What is Basketball Shape?

November 27, 2023

Basketball Shape

What is “basketball shape?”

You can be in good physical shape without quite being in basketball shape - but what exactly does this mean?

Basketball is a rigorous and fast paced sport full of starts and stops, change of direction, full speed sprints, shuffle steps, single leg jumps, 2 footed jumps, and many more movement patterns.

It takes an athlete being in tremendous shape in order to repeatedly execute these movements at a high level over the course of the game.

Not only is it important to be in shape as far as muscular strength, but also mobility, cardiovascular fitness, and muscle balance.

Muscular Strength

Muscular strength of the upper and lower body allows players to execute basketball moves more efficiently and effectively.

A basketball player that has a good foundation of strength theoretically can dribble, shoot, pass, sprint, jump, slide, and more effectively than one who lacks that same foundation.

Of course there are exceptions, and strength is not the end all be all of basketball; my point is that up to a certain point being stronger can make for a more effective basketball player.

Think about an elementary school player that struggles to get the ball up to the rim on their shot. Because of their lack of strength their shooting form suffers and they might have to throw their entire body into their shot, or shoot with 2 hands etc.

With increased strength, this becomes a non issue.

Now consider a middle school or high school player who lacks strength and has trouble dealing with physical players. It makes it harder to protect the basketball, avoid turnovers, and finish through contact.

Lack of strength puts them at a disadvantage offensively because a savvy defensive player can exploit that weakness without getting whistled for a foul.

It puts them at a disadvantage defensively because it allows offensive players to post them up easily or drive past them with little resistance.

Basketball is a physical sport so it should go without saying that physical strength is a necessity.


Mobility allows the athlete to move more fluidly through different ranges of motion while also providing injury prevention. Preventing muscle imbalances also achieves this.

When I was a senior in high school, my basketball team had a sports yoga instructor come to our preseason workouts and take us through a tough yoga session.

She asked us who the best defenders on the team were. And most of us pointed to the same 2 or 3 players.

She then had us do the pigeon stretch, as well as the baby stretch and a couple of other hip involved poses — for every single one of those poses the players that we had pointed out as the best defenders had more hip mobility than everyone else on the team.

That moment years ago stuck with me as a reminder of just how important mobility was for basketball players, especially in the hips and I began to emphasize hip mobility from that point forward.

The hips allow us to change directions in multiple directions and to extend our body fully when we jump. Adults and kids alike tend to have tight hips because human beings spend a lot of time sitting down each day, which tightens them.

Obviously, the hips aren’t the only part of the body that we should seek to have mobility in, but it should be noted that having strong mobile hips makes for a much better athlete.

Cardio fitness

Cardiovascular fitness is different from the above types of fitness that I mentioned but it plays a tremendous role in a basketball player’s ability to be effective.

Being in good cardio shape allow: players to exert more effort and play harder than their opponents, which can be the difference maker in a close match up, and can help close the gap between teams/players with different skill levels. NBA players run average of 2 miles per game but it is not a straight forward 2 miles. Like I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different movement patterns and jumps that players have to preform in order to be effective.

Having good cardio also allows a player to stay in the game longer and be effective for longer. It’s harder for a player to be effective when a coach has to take them out of the game constantly so that they can catch their breath. Being in great cardio shape is also a difference maker that can help players stand out during tryouts.

In my basketball playing experience I’ve played with a few great players who were in poor cardio shape and it unfortunately prevented them from reaching their full potential.

There are several aspects of being in good “basketball shape” and they all contribute to a player's overall fitness.

Lagging in any one of them can be a detriment to the effectiveness of players on all levels of the sport.

I hope that this helps!

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