Here’s what we use for a dynamic warm up before basketball practice.
I’m not a doctor or a certified trainer. I’m just a coach that has borrowed ideas from other experts and put together a plan that I like and that makes sense to me. So keep that in mind as you read. I’m just sharing what we do to possibly give you ideas and spur some thoughts.
This is something we do before practice starts. Depending on whether we skip anything, it takes about 15-20 minutes. If possible we do this in the gym. If gym time is limited, we’ll warm up in the hallway before practice starts.
Depending on the space you have and number of players, sometimes you’ll need to improvise to make each exercise efficient.
Purpose of a Dynamic Warm Up — And Why It’s Important!
The purpose of a dynamic warm up is to raise the body’s core temp, prepare for rigors of practice, lower the risk of injuries (ACL, knee, ankle), and improve athleticism (balance, joint mobility, body control, strength, agility, flexibility and so on).
From what I have read, the chance of injury increases significantly when athletes start puberty. I have also read that a good strength and injury prevention program can reduce the likelihood of those injuries.
And just from observing LOTS of players, I notice sloppy fundamental movements (ex: running, jumping, changing direction) — and lack of strength in glutes, core, etc. I am no expert but it seems to me that those players get injured too often.
So our dynamic warm up includes lots of exercises designed to improve balance, fundamental movements, and strength.
Improving Strength & Athleticism
Another major benefit of the dynamic warm up is the increased strength and athleticism. Genetics play the biggest role in athleticism, but there are improvements you can make by implementing exercises to improve balance, spatial awareness, coordination (hands and feet), strength, flexibility, and body control.
The Dynamic Warm Up
Here’s the warm up we use…
1) Jog straight ahead
Self explanatory. Have players jog the length of the gym, down and back. Right away we want players focused on good running form… no knees buckling or sloppy form.
- Make sure you keep your upper body straight.
- Your hips, knees and feet should be aligned.
- Do not let your knees buckle inwards.
2) Forward & backward movement
Next we incorporate forward and backward movement. You can choose one of the following exercises:
Skipping is good for coordination, rhythm, and a light calf stretch. When running, make sure following good running form (upper body straight, don’t let knees buckle, and keep hips/knees/feet aligned).
3) Lateral movement
Now we want to continue increasing core temp and lubricate the joints with some lateral movement. We mix up the exercises to prevent boredom, provide stimulation, and offer new challenges. You can choose one of the following exercises:
- Shuffle. Can use any exercise like run and shuffle, side shuffle, etc.
- Carioca. 3 variations you can choose or here’s a 4th variation
- Lateral slide step. Demonstrated 2 minutes into this video.
Next we dynamically stretch the hamstrings and work on balance. We choose one of the following exercises:
Next we work on hip flexibility. From what I’m told, basketball players are almost always tight in their hips, calves, and ham strings. So we try to maintain flexibility in all three areas. We choose one of the following for hips:
- Running hip out & hip in (aka: open the gates and close the gates)
- Reverse lunge and twist. Demonstrated 2 minutes, 14 seconds into this video.
- Lateral slide step. Demonstrated 2 minutes into this video.
6) Quads or Calf
Next we choose a quad or calf stretch. We choose one of the following exercises and again we mix things up to provide stimulation and variety:
- Heel kick (shown 23 seconds into this video)
- High knee / heel kick (shown 57 seconds into this video)
- Quad stretch with toe raise. Demonstrated 2 minutes, 58 seconds into this video.
- Dynamic calf stretch
7) Core strength
Now choose one of these core strengthening exercises. A strong core will improve athleticism and reduce likelihood of injuries. We start with basic plank and progress to more advanced as season progresses.
- Static plank (we plank from push up position since the hard gym floor hurts the elbows)
- Plank – lift one leg for 2 sec, alternate
- Plank – lift one leg for 20 seconds
8) Lateral core strength
Next we choose one of these lateral core exercises. We start with side plank and progress to more advanced exercises as season progresses.
- Side plank (we plank from hands to avoid hurting elbow in gym)
- Side plank – raise and lower hips
- Side plank – lift leg
We choose one of these balance exercises. Start with most basic (around waist) and progress through. Then we mix things up for variety during the season.
- Around head, waist
- Play catch. Mix things by varying distances and types of passes (ex: overhead, one hand, bounce) to increase challenge.
- Test partner – push partner off balance
Next we choose one of these squat exercises. We start with basic squat and progress to more advanced exercises as season progresses. Focusing on proper technique is important.
11) Jumping and landing
Next we choose one of these jumping exercises. We start with basic vertical jump and progress to more advanced exercises as season progresses. Focusing on proper technique is important.
12) Push ups
Next we work on upper body strength with good old fashioned push ups. You can either set a time limit or prescribed number of reps.
13) Pull ups
And for the final exercise, if we have a pull up bar available, we do pull ups. This is another excellent exercise that targets numerous upper body muscles. We often spot players and/or use bands to assist, since some are not strong enough yet.
Don’t Make this Mistake
Look, I see tons of coaches using dynamic warm ups. But VERY few do it correctly. This is really important.
You MUST watch players and make sure they do things right. I stress to players that they have to focus and do the exercises technically correct! You really have to get on them.
If you don’t feel comfortable teaching and monitoring an exercise, don’t do it.
I have watched thousands of warms ups for soccer, basketball and a variety of sports. 90% of the time coaches aren’t even watching! They are talking with someone or setting up practice while the players are rushing through, talking, and sometimes doing more harm than good.
The first couple times we try to get 25-50% through this warm up. It takes a while for players to learn how to do the exercises properly — so we just implement in chunks. Then we keep adding as they learn.
Once players know the entire warm up and if we’re focused, it takes about 20 minutes.
We always try to do this warm up before practice so it doesn’t interfere with skill development time.
You will probably need to omit certain exercises due to time constraints. We usually omit a couple stretches and strength exercises to save time. If we want a really fast warm up… we’ll do something like this:
- Jog or skip — forward and backwards
- Shuffle or carioca
- Choose a hip or hamstring dynamic stretch
- Choose a balance exercise
- Push ups (since it works on both core and upper body strength)
This is a really quick and dirty warm up that I think is effective.
Adjustments Based on Age
I use this dynamic warm up at the 6th – 8th grade levels. For high school players we follow the staff trainers lead. For younger players we focus mostly on fundamental movements, balance, coordination, and basic forward/lateral movement. I often include a ball with the warm up to make better use of time with young kids.
However with older players that have started puberty, the chances of serious injury become higher and I believe a focused dynamic warm up that includes the injury prevention is important. So we remove the ball and focus on technique.
Other Options and Feedback
Look, there are hundreds of different warm up exercises and opinions out there on what players should do. Our warm up will probably change next year and evolve. If you have feedback or suggestion, please send them my way.
Here’s a video showing similar but different exercises:
Here’s another showing how you can improvise in the hall way:
When constrained to hallway, I often just have a down and back line. First player goes, and after a few seconds, the next player follows. The video above gives other great ideas to use the space you have.
I think there are lots of ways to go about things regarding warm ups. Sometimes it comes down to WHAT YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH. That’s a big reason why I picked those exercises for our dynamic warm up. I picked exercises I felt comfortable teaching and that I also think will raise body team, improve athleticism, and lower likelihood of injury.