Professional basketball player Elan Buller, who played point guard at Pepperdine University when they beat the Indiana Hoosiers in 2000, holds the current world record for the longest successful basketball shot. Scoring at a distance of 112 feet and six inches, this was the second time that Buller broke the world record for the farthest successful shooting distance.
You don’t need to be a world record-holder to appreciate the benefits of getting a basketball in the net from far away. By increasing your basketball shooting distance, you:
- Open up the floor not only for yourself, but for your teammates as well
- You increase the spread of your team, which makes attacking the hoop easier for you and your colleagues
- You overcome taller opponents, since distance decreases their ability to defend against your shots
But there’s one problem: The further you are from the net, the higher your odds of missing the hoop. This holds true even for elite NBA athletes.
According to statistical researchers at FiveThirtyEight, who analyzed the percentage of successful shots throughout five NBA seasons and an incredible 1+ million player attempts, the only time that NBA players managed to get more than 50 percent of their shots into the hoop was in the tiny swath of court right in front of the basket.
In fact, once players were more than six feet away from the hoop, their averages dropped as low as 35 percent.
Do you want to increase your shooting distance and score more points at your next game? If you want to shoot a basketball farther, it’s key to understand the biomechanics of shooting a basketball. After explaining the biomechanics of shooting the ball, we will give you five specific exercises for shooting a basketball farther.
How to Increase Your Basketball Shooting Range
There are a few factors that significantly influence your ability to get your basketball in the hoop from a longer distance:
- Your technique (e.g., the angle of your arc, your shot’s depth in the rim, the so-called Magnus effect, etc.)
- Your height, which impacts everything from your release angle to the effects of gravity
- Your strength and flexibility, and specifically your ability to generate a lot of force and speed when shooting
In the sections below, we will:
- Break down the biomechanics of shooting a basketball
- Discuss the specific muscles involved in shooting the basketball from a greater distance
- Explain specific exercises that will target the muscles you need to strengthen to increase your shooting distance
The Biomechanics of Shooting a Basketball
In a study published in the Journal of Physical Education Recreation & Dance, researchers analyzed the specific biomechanics involved in shooting a basketball. Regardless of where you’re shooting from, all shots require six general stages of movement:
- The set-up, squaring your shoulders and positioning yourself so you’re facing the basket
- The right stance, with your dominant foot positioned a few inches in front of your non-dominant foot
- The build-up, where your knees bend and your muscles contract, coiling up kinetic energy in your lower body
- The explosive release of the kinetic energy as you relax your contracted muscles, jump up, and bring the basketball up to your face
- The arm and shoulder flexion and extension, where you raise your arm and release the ball
- The follow-through, letting the momentum and kinetic energy complete its movement
When it comes to increasing your shooting distance, the most important principle to remember is summation of force.
Summation of Force 101
You cannot shoot the basketball without generating a large amount of kinetic force, and you cannot increase your shooting distance without increasing the amount of force behind your throw.
Contrary to what you might assume, the force you need doesn’t come from your arms and hands.
Within the context of basketball, generating the necessary force starts in your lower body as you bend your knees. This knee flexion and muscle contraction activate and recruit the fast-twitch, type II muscle fibers in your feet, legs and glutes.
When released, the kinetic energy travels rapidly up your body (known as the kinetic chain) and through your arms and hands, projecting the basketball with force.
The more muscles and body parts you involve in this process, the more force you can generate and the greater the distance you can throw the basketball. This is known as force summation, and it’s the key to effectively increasing your shooting distance while also minimizing fatigue and exhaustion that would otherwise compromise your shooting abilities later in the game.
With that understanding of force summation, you may choose to adjust some of your shooting techniques and strategies by:
- Bending your knees deeper in your set-up, which helps distribute force generation across more muscle groups.
- Jumping higher, which accelerates the kinetic chain (and also increases your release angle, which is linked with improved scoring percentages)
- Straightening your body to maintain momentum and balance (this requires a stable, strong core)
And all of this necessitates recruiting the right muscle groups, and strengthening these muscle groups appropriately.
Muscles Involved in Long-Distancing Shooting
Jumping and shooting is basically a full-body movement, but there are a few specific muscle groups that are especially important:
- Your legs, specifically the explosive strength of your quads, calves, and glutes that are the foundation for generating force.
- Your core, which helps maintain the kinetic chain between your lower and upper body.
- Your chest and shoulder girdle, which help to move your shoulders and arms with accuracy and power.
- Your arms, especially your biceps (key for elbow flexion and for smooth movement as you throw), triceps (they raise your arms and assist with shoulder rotation), and forearm muscles (critical for the final stage of throwing when the ball is raised in front of your face).
Any traditional strength-training program can help build the flexibility and strength of these muscle groups. However, five specific exercises tie these muscle groups together in a way that trains for ballistic (i.e., explosive) movements, which is necessary for precise projection of the basketball.
5 Exercises to Increase Serving Speed
There are a few technique adjustments that you can employ to increase your shooting range. For instance, try:
- Decreasing the time it takes to smoothly transition between each stage of the shot.
- Dropping your elbow more when shooting, which ensures a cleaner kinetic path through your shoulders, arms and forearms.
- Practicing exaggerated shooting, where you aim to get the basketball up and over the backboard. This helps you get a feel for greater force generation and force summation in your legs and glutes.
Beyond technique adjustments, the following exercises strengthen the specific muscle groups necessary for generating force and increasing your shooting range.
1. Goblet Squat
The goblet squat is a plyometric move that activates your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which helps generate high-velocity force in your lower body. It specifically strengthens your legs and glutes for optimal force summation and a strong shot.
The squatting motion also conditions the knees and hips, which are all fundamental for jump shots, as well as your core, back, shoulders and arms. Finally, the coordination necessary for this movement builds the neural networks you need for a proper kinetic chain.
- Stand with your feet apart wider than your hips.
- Hold a kettlebell or a dumbbell in both hands, positioned in front of your chest with your elbows pointed down.
- Bend your knees, tighten your core, and squat as low as you can while keeping your chest up and your back straight.
- Pause when your thighs are parallel to the ground, then push upward with explosive speed.
- Aim for three sets of 10-12 reps.
2. Depth to Box Jump
You get what you train for. Since so much of your driving force when shooting a basketball comes from bending your knees, exercises that condition for this movement will help your body to better recruit and activate the important muscles involved.
In contrast to a traditional drop jump, a depth jump is characterized by maximal knee flexion and more ground contact time upon landing. This mimics the bending you need to do for lengthening your shooting range.
- Stand in front of a tall box that’s at least 18 inches off the ground (as your fitness improves, raise the level of this box to maintain the challenge of this exercise).
- Position your feet shoulder-width apart with your hands hanging at your side.
- Squat as low as possible and swing your arms back, which loads up the force in your lower body joints and muscles.
- Explode off the ground with as much velocity as you can muster, swinging your arms in front of you and landing softly on top of the box.
- Step down and repeat for three sets of 12 reps.
3. Glute Bridge
The glutes are the largest muscle group in your body, and the type II muscle fibers in your glutes are responsible for most of the power you need for explosive movements and high jumps.
You’ll feel the burn in your glutes when doing this exercise. It will also help with stabilizing and conditioning your core, protecting your kinetic chain’s efficiency when shooting.
- Lie down on the ground on your back.
- Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the ground.
- Keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Hold a foam roll, a pillow or a rolled-up towel between your knees.
- Squeeze your glutes, tighten your core, and raise your hips into the air using your glute strength only.
- Pause when your abdomen, hips and the top of your thighs form a straight line when observed from the side. At this point, your entire body should be resting on your shoulders and your heels.
- Lower yourself down and repeat for 10-15 reps.
4. Romanian Deadlift
Romanian deadlifts are one of the best movements to build strength in your posterior chain (the groups of muscles running from your lower back down to your feet), which is important for force summation and preventing fatigue while playing basketball.
Romanian deadlifts also increase your hips’ ability to hinge with explosive strength instead of over-relying on using your knees to jump and propel yourself forward when shooting.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging in front of you with the weights resting against the front of your thighs (more advanced users can use a barbell instead).
- Shift your weight slightly so that your body weight is resting on your heels.
- Push your hips back and press your glutes behind you while simultaneously leaning forward at the hips, lowering the dumbbells down towards the floor in front of you.
- Keep your back arched and your movement slow and controlled.
- Pause when your dumbbells are as low as possible, then contract your glutes and hamstrings and stand back up in a straight position.
- Aim for three sets of eight to 12 reps.
5. Alternating Dumbbell Press
Most of the above exercises recruit the larger muscle groups that your body recruits to generate force and power. But increasing your shooting range also requires shoulder stability, and full extension of your back and lats in the later stages of the throw.
The alternating dumbbell press focuses on your back and lats and mimics the movement you do when shooting. It also helps strengthen your arms and forearms for increased control and precision when playing basketball.
- Lie with your back on a weight bench.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Position your hands just outside of your shoulders with your elbows flared outward (perpendicular to your torso) and your palms facing down towards your feet.
- Push both dumbbells up and above you so that they’re each stacked above your shoulders.
- Pause, and lower one dumbbell down to your shoulder while keeping the other arm straight.
- Push the lowered dumbbell back up, then repeat with the other arm.
- Aim for three sets of eight to 12 reps on each arm.
“There is a huge difference between being fit and being in basketball shape,” reports USA Basketball. “Basketball is a game of starting and stopping and jumping with varying bouts of very high-intensity activity. Your conditioning workouts should mimic this.”
Use the above exercises to build the strength and power of the muscles you need to shoot the basketball farther. Then, pair this conditioning program with a cardiovascular/aerobic training program that involves similarly explosive movements, including sprints, bounding, hops, and side-to-side drills.
Combined, you’ll build the nervous system synchronization, endurance and strength you need not only to increase shooting distance, but also boost your overarching basketball performance.