Do NBA Players Lift Before Games? The Complete Truth!

Jimmy Remland
By Jimmy Remland 10 Min Read
10 Min Read

The debate on whether NBA players lift before games is an intriguing one. Many wonder if lifting weights so close to game time impacts performance positively or negatively. This article gets deep into the reasons behind this practice, the benefits, and how various players incorporate it into their routines.

Why NBA Players Lift Before Games?

Warming Up

One of the primary reasons NBA players lift before games is to warm up their muscles. Engaging in light weightlifting can help increase blood flow, reduce muscle stiffness, and prepare the body for the intense physical activity that a game entails​. This pre-game ritual ensures players are physically primed, potentially reducing the risk of injuries.

Reducing Tension

Lifting weights can also serve as a way to alleviate pre-game anxiety. The physical activity helps in reducing tension and mental stress, enabling players to focus better during the game. Some players find that a brief workout helps them channel their nervous energy into something productive, enhancing their mental preparedness​​.

Personal Rituals

For many NBA stars, lifting before games is part of their personal routine. These rituals are often deeply ingrained in their preparation process and can include light weightlifting sessions tailored to their specific needs. Such routines help players feel grounded and in control, contributing to their overall game performance​.

Pre-Game Lifting Routines

Light and Focused Sessions

Pre-game lifting sessions are typically short and focused. They involve light weights and high repetitions to avoid muscle fatigue while still activating the necessary muscle groups. For instance, players may engage in quick sets of exercises that target their core, legs, and upper body to ensure all major muscle groups are ready for action​.


The timing of these lifting sessions varies. Some players prefer to lift immediately after arriving at the arena, while others might schedule it closer to tip-off. The goal is to finish the session just in time to allow the muscles to relax but remain activated​.

Examples of Pre-Game Lifting

LeBron James

LeBron James is known for his meticulous pre-game routines, which include lifting weights. His sessions focus on maintaining strength and agility without overexerting the muscles. This balance helps him remain explosive on the court while avoiding the risk of fatigue​.

Steph Curry

Steph Curry incorporates light weightlifting into his pre-game rituals to maintain his shooting form and agility. His routine often includes exercises that enhance his core strength and stability, crucial for his shooting accuracy and defensive moves​​.


Benefits of Lifting Before Games

Enhanced Performance

Players who lift before games often report feeling more prepared and energetic. The brief workout can act as a final boost, ensuring that their muscles are activated and ready for the high demands of a basketball game​​.

Injury Prevention

By warming up the muscles and increasing blood flow, lifting weights before games can help reduce the risk of injuries. Players are less likely to experience muscle pulls or strains when their muscles are properly warmed up and ready for the game’s intensity​.

Impact on Performance

Positive Effects on Game Readiness

Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that lifting weights before games can positively impact players’ readiness and performance. For instance, engaging in dynamic resistance exercises helps prime the neuromuscular system, enhancing muscle activation and readiness for the explosive movements required in basketball. Studies have shown that dynamic warm-ups, including light weightlifting, can improve athletes’ power and agility​.

Data on Performance Metrics

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effects of pre-game resistance training on basketball players. The study found that players who participated in a brief, moderate-intensity lifting session before games showed improved jump height and sprint times compared to those who did not​​. This indicates that incorporating lifting into pre-game routines can enhance key performance metrics like vertical leap and speed.

Individualized Approaches

Customizing Routines

NBA players often customize their lifting routines based on their roles and physical needs. For example, a point guard like Steph Curry might focus more on core and agility exercises to maintain his quickness and balance, while a center like Joel Embiid might emphasize lower body strength to improve his rebounding and post-play abilities​​.

Recovery and Adaptation

Players and trainers must also consider recovery and adaptation. According to former NBA strength coach Josh Bonhotal, maintaining a balance between lifting and recovery is crucial. Players must adapt their routines based on their schedule, travel, and individual recovery rates. This helps prevent overtraining and ensures that players can perform at their peak throughout the season​.

Challenges and Considerations

Risk of Fatigue

One of the main concerns about lifting before games is the potential risk of fatigue. Some players and coaches worry that lifting weights too close to game time might lead to muscle fatigue, negatively impacting shooting accuracy and overall performance​. To mitigate this risk, players typically engage in low-volume, high-intensity sessions that stimulate the muscles without causing significant fatigue.

Mental Preparation

Mental preparation is as critical as physical readiness. Many NBA players incorporate mental exercises and routines along with their physical warm-ups. Techniques such as visualization, meditation, and specific pre-game rituals help players maintain focus and composure. For instance, LeBron James is known for his meticulous pre-game mental routine, which includes listening to music and visualization exercises​​.

Common Pre-Game Exercises

  • Dynamic Warm-Ups: Exercises like high knees, butt kicks, and dynamic stretching to increase blood flow and muscle elasticity.
  • Core Activation: Planks, medicine ball slams, and Russian twists to engage the core muscles.
  • Upper Body: Light bench presses, push-ups, and resistance band exercises to activate the chest, shoulders, and arms.
  • Lower Body: Bodyweight squats, lunges, and calf raises to prepare the legs for explosive movements​​.

Pre-Game Lifting Routine Example

Exercise Sets Reps Purpose
Dynamic Stretching 1 10 min Increase flexibility and blood flow
Medicine Ball Slams 3 10 Activate core and upper body
Push-Ups 2 15 Warm up chest and shoulders
Bodyweight Squats 2 15 Prepare lower body muscles
Resistance Band Rows 2 15 Activate back and shoulder muscles

Last Words

Incorporating weightlifting into pre-game routines can significantly benefit NBA players by enhancing their physical readiness, reducing injury risk, and improving performance metrics like jump height and speed. While the approach must be individualized to balance physical and mental preparation, the positive impacts on game performance make it a valuable component of NBA training regimens. By understanding and implementing these strategies, both professional and amateur players can optimize their pre-game routines for better performance on the court.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do NBA players lift before or after basketball?

NBA players may lift weights both before and after games. Before games, they engage in light lifting to warm up muscles and enhance performance. Post-game lifting focuses on recovery and maintaining strength without causing fatigue​.

Why do NBA players lift after a game?

NBA players lift after games to aid recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and maintain strength. Post-game lifting sessions are typically short and focused to prevent overexertion and help players recover quickly for subsequent games​.

How many times a week do NBA players lift?

NBA players generally lift weights 2-4 times a week. The frequency depends on the individual’s needs, game schedule, and overall training program, ensuring they maintain strength and endurance throughout the season without overtraining.

Is there a lifting rule in basketball?

There is no specific rule mandating lifting in basketball. Training routines, including lifting, are tailored to each player’s needs, focusing on enhancing performance, preventing injuries, and ensuring overall fitness. Coaches and trainers design individualized programs for players​.

Do NBA players lift before or after practice?

NBA players may lift weights both before and after practice. Lifting before practice involves light weights to prevent fatigue and improve readiness, while post-practice lifting helps maintain strength and facilitate recovery.

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