By Christine Johnston BA, CSCS, CAT (C)

Stretching plays a vital role in increasing performance in basketball.
It can decrease the risk of injury, increase your range of motion and
prepare your body for the game. There are several different types of
stretching from quick movement stretching which is known as ballistic
or dynamic stretching to a slow hold stretch called static stretching.
How does stretching increase performance? Have you ever reached for a
pass and just missed it and turned over the ball? Have you ever tried
to reach the ball while posting up and lost the ball because you could
not reach the ball? Stretching will increase your flexibility which
will in turn allow you to reach higher for the ball, reach out to the
side for the ball and take larger strides to be able to beat your
opponent to the hoop. Furthermore, stretching will decrease the risk of
injury help recover after a big game.


Ballistic or dynamic stretching involves quick movements such as leg swings like Kobe is doing in the picture. This type of stretching is performed to increase the amount of range of motion available at a joint for quick initial effects. A tool used to warm up the body and allow the joints to be best prepared for the tasks ahead. This type of stretching will not give you long term changes in flexibility, whereas ballistic stretching will increase the range of the joint for that period of time. This can be part of your pre-game plan added to your warm – up!  Ballistic stretching is performed from 10 to 20 repetitions repeating on both sides with little to no holding of the position.

Static stretching is a slow controlled hold of the stretch. This is done to increase the amount of range of motion with long term changes in the tissues therefore increasing range of motion of the joint. Static stretching is held from 15 to 30 seconds and repeated a minimum of 3 times. The stretch is held before pain is felt. No pain should be felt while stretching, just a good feeling of a stretch.  


Examples of ballistic stretches are leg and arm swings, head and shoulder circles, high knees, butt kicks, and toe touches. These should be performed 10 to 20 times per limb and repeated once or twice or a couple lengths of the gym. These ballistic stretches are a great tool to use as part of your warm up to get ready for the game.

Here is an example of a static stretching program to gain flexibility.

Lower body stretching program


Cross leg over, pull knee to chest

Should feel the stretch in the bum

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times per limb           



Hip flexor

Take a knee and then lean forward

Should fee the stretch in the front of the hip

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times per limb



While maintaining a tall back, push the legs down into the floor

Should feel the stretch in insides of your legs

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times


With one leg bent and the other straight, reach to your toes, think of chest to leg

Should feel the stretch in the back of the legs

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times each leg




Lying on your side, pull heel to your bum, holding at your ankle, keeping your body in a straight line

Should feel the stretch in the front of the leg

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times each leg



With your leg back, or foot against the wall, push your body forward and heel down

Should feel this stretch in the back of your leg in the calf

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times each leg

Repeat the same stretch with your knee bent to target the soleus muscle independently

Hold again for 20 seconds, 3 times each leg

Upper body stretching program


Important stretch for when releasing the ball when taking a shot

Place arm straight out, bring hand down and apply some pressure to the fingers

Should feel this stretch in the muscles in the forearm

Can do both sides by flipping over your wrist to face down and then to face up

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times each arm



Also important to assist with your shot

Bring arm over like you are going to scratch your back, place other hand on elbow and try to bring arm down into the hand, keeping your arm in line with your shoulder

Should feel this stretch on the underside of the arm

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times each arm


Biceps/ pectorals

This stretch can be done in a door frame, against a wall or at a corner of a wall

To stretch the pectoral or chest muscles, put your arm in a high five position and then put your arm against the wall while staying straight up and chest forward

You should feel this in the front of the chest

To stretch your biceps, assume the same position but put your arm straight out

Should now feel this more into the front of the arm

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times each arm for both of the stretches


Posterior Shoulder

Bring arm across the body, holding with other arm

Should feel the stretch in the shoulder blade and shoulder

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times each arm

Low back

Arms straight out in a T position, knees bent up and together then let the knees fall to the side, to increase the stretch bring knees higher or bring hand to knee to pull knee down

Should feel the stretch in the low back

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times each arm



Lying down on your stomach, push up while keeping your lower body on the floor

Should feel this on the front side of your body in your abdominal area

Hold for 20 seconds, 3 times each arm


In training sessions, a week before the big game, use static stretches to gain more flexibility and range of motion. When preparing for the big game, while doing your warm up, use ballistic stretches to gain range of motion and flexibility for that game. Then repeat your favorite static stretches as part of your post game cool down. Stretching is an activity that can be done everyday and should be done everyday.

Christine Johnston is a Certified Athletic Therapist and a Strength and Conditioning Coach here in Winnipeg.

For more stretching programs, contact Christine at or

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