Our Favourite Warm-up and Cool-Down Exercises

February 2, 2022

How many of us warm up or cool down properly every time we play basketball? Why should we even bother with warming up or cooling down if we are just playing at a casual drop-in session? Does it really make much of a difference in our performance and recovery? Studies show that warming up is important for getting your muscles moving, optimizing performance afterwards  (McGowan et al., 2015). Studies have also found that there is a relationship between cooling down after exercise to reduced soreness and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and reducing lactic acid build-up in your bloodstream (Van Hooren & Peake, 2018).

Warm-up and cool-down exercises are categorized as active (or dynamic) and passive (or static) exercises. Dynamic warm-ups and cool-downs are described as exercises that involve brief aerobic portions of movement. For example, exercises such as wind sprints or walking lunges would be considered “dynamic”. In contrast, holding a stretch for a length of time would be considered static.

We’ve compiled a list of our favourite warm-up and cool-down exercises, as well as a list of basketball specific warm-up drills for you to use as a resource!

Dynamic Warm-Up (Body) 

Opening and closing hip gate 
  • Opening: flex hip 90 degrees and bring your knee outwards while parallel to your body. Place your foot down, take a few steps (either walking forward or lateral shuffles/slides) and alternate to the other foot.  
  • Closing: flex your hip 90 degrees but starting with your knee outwards beside your torso. Bring your knee inwards toward the midline of your body and place foot down. Take a few steps (either walking forward or lateral shuffles/slides) and alternate to the other foot.  
  • Target area: hips
High knees, glute kicks 
  • High Knees: While walking or lightly jogging, bring your knee upwards until your upper leg is parallel to the ground. Try to keep your foot dorsi-flexed (bringing your toes upwards instead of pointed downwards). Target area: hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, calves
  • Butt kicks: While walking or lightly jogging, kick the heel of your foot to the glute (same side) while trying to avoid flexing at the hip. Alternate sides every few steps. Target area: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings 
Lunge twist 
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart
  • Take a step forward with your right leg, bend both knees and rotate your torso to the right.
  • Return to the starting position, walk forward, and repeat the movement on the left side.
  • Alternate sides until you have crossed one side of the gym to the other
Steps (jumping over a line, two legs, 1 leg) 
  • 30 seconds of each variation of each non-stop
  • Finding a line on the floor, begin by jumping over a line for 30 seconds non-stop with a 10 second break between reps. 
  • Rep 1: forward a back
  • Rep 2: side to side 
  • Rep 3: diagonal
  • Variations: two legs, left leg, right leg. 

Cool-Down (Body)

Pigeon stretch 
  • Starting in a seated position, bring your right leg forward so that the knee is resting in line with your right hip and reaching your right ankle towards the left hand. You are attempting to make it so that your shin is horizontal. 
  • Slowly lower your hips towards the floor, and stretch your left leg so that it is lying straight behind you
  • Bend forward at the hip towards the floor until you can feel the stretch and hold. 
  • Slowly release the stretch and switch sides 
  • Target areas: hip flexors, lower back 
Cat-cow stretch 
  • Begin in a tabletop position on your hands and knees placed on the floor. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and your knees lined up under your hips. 
  • Slowly round your back upwards towards the ceiling and bring your head towards the floor. Hold the stretch briefly. 
  • Slowly arch your back towards the floor and lift your head towards the ceiling. Hold the stretch briefly.
  • Repeat.
  • Tip: try to match your breathing to the stretch by exhaling during cat stretch and inhaling during cow stretch 
  • Target areas: back
Wall hamstring stretch 
  • Begin by standing shoulder width apart and facing a wall. Bring one of your feet close to the wall so that the balls of your feet are pressing against the wall with your heel planted on the floor. 
  • Slowly lean forward and place your body weight onto the foot against the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs in the hamstring area. Stretch and hold. You may want to place your hands against the wall if you need to balance. 
  • Slowly release the stretch and switch sides. 
  • Target areas: hamstrings 
“Hang loose”
  • Utilizing a yoga ball or bosu ball, simply lie on top with your back against it. Allow your limbs and head to “hang loose” to lengthen the spine and relieve tension. 
  • Slowly get up into a standing position.
  • In a standing position, you can also “hang loose” and reach forward with your arms towards the floor. 
  • Target: back, hamstrings

Basketball Specific Warm-ups

Form shooting 
  • Starting at the block on either side of the net (around ~2-3 feet away), focus on making 10 shots in a row without hitting the  rim. Each rep should be focused on shooting ‘form’ (balance, eyes, elbows, follow through). 
  • Once you have made 10 in a row, rotate your location to the other side of the rim, straight on the rim. 
  • You may wish to expand the drill to other locations on the court as your get warmed up. 
Mikan Drill 
  • Start by standing on one side of the net and make a layup close to the basket (not with a running approach) 
  • Immediately, grab your own rebound and do a lay-up opposite side of the net
  • Alternate sides in a continuous fashion. You may want to practice different types of finishing moves such as power, regular, reverse lay-ups. 
  • This dynamic drill aims to focus on both lay-up finishes as well as rebounding. 
Wall hits 
  • Start by dribbling at hip height with your right hand and with your left shoulder close to a wall
  • While dribbling, use your left shoulder to contact/”hit” the wall. 
  • Switch sides and repeat 
Ball handling
  • Right hand, left hand dribble at different heights and different speeds 
  • Cross over, between the legs, behind the back
  • Inside out, push/pull dribbles 


McGowan, C. J., Pyne, D. B., Thompson, K. G., & Rattray, B. (2015). Warm-up strategies for sport and exercise: Mechanisms and applications. Sports Medicine (Auckland), 45(11), 1523-1546. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-015-0376-x

Van Hooren, B., & Peake, J. M. (2018). Do we need a cool-down after exercise? A narrative review of the psychophysiological effects and the effects on performance, injuries and the long-term adaptive response. Sports Medicine (Auckland), 48(7), 1575-1595. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-0916-2

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