Experts Explain How to Get a Body like an NBA Basketball Player

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Basketball players are known for being tall, but there’s much more to having a basketball player’s physique than your height.

Basketball players are lean with well-defined muscles.

They have strong upper bodies and sturdy legs that provide explosive power.

Even if you’re not genetically gifted in the height department, how can you get a body like a basketball player?

To get the body of an NBA basketball player, you’ll need to do a lot of conditioning and develop strength and power in your legs and glutes. You should also incorporate agility work into your routine and train your arms and core.

You can’t really get any taller once you’re fully grown, but getting lean and toned along with lots of stretching and spine decompression can make you appear longer.

I spoke to a few fitness trainers and asked for their tips on how to get a basketball player’s physique. Here’s what they said.


What Are the Hallmarks of the Basketball Player Physique?

Let’s put aside the height of a typical basket player in favor of what anyone can achieve: the well-built body and skillset.

TJ Mentus, ACE-certified personal trainer with garagegymreviews.com, says, “Basketball players tend to be explosive athletes which means strong and defined leg muscles.”

The upper body muscles are clearly defined on a basketball player’s body, too.

However, you won’t notice the main hallmarks of a basketball player’s body just by looking at them.

Basketball players also possess superb agility and dexterity, strong joints, and impressive jumping power.

A combination of proper diet, strength training, conditioning, and agility training can all help you develop the hallmarks of a basketball player’s body.


9 Training Tips for a Basketball Player Body

Developing both the looks and agility of a basketball player will take a lot of effort. Two personal trainers weighed in on what you need to do to achieve this body type.

1. Lower Your Body Fat

TJ Mentus says, “Basketball players typically have low body fat which gives them overall good muscle definition.”

You can lose body fat by working out, but you need to eat well, too. Ideally, cut out all processed, fatty, and sugary foods that don’t benefit your body.

Replace them with low-fat dairy products, protein-filled meats, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy carbs.

If you have a lot of weight to lose, you need to eat in a calorie deficit.

This means eating around 500 calories under your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). You can find out your TDEE from an online calculator, or you can speak to a professional about it.

From there, evaluate your diet—with the help of a nutritionist if needed—to see what you can cut out to get 500 calories below your TDEE.

For example, you can swap out your fatty burger for a lean steak.

You can also trade your mid-afternoon bag of potato chips with a protein bar or replace your breakfast bacon with eggs.

If you’re in a calorie deficit, it’s important to eat enough protein to fuel your training and recovery.

Protein not only helps repair the micro-tears in your muscles that occur when you work out but it also aids in recovery and can help reduce muscle soreness.

Having a protein shake as an additional meal on a training day is a good idea, too.

Your workout will ensure you’re still in a calorie deficit, and you’ll need the protein as additional fuel as you push your body to its limits.


2. Build Explosive Leg Muscles

According to TJ Mentus, you need explosive power and defined leg muscles to get a basketball player’s body.

He recommends plyometric exercises such as box jumps and med ball throws to help with this.

You can start by doing them in alternating sets with 10–15 reps per set.

There are lots of other exercises that are fantastic for developing explosive leg muscles.

The nine exercises below are used by real basketball players.

Incorporating all of them into your routine will help you get stronger and more powerful.

Consider doing:

  • Goblet squats
  • Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
  • Isometric split squats
  • Glute bridges
  • Isometric lateral squats
  • Lunges
  • Snap downs
  • Marching plantar-dorsiflexion
  • Seated box jumps

3. Do High-Intensity Interval Training

TJ Mentus also recommends doing high-intensity interval training “with short bursts of max effort that alternate with just enough rest to recover.”

This will help to create a muscular, lean body.

HIIT will also help your cardiovascular health, and it’s fantastic for burning fat, too. 

Going to a HIIT class will be highly beneficial for your training. You can also follow along with a HIIT workout online.

There are lots of videos on YouTube with workouts you can do at home with no equipment.


4. Become More Agile

Joshua Lafond, NASM personal trainer with healthygymhabits.com, says:

“The speed and especially agility of a basketball player is one of the things that separate the good from the great players.”

The weave and shoot is perfect for developing the agility of a basketball player.

Here are Joshua’s instructions for how to perform this exercise:

  1. Set up 5 cones about 10 feet apart
  2. Begin at cone 1 with the ball in your right hand
  3. In an athletic position, sprint to cone 2 while dribbling the ball
  4. When you reach cone 2, do a 180-degree turn and switch the ball to your left hand
  5. Backwards dribble to cone 3
  6. When you reach cone 3, turn back to forwards and exchange the ball back into your right hand
  7. Dribble and sprint to any point between cones 4 and 5
  8. Stop and set your feet, then shoot a two-point shot
  9. For more variety you can also change which hand you begin this agility drill with.

5. Get Faster

As Joshua said, basketball players are fast, so you need to be quick, too.

To increase your speed, consider doing sprints on the treadmill.

Experiment with finding your max sprint speed, then set the speed on the treadmill to 0.2–0.5 mph lower than your top speed.

Run 100 meters at this speed, then rest for 2-3 minutes. Repeat this pattern 5-10 times.

You can also sprint at your local running track or anywhere that has enough open space for you to run.

Sprinting regularly will make you faster while also helping you build a defined physique.

(The first two expert tips in my article about how to get a sprinter’s body will also help with your speed and stamina.)


6. Build Your Arms and Shoulders

Basketball players have ripped upper bodies and strong arms.

Doing a variety of dumbbell and barbell movements will help grow your arm and shoulder muscles.

Incorporating some kettlebell exercises is good, too. The kettlebell swing is an explosive movement, so it will help you develop more power as well.

Here are a few exercises that are great for building strong arms and shoulders:

  • Wrist curls (palms up or down)
  • Bicep curls
  • Concentration curls
  • Triceps kickbacks
  • Overhead extensions
  • Overhead presses
  • Chest presses
  • Lateral raises (dumbbells only)

Start with weights that are challenging but manageable.

Push yourself to reach a certain amount of sets and reps. Doing three sets of 10 reps is a good starting point.

Pull-ups also work well for creating strong shoulders, so consider doing them as a warmup or finisher for your resistance workouts.


7. Work on Your Abs

Getting defined abdominals comes with the territory of having a well-built upper body.

You can train your abs by following a quick, equipment-free routine that you can do anywhere.

Below is an example of a bodyweight core circuit.

Do each movement for one minute as explosively as you can, and rest for 30 seconds between exercises:

  • Situps
  • Pushups
  • Crunches
  • Russian twists
  • One-minute plank

Rest for one to two minutes after the plank before repeating the circuit two to three times.

I recommend doing this workout three to five days per week so you don’t fatigue your core too much for your other workouts.


8. Improve Your Vertical Jump

Improving your jumping skills isn’t mandatory.

But if you want to become a better basketball player in addition to looking like one, you’ll need to work on your vertical jump.

There’s no one movement that’ll help you improve your jump. Instead, you should practice a variety of drills.

If you’ve built your leg muscles with explosive exercises, then you’ll likely make great progress with your vertical jump. 

Here are some additional drills to try:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Burpees
  • Jump squats
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Forward linear jumps

Do these in three sets of 10–15 reps or one at a time for a minute each with a 30-second rest in between.


9. Get Taller (Well, Kind Of!)

You can’t start growing again, but you can work on decompressing your spine to make yourself appear taller.

You can do this by performing exercises that stretch out your body.

Here are a few low-intensity exercises that you can experiment with:

  • Bar hang
  • Cobra stretch
  • Swimming and dry-land swimming
  • Pilates rollover
  • Forward spine stretch
  • Two straight legs up

You won’t grow several inches just from doing the exercises above, but stretching regularly can help you appear taller.

Plus, all that stretching has plenty of other amazing health and fitness benefits!


Wrapping Up

Getting a basketball player’s body is less about becoming sculpted (although that applies too) and more about developing speed, agility, and power.

This will ensure your body works the way a basketball player’s body works, and achieving the physique is just a bonus.

Getting a basketball player’s body will not only make you stronger and faster, but it will make you fitter and healthier, too.

Getting ripped and learning to look taller will also do wonders for your confidence, and you’ll end up being happier all around!

For more physique guides, check out:

Hope this helps!

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