Performance during competitions is based on habits formed during training. The purpose of team warm ups is to get players ready to practice at Game Intensity and Quality. Warm ups should prevent injuries, develop athleticism and enable players to reach their Ideal Performance State.
Whether one prefers John Wooden’s thought that “if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?” or Alan Stein’s belief that if you want something badly enough, you make time, it is important to maximize productivity in practice. Some skills that require excellent execution – in addition to serving a purpose in the warm up or cool down – are included in every practice.
When the gym opens, players should be ready to come in and improve. A focused pre-practice routine enables players to work on their specific skills, raise their heart rates and mentally prime themselves for practice. Pair routines can be easily organized and practiced. Coaches may also choose to organize stations or work with players individually. When practice starts, players will be engaged and ready.
A good warm up should increase body temperature and heart rate, reduce muscle stiffness and prepare athletes for competition. Components should consist of cardio work, dynamic stretching and a speed element. Static stretching is not appropriate for basketball because it reduces performance in activities which require strength, speed and explosiveness. Avoid simply jogging because coaches can be more creative about incorporating sport-specific skills into the warm up.
- Individual Warm Up (10-20 minutes)
- Allow Players to Prepare Physically and Mentally
- Options Include: Self-Message, Ankle and Foot Exercises (barefoot, small hops, twists, rolling from heel to toe), Skipping (for footwork) and Shooting
- During this Time, Coaches Touch Base with Players
- Cardio Warm up (5-10 minutes)
- Raise Heart Rate
- Include Skipping for Footwork
- Make It Fun and Engaging
- Dynamic Stretching (5 minutes) • Baseline to Halfcourt
- Floor Sweeps
- Single Leg Balancing
- Walking Leg Extensions
- Knee Hugs
- Hip Flexors
- Can Openers
- Fence Jumps
- Heel Kick with Arm Extension
- Rapid Heel Kicks
- Side Lunges Sumo Squats (Alternating Sides)
- Figure 4 Cradles
- Lunges with Russian Twist
- Reverse Lunges and Reach Sky
- Getting Loose
- Skipping, Bounding (with arm circles), Leg Swings, High Knees, Butt Kicks, Carioca, etc.
- Speed (2-5 minutes)
- Maximum Speed
- Few Repetitions
- Move in Multiple Directions and Combinations (forwards, backwards, sideways, defensive footwork, closeouts, etc.)
Coaches can incorporate other elements into the warm up, such as personal fitness stations immediately afterwards to develop athletic abilities or particular skills that they wish to emphasize (such as pivoting, one-on-one play, passing). Some coaches move into transition and others shooting or ballhandling but it is imperative to maintain heart rate at game intensity.
Pregame instructions can be completed before the team hits the court. Interrupting the warm up for a brief team meeting is unnecessary for a well-prepared squad.
The first part of the warm up follows a traditional format, with cardio, dynamic stretching and speed. The middle part of the warm up emphasizes game situations such as catching the ball ready to shoot, driving to the hoop and kicking to a shooter and post play. The final minutes of the warm up are designed to raise the team energy level and bring everyone together.
- Before 20:00: In the Hallway
- Ankle Exercises
- Dynamic Stretching
- Getting Loose
- 20:00: Three Laps around Half-Court
- Finish with “Rapid Fire” down the centre of the court
- 18:00: Two Lines
- Give and Go
- 90 seconds each side
- 15:00: Downscreen Post Isolation
- V-cut to 1-on-1 Attack
- Downscreen to Seal
- 12:00: Memphis Shooting
- Penetrate and Kick
- Elbow Pull-Ups and Corner Jumpshots
- 9:00: Italian Shooting in the Halfcourt
- Catch and Shoot on the Wings
- Penetrate and Kick with Spot-Up Variation
- 6:00: Defensive Work
- 3-Player Pass and Close Out
- 5-on-5 Shell Drill
- 3:00: Sideline Lay-Ups and Skip 3s
- 1:30: Team Building Activity
- 1:00: Team Enters Huddle
- 0:00: Opening Tip-Off
A good cool down should return heart rate its resting rate, lower the levels of lactic acid and adrenaline in the body and reduce soreness after practice or the next day. Shooting is a good activity because it will lower the heart rate and simulate shooting while fatigued in games. Running through offensive sets at half-speed may be a good change of pace. Players may find it interesting to experiment with yoga exercises instead of the usual static stretches.
- Lower Heart Rate (5-15 minutes)
- Move without the Ball
- Practice Good Form
- Shoot in Small Groups
- Static Stretching (5-10 minutes) • Team Forms a Circle
- Seated Stretches
- Sukhasana with Arms Overhead
- Pigeon Pose
- Double Hip
- Single Knee Cross
- Ankle Rotations
- Standing Calf with Push Forward
- Standing Quad with Arm Extension
- Lunge with Hip Drive
- Upper Body
- W Stretch
- Shoulders with Side Head Lean
- Entire Body
- Raise Ups
- Sun Salutation
- Mountain > Hands Up > Head to Knees > Lunge (left foot forward) > Plank > Stick > Upward Dog > Downward Dog > Lunge (right foot forward > Head to Knees > Hands Up > Mountain
- Seated Stretches
- Individual/Pairs Shooting (10-20 minutes)
- Work on Different Shots
- Focus on Technique
- Teammates Watch Each Other Shoot
5 Minute Cool Down
Coaches should not short change the cool down because it is a reset that gets players ready for the next practice or competition. However, sometimes time is of the essence and there may only be a few minutes before the bus needs to leave or players go home with their parents.
Here is a quick five-minute cool down that can be supplemented with additional stretching at home:
- Walking (barefoot or with shoes)
- Rolling from heel to toe
- Foot doming
- Ankle rotations
- Five Stretches
- Pigeon Pose
- Double Hip Stretch
- Lunge with Hip Push
- Hamstring Roller
- Side Lunge, Walk Out to Cobra Pose
Teams should cool down after every game, despite the emotions of a big win or loss. In addition to the physical benefits, a cool down helps players mentally come down from a tough competition. The team should degrief before they debrief their performance with coaches.
Use whatever facilities are available, such as hallways, alternate gyms, classrooms, or locker rooms. Avoid the other team and do not interact with other spectators. Coaches should supervise the cool down to prevent any incidents. Teammates should support each other and grow closer at this time. Leaders must take an active role in these cool down sessions.
- Cardio Cool Down (5 minutes)
- Gradually Lower heart Rate
- Suggestions: Jogging, Bounding, or Walking
- Static Stretching (5-10 minutes)
After Practices and Games
Later in the evening, further static stretching can increase flexibility. Ankle work – or even simple skipping – can provide significant benefits in terms of stability and foot speed.
Warm ups and cool downs are routines to which athletes should become accustomed. As the season progresses, the coach can step back and some of the components, like dynamic and static stretching, become opportunities for player leadership. Ideally, players should initiate the warm up independently before games and practices and move smoothly from one element to another.