Swimming Workout for Basketball Players

Young man swimming in a pool

Basketball players use a variety of muscles to play the game, including leg, lower back, abdominal and arm muscles. Because swimming is a full-body exercise, getting in the pool is an effective way to strengthen and tone the muscles used on the hardwood. In addition to its strengthening and toning qualities, swimming is an effective cardiovascular exercise that helps build players’ stamina.


The arm muscles play a key role in playing basketball and are used to perform an assortment of tasks, including dribbling, passing and rebounding. While optimal muscle enhancement takes place in a weight room, it also can be effectively undertaken in a pool. For example, swimming laps using the freestyle stroke gets the arms moving in an alternating circular motion, propelling your body through the water with each down stroke. The biceps and triceps are the muscles of focus using this stroke. The breaststroke is a good way to focus on the pectoral and shoulder muscles, while the butterfly is an effective way to work in the lat muscles. No matter the stroke, swimming will go a long way toward improving your basketball skills.


Proper leg and foot motions play an important role in any of the strokes used to swim laps and are an effective workout that will benefit you during a basketball game. In conjunction with the proper arm movements associated with each type of swimming stroke, the feet and legs act as rudders that help steer and propel your body in the right direction through the water. The freestyle stroke requires you to kick your legs while pointing your toes, and kicking them in short up-and-down strokes. The breaststroke requires you to bend your knees outward and thrust your feet to the rear of your body as the arms work in a similar motion. Leg movements for the butterfly stroke are similar to the fin motions of a dolphin, requiring you to bend and kick your knees in short down and up motions while the arms do their task in providing the pull through the water.

Jumping Jacks

While swimming laps is a good way to enhance and tone the muscles you use to play basketball, your pool workouts also can include many activities that are traditionally done on land. For instance, jumping jacks done in water provide a level of resistance that strengthens the muscles in a way that is not possible on land. A swimming pool jumping jack is done by wading to a depth that brings the water to shoulder level. With your feet flat on the floor, bend your knees and spring as high as you can up out of the water, bringing your legs out to the sides with your toes pointed and your arms over your head. Land with your knees bent and your feet apart, then repeat for up to 20 times.

Full-Body Stretch

Stretching while in the water is another way to enhance your pool workouts for basketball. A full body stretch can be done at any depth and is accomplished by facing and grabbing onto the side of the pool. With your feet flat on the wall underwater, bend your knees and press your feet against the wall while inhaling and maintaining your grip on the edge of the pool. As you exhale, move your hips back until your knees are only slightly bent. You are in the right position when your pose resembles a perpendicular version of an on-land toe touch.