What Muscles Does Basketball Work?

Basketball is a very popular sport played by people of all ages and skill levels.

And it’s easy to see why!

The game involves dribbling a ball through an opponent’s goal while protecting your basket from attackers.

There are also many other aspects of the game that require intense physical activity.

From running up and down the court to throwing or catching the ball, there are many different ways to get involved in the action.

Basketball specifically involves muscle groups that include the triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves and the central core. The intense physical mature of the sport causes these muscles to extend and contract as players move around on the court.

This article will now over some of those movements and explain what muscles are engaged in greater detail.

What muscles are used in basketball?

Below we’ll break down each part of the body into sections that correspond with specific movements.

We’ll include examples of both upper-body and lower-body exercises so you can choose one type or combine them as needed.

Let’s begin at the top.

There are five major areas of the human body that are required during basketball play:

  • Triceps;
  • Quadriceps;
  • Hamstrings;
  • Calves; and
  • Core.

Each area has its own responsibilities and strengths, helping players move fluidly and efficiently across the court.

Our first section covers the most important movement for any basketball player — shooting.

Read about how the tricep muscles help you release the perfect shot.

1. Tricep muscles for shooting and passing

what muscles basketball works - triceps

The triceps muscle group helps you shoot and pass balls.

These large, triangular muscles attach to your humerus just under your shoulders.

They’re made up of three heads (or head flexors) called long, medial and lateral.

Long triceps connect directly to your shoulder joint, where it inserts onto your scapula bone (the small bones above your clavicle).

Medial and lateral heads connect to your elbow.

Together, this grouping helps rotate your arms forward and backward.

While doing so, the triceps push on your humerus and pull on your forearm, allowing for smooth pivoting around joints.

In the moment that a basketball player is taking a shot, the triceps contract, which provides the springboard for the extension of the arm that then pushes the ball away from the body and towards the basket.

And when the ball has been released into the air, the triceps then extend as the arm straightens out.

2. Quadricep muscles for jumping and running

what muscles basketball works - quadriceps

Quadriceps are responsible for explosive power.

When performing a jump shot, for example, the quadriceps contract and quickly propel your leg upward.

This muscle movement actually happens any time the posture of your leg moves from a bent position to a straight one.

And the opposite can be said of the quadriceps when your legs go from being straight to being bent, as these muscles extend in such a scenario.

Quadricep muscles are really important for basketballers, as how well they are built determines the level of power these athletes are able to exert when it comes to actions like jumping high and performing those quick sprints up and down the court.

3. Hamstring and gluteus muscles

Hamstrings and glutes work together to provide stability for the entire kinetic chain.

During basketball games, these two muscle groups must be strong and flexible.

When running on the court, these muscles are engaged in extension and contraction as the hamstrings at the back of the thighs work together with the quadriceps to support movement of the lower body.

On the other hand, the gluteus muscles contract when players run, jump and perform squats.

Staying healthy here means avoiding injuries like hamstring pulls and lower-back pain.

To avoid injury, keep your knees slightly bent and maintain a natural stride length.

Avoid using too much force while landing after jumps or sprints.

Also, make sure your ankles are rolled inward to prevent overuse.

Now find out how the calf muscles help you walk and run.

4. Calves for walking and running

what muscles basketball works - calves

Calf muscles help us walk and run properly.

Calf muscles are used primarily in the lower limbs and form the base of support for the entire kinetic chain.

During basketball, the calf muscles must be able to generate sufficient torque to absorb energy from both the ground and the air.

These muscles contract during motions that require an extension of the foot.

For example, when your heel elevates off of the ground when you start to walk or run, the calf muscles get to work by providing the necessary contraction support for your body to be able to facilitate this motion smoothly.

5. Abdominal and lower back muscles

Abdominals are known as the core muscles because their job is to control the trunk.

In order to bounce, spring, spin and pivot, abdominal muscles must remain firm and taut.

They essentially stabilize all the other muscle movements that take place within the body, even when a player is just standing still.

As a matter of fact, you wouldn’t be wrong to call them the “glue” that keeps the body together, as core muscles hold the body in an upright position and with good posture each and every moment.

6. Chest muscles for blocking shots

Chest muscles help protect the heart and lungs.

The pectoralis major connects to the breastbone and rib cage.

Its primary function is to protrude outward and block incoming projectiles.

Blocking shots with your chest protects the chest cavity from flying objects.

Another reason for strengthening these muscles is to provide more protection to the back.

By doing so, you reduce the risk of injury caused by repeated twisting and turning.

7. Leg muscles for running and jumping

Leg muscles are composed of four smaller parts: the anterior, posterior, fibular and gastrocnemius muscles.

Because they receive the majority of the workload, these muscles tend to become injured easily.

The quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles discussed earlier are considered upper-body muscles, since they primarily work during vertical motions.

Running and jumping, however, involve greater degrees of horizontal motion.

Therefore, leg muscles are responsible for rotating the leg in various directions.

Their main function is to rotate the lower limb forward and backward and laterally from either side.

During basketball, leg muscles must be capable of providing adequate torque to accelerate and decelerate the lower limbs.

Muscle workouts for basketball

Now, it’s all well and good knowing which muscles work in the body when you’re playing basketball.

But what’s even better is when you as an athlete are equipped with the knowledge and procedures to strengthen these specific muscle groups.

Have a look below as we’ve jotted down a few training techniques you can use to build muscle strength in the different areas of your own body.

Tricep extensions

To strengthen the triceps, stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.

Place your hands behind your ears and extend your elbows toward your front.

Now bend over until your torso is parallel to the floor, keeping your head up and looking straight ahead.

Hold this position for several seconds, then slowly return to standing upright.

Repeat 10 times.

For another great exercise, try the Lying Triceps Extension.

Lie flat on your stomach with your arms extended overhead.

Allow your chest to sink toward the ground, but don’t let your chin touch the mat.

Then raise your left arm off the floor and hold it for 30 seconds.

Repeat the same motion with your right arm. You should feel the stretch along your side.

Squats to work the quadriceps

To increase strength here, you can do squats.

Stand up straight with your legs slightly wider than your hips.

Squat down, placing your weight on your heels. Lower yourself down in a controlled manner until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

Maintain good posture throughout the squat.

Return to starting position and repeat 15 times. If you need extra resistance, use a dumbbell or barbell instead.

You may not think of the quadriceps as “basketball” muscles, but they are essential to running plays.

How do you know if you’ve got enough speed?

Try this: run a lap around the gymnasium floor whilst timing yourself.

That number represents how fast you run without stopping. A faster runner should aim for less than 40 seconds per lap.

Once you have achieved that speed, start jogging in place for two minutes to warm up.

Afterward, perform 20 sprints, gradually increasing the distance between reps.

Your time should decrease every week.

Using a medicine ball to exercise the hamstrings and glutes

One way to strengthen these muscles is by using a medicine ball. Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Raise your left leg straight out behind you, bending only at the knee.

Keep your toes pointed downward.

With your right hand, grab the ball and swing it gently against your thigh.

Repeat this action 10 times.

And then switch sides and practice the opposite version with your right foot leading.

Abdominal muscle conditioning

Good abdominal conditioning requires a combination of strength and endurance training.

For starters, lie on your back with your arms stretched out beside you.

Lift your legs 6 inches off the floor, keeping your pelvis firmly planted on the ground.

Contract your abs now, squeezing your belly button toward your backbone.

Release and relax.

Do this eight times.

Alternatively, you can check out the footage below as it provides a great 15-minute workout routine that you could try:


As you can see, basketball demands a lot from the body.

But with focus and determination, anyone can achieve success.

Our hope is that you once you’ve gained knowledge on what muscles basketball works, you can develop skills that lead to athletic achievement in this great sport.

And if you’ve enjoyed reading this article, you’d also probably like our write-up on why basketball as a sport has the most injuries or our post on why basketball players have broad shoulders.

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.