle groups can go a long way in improving your performance on the court or in preventing injuries.
What Leg Muscles are Used in Basketball?
There is no muscle group more important than leg muscles in basketball. They’re utilized in virtually every aspect of the game. Defensive specialists usually have well-developed thighs as they’re essential in developing lateral quickness on the perimeter and stopping power at the post. On the offensive side, calves are the most utilized leg muscles for getting up on a jump shot, layup, or dunk.
To be specific, calves, hamstrings, and thighs are fundamental muscle groups in basketball. Players in all positions, therefore, are encouraged to work out and develop all of these muscle groups.
For example, the defensive stance where players stay low with a wide base requires strong quadriceps and biceps femoris. Developing these muscles doesn’t only help in assuming a good defensive stance; they’re also responsible for lateral quickness when trying to keep up with ball handlers.
The thigs and hamstrings are also the main thrusters players use when jumping. Rebounding and shooting, therefore, would be significantly benefitted by working on these specific muscles.
The calves, on the other hand, are activated during any forward movement players make. The stronger player’s calves, therefore, the easier they can outrun their opponents.
What Muscles are Used in Shooting?
When it comes to shooting, coaches often say putting your legs under your shot is the key. Movement analysis of the best pure shooters in the game, such as Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, and Reggie Miller, shows that the arc of the ball is directly derived from leg power.
So, if you want to shoot from long-range, it’s essential to develop both the calves and the thighs for that extra oompf necessary to get that vital arc on your shot.
However, what is often overlooked when shooting is the shooter’s core stability. Core strength is the primary muscle group that enables shooters to launch a straight shot whether they’re shooting from a face-up, triple-threat, or post-up position. A strong core helps players get their shoulders squared up to the basket no matter what the situation.
Most players who want to work on their shooting form focus work on their forearm muscles. For extremely precise shooters, strong forearm muscles are what enable minuscule adjustments to be made while they’re in the middle of a jump shot. It’s also the muscle group responsible for putting a backspin on the ball, which can significantly improve shot percentages.
What Muscles are Used for Dribbling?
For basketball players, especially point guards, dribbling is one of those fundamental skills you first learn. It’s the easiest skill to acquire, yet it’s arguably the most comprehensive to master.
And if you’re looking to weave through defenders with your dribbles like Stephen Curry or Chris Paul, you’re going to need to work on your forearms, legs, and your core.
Movement analysis of dribbling a basketball indicates that the most important muscle groups to workout are your forearms, specifically, your wrist flexors and triceps. It’s these muscles that directly transmit energy to the basketball when you’re dribbling. The triceps, and in some instances, chest muscles such as the deltoids and the pectoralis muscles, are the primary sources of power when you’re dribbling. The wrist flexors, including carpi ulnaris and carpi radialis, are the muscles in charge of intricate dribble moves that require precision, such as crossovers and in-and-out dribbles.
Dribbling in place, however, would not help ball handlers shed their defense. To truly utilize your dribbling skills, you need to be able to move around on the court quickly.
It should be pretty apparent by now that our legs are quite important in all aspects of basketball. In the case of dribbling, our thighs (quadriceps) and your calves (soleus and gastrocnemius) are important muscles to work out too. These muscles enable players to have the quickness required to dribble out of tight defense.
What Muscles are Used in a Basketball Free Throw?
Free throws generally work similar muscle groups as the jump shot. However, the main difference is that it doesn’t require much power from the core or the leg muscles compared to jump shots made at game speed.
Since it’s a relatively close shot without a defensive player pressuring you, precision is the key to success. Therefore, the most important muscles for basketball free throws are the rotator cuffs and the forearms, including the triceps and both the carpi ulnaris and radialis. The proper activation of these muscles can often spell the difference between a made free throw and a missed one.
Core and leg muscles are also involved in shooting free throws, albeit in a smaller capacity than during a jump shot. The leg muscles are still responsible for powering the arc of the shot, while the core muscles are still needed in keeping the entire body stable.
What are the Common Muscle Injuries in Basketball?
Because basketball is such a demanding sport, our basketball player’s bodies often give in to wear and tear. Muscle injuries, therefore, are pretty common.
So, to save you some of the trouble, here’s a list of the common injuries in basketball and which muscles to strengthen for injury prevention:
Leg Muscle Injuries
Most of the career-altering injuries in the NBA and other professional leagues happen because of leg issues. Leg muscles, after all, are some of the most utilized muscles in the game.
Technically, most leg injuries aren’t muscle injuries but tendon injuries. But, in most cases, the muscles that surround the tendons function as the primary support mechanisms that play a central role in the tendon’s functions.
Athletes often suffer from an Achilles tendonitis injury when they don’t give their bodies enough time to recover between games, especially when they’re getting on in age. It’s an overuse injury that significantly affects a player’s ability to walk and run.
Muscles to strengthen:
Aside from wearing proper gear such as basketball shoes and other protective clothing, players may benefit from strengthening the muscles around their Achilles tendon. Improving core and shoulder muscle strength should also help in both rehab and prevention, as these areas also absorb some of the impact on an athlete’s heels.
Players dread hearing the words ACL tear. It’s one of those injuries that has ended plenty of basketball careers. It’s an injury wherein the ligament responsible for keeping your tibia and femur connected is damaged, causing it very difficult to put weight on your knee.
While ACL tear is a ligament injury, the muscles surrounding it plays a crucial part in supporting it. Strengthening these muscles, therefore, should do a world of good in injury prevention.
Muscles to strengthen:
In this case, strengthening the gluteus, quadriceps, and hamstrings can help prevent this career-ending injury from happening. These muscles all work together to absorb and lessen the impact on our knees when we land from a jump or during instances when we need to suddenly come to a halt.
In many cases, strengthening these muscles may have even helped a lot of players come back to peak performance even after an ACL surgery.
Core Muscle Injuries
While your legs are the primary muscles utilized for mobility, it’s your core that deals with your body’s stability. It’s mainly what keeps you upright when you’re moving. So, an injury to your core muscles can significantly affect your mobility just as much as a leg injury can.
Quick side-to-side motions that are required in many situations in basketball can cause you to strain your groin muscles. It usually happens when you overexert yourself to a point beyond what your muscles can handle. The result is difficulty in both starting and stopping a move in basketball.
Muscles to strengthen:
- Core muscles
Groin strain is usually caused by what the medical community refers to as quick deceleration. A sudden stop after a sustained intense movement or landing from a jump are common causes of a groin strain during a game. The core and upper leg muscles usually absorb the impact during these instances, so adding strength to these muscle groups should help in injury prevention and rehab of your groin strain injuries.
Arm Muscle Injuries
Because the hands are the part of the body that most directly interacts with the ball, the inability to use them can greatly detriment a basketball player. Arm injuries, therefore, can render players unplayable quite easily.
Rotator Cuff Injury
The main muscle responsible for arm movements is the rotator cuff muscle. It’s located in the shoulders, and it’s what enables a significant fraction of your shoulder’s range of motion. Straining or tearing this muscle, therefore, would often result in a player getting benched.
Unfortunately, this muscle is often forgotten in exercise programs for athletes resulting in a lot of rotator cuff injuries for basketball players.
Muscles to Strengthen:
- Teres Minor & Teres Major
- Infrapsinatus & Supraspinatus
The rotator cuff is made up of small muscle tissues. Unfortunately, they’re all very fragile and can tear and strain quite easily compared to much larger muscle tissues. These muscles can even get injured while doing non-sport-related activities such as lifting grocery bags or just lying on the bed with the wrong posture. It’s crucial, therefore, to incorporate rotator cuff exercises in our daily workouts, whether you’re a basketball player or not.
Wrapping Things Up: What Muscles Does Basketball Work?
Playing basketball is an excellent full-body workout, no matter what position you play. It activates every single muscle group in the body. But some muscle groups are more important to work out in basketball than in other sports, such as the core, arm, and leg muscle groups.
Because it’s such a physically demanding sport, developing muscle strength in these key areas can be beneficial in raising sports performance. Powerful quadriceps and other upper leg muscles, for instance, can help players immensely in extending their shooting range and increasing lateral quickness on defense. Having strong core muscles can give players an edge in shooting while absorbing contact. Well-developed arm muscles, on the other hand, are excellent in improving shot precision and consistency.
Developing muscle strength is also excellent in injury prevention as they usually have supporting roles as shock absorbers for our bones and tendons. Career-ending injuries such as an ACL tear, for example, can be prevented and rehabbed by developing some upper leg strength.
So, whether you’re trying to become a better player or trying to prolong your playing days, it’s important to make sure to make time for developing those muscles in the weight room. They’re just as important as skills development and functional training exercises in basketball.