5 Best Knee Stretches For Basketball Players (With Instructions And Pro Tips)

Written By on November 29, 2022 β€” Medically Reviewed By Mitch Torres (PT)

Written by on November 29, 2022 β€” Medically Reviewed By: Mitch Torres (PT)

Doing knee stretches for basketball is a common warm-up staple to stay injury free. The key is to work on all the important muscles around your knee joint – the hamstring, quads, calf, adductors, and IT band.

The best part is that these stretching exercises are easy and won’t take too much time. We’ll discuss how to do them below, along with other tips to avoid knee injuries while playing basketball.

5 Best leg stretches for knee pain for basketball

1) Standing hamstring stretch

a person's foot over a chair while they're bending forward

Your hamstring muscles form the back of your thigh. Improving their flexibility allows you to cover more ground whenever you run. The easiest way to stretch them is with a standing hamstring stretch. To do it:

  • Stand upright.
  • Place your heel on top of a chair in front of you.
  • Keep your leg and upper body straight.
  • Gently lean forward at your hips and place your hands over your knee.
  • You should feel the back of your thigh stretching.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2 to 3 times per leg.

2) Kneeling quad stretch

person is holding onto their back foot while in a lunged position. Kneeling quad stretch

Your quadriceps is comprised of four muscles that go from your hip joint to your knee. It’s probably the most important muscle group when it comes to explosive movements needed in basketball, like sprinting and jumping.

Stretching it with a kneeling quad stretch can help prevent knee injuries and soothe muscle aches after a game. To do it:

  • Start in a lunge position, with your right leg in front of you.
  • Slowly lower yourself and let your left knee touch the floor.
  • Scoot forward a bit to feel a stretch at the front of your left hip.
  • Now, use your left hand to grab your left ankle and bend your knee.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2 to 3 times per leg.

Pro tip: We recommend this exercise in particular because it involves both your knees and hips. This ensures you’re stretching as much of the quadriceps as possible.

3) Calf stretch

The person is leaning forward. Their toes are placed right on the wall while their heel is on the ground. Calf Stretch

Working on your calf flexibility is key to taking care of both your knees and ankles. It may help you jump higher and recover faster each time you land awkwardly.

For a proper calf stretch, you just need to:

  • Stand a few inches away from a wall.
  • Place one foot up on the wall and dig your heels to the ground.
  • Place your palms on the wall for support.
  • Keep your knee straight and lean your body forward.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2 to 3 times per leg.

4) Adductor stretch

The person is side lunging to their right while bending forwards on their hip.

These often-neglected muscles are found in your inner thigh. They help develop your defensive slide and other lateral movements.

An easy way to do this stretch is by:


Knee Force Knee Sleeve
  • Start in a standing position, feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a big step to your left.
  • Slowly put your weight on your left foot.
  • Bend your left knee and lean forward on your hips.
  • You should feel the stretch on your right inner thigh.
  • Hold this for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2 to 3 times for each leg.

5) Iliotibial band stretch

Person is bending their body to the left, while holding onto the chair. Iliotibial band stretch

This technically isn’t a muscle, but a band of tissue that connects your hips muscles to your knee.

Nonetheless, improving your IT band flexibility may reduce the tension on your outer knee and hip due to running and jumping movements.

To stretch it:

  • Stand behind a chair, with your left side facing the backrest and your left hand holding it.
  • Cross your left leg in front of your right leg.
  • Lean your body to the left.
  • Done properly, you should feel a stretch on your right outer thigh.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds.
  • Do this for 2 to 3 repetitions per leg.

Pro tip: If you can’t feel the stretch, try leaning your body to the left while pushing your hips a bit to your right.

Why should you work on your flexibility?

Basketball is a fast-moving sport. Being flexible allows you to better adapt to the sudden change of pace demands of the game.

One example is during a turnover. A flexible athlete will have the ability to seamlessly shift from an offensive to a defensive stance and chase down their opponent down the court.

It also plays an important role in injury prevention.

See, as much as you train for it, suddenly getting bumped in the air or stepping on someone’s foot can mess up your landing form.

This can easily result in a knee injury if your lower legs aren’t flexible enough. But, you can reduce the severity of the damage – or even prevent it altogether – by having a solid stretching routine.

Related: Reasons why your knees hurt after playing basketball.

Other things to do to prevent a knee injury from basketball

It takes a whole lot more than just stretching to build resilient knees. You also have to do the following:

Do knee-strengthening exercises

You can’t go wrong by being strong.

Strength training develops your ability to engage more muscle fibres and eliminate any imbalances. It may also be the key factor to still land safely and efficiently even over a long exhausting game.

Some traditional bodyweight exercises that can help with this include:

  • Bodyweight quarter squat.
  • Lateral lunges.
  • Physioball leg curl.
  • Heel lifts.

Try them: 10 strengthening exercises for basketball players.

Perform balance drills

Balance is our ability to keep a stable position even against varying resistance. And, working on this could decrease your knee injury risk by up to 30%. (1)

The good thing is that it can be easily mixed into your daily activities. For example, try standing only on your right leg whenever you brush your upper teeth. Then switch to your left leg when cleaning the lower portion of your teeth.

Wearing a knee brace

Studies suggest that wearing a brace during sports could decrease the incidence of knee injuries. (2)

A knee sleeve can suffice for most basketball players. It provides compression to support your joint and keep it warm, while also allowing a full range of motion.

Learn more: Top knee braces for basketball players.

Warm up correctly

Yes, I know that warming up before a game may feel trivial at best. But it’s one of the easiest ways to prime your muscles and prevent lower body injuries. (3)


Knee Force Knee Sleeve

So, aside from stretching, you might want to include these activities in your next warm-up routine (4):

  • Forward and backward runs.
  • Skips.
  • Single-leg jumps over a line.
  • Planks.
  • Single leg balance.

FAQs

How do you warm up your knees before playing basketball?

To warm up your knees before playing basketball, do various mobility and stretching exercises.

Why do my knees hurt when I play basketball?

There are many reasons why your knees may hurt when you play basketball. Common examples include lack of sufficient warm-up, being out of shape, and poorly healed knee injuries.

Does basketball ruin your knees?

No, basketball doesn’t ruin your knees as long as you prepare your body for the demands of the sport.

Learn more: Is basketball bad for the knees?

Conclusion: How to do knee stretches for basketball?

Stretching is a great exercise to limber up and get set before a game. It can help you prevent injury and even treat it if you’re experiencing knee pain.

Finally, don’t forget to include balance and strengthening exercises in the mix. This will ensure your knees are strong and ready for the game.

Resources

  1. Emery, Carolyn A et al. β€œA prevention strategy to reduce the incidence of injury in high school basketball: a cluster randomized controlled trial.” Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine vol. 17,1 (2007): 17-24. DOI: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31802e9c05
  2. Sitler, M et al. β€œThe efficacy of a prophylactic knee brace to reduce knee injuries in football. A prospective, randomized study at West Point.” The American journal of sports medicine vol. 18,3 (1990): 310-5. DOI: 10.1177/036354659001800315
  3. Davis, Anna C et al. β€œThe Effectiveness of Neuromuscular Warmups for Lower Extremity Injury Prevention in Basketball: A Systematic Review.” Sports medicine – open vol. 7,1 67. 16 Sep. 2021, DOI: 10.1186/s40798-021-00355-1
  4. Emery, Carolyn A et al. β€œThe “SHRed Injuries Basketball” Neuromuscular Training Warm-up Program Reduces Ankle and Knee Injury Rates by 36% in Youth Basketball.” The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy vol. 52,1 (2022): 40-48. DOI: 10.2519/jospt.2022.10959
Author
Paolo Sarmiento (PT)
Paolo is a physical therapist, educator and fitness enthusiast. He shares his knowledge and experience in helping people deal with health issues, especially with the knee. As health-conscious as he can be, he enjoys long bicycle rides, early morning runs, and a good slice of pizza with extra pepperoni.