Basketball players do much more to work their abdominal muscles than just chisel a sleek set of six-pack abs. Basketball players need strong core muscles -- including both the abdominals and obliques -- to support all of the game's fast-paced, twisting and turning movements. To build the kind of abdominal strength that will improve your performance on the court, you must develop strength and flexibility through different planes and in different directions instead of just lying flat on your back and performing endless crunches.
Basketball skills such as dribbling, passing and shooting all rely on core strength to generate torque and power in the upper body and stabilize lower-body muscles as you change directions quickly. You can build the multi-directional abdominal strength you need on the court by performing bicycle kicks. Begin by lying on your back with your hands behind your head and point one elbow toward your knee on the opposite side, pulling the knee and elbow together until they touch. With your other leg, push forward and straighten your leg, and then repeat on the opposite side, as if pedaling a bicycle. Hold your abdominal muscles tightly to support your upper body and use strength throughout your core to perform the exercise for about 10 reps on each side.
If you want the quick feet necessary to play effective defense, you must build strong core muscles to work in conjunction with an agile lower body. You can gain abdominal strength to support these short, quick-burst movements on the defensive end of the court by doing scissor kicks. Lie on your back with your feet held together about a foot off the ground. Proceed by raising one leg about 6 inches higher in the air, while simultaneously lowering the other leg about the same height. Alternate the exercise on each side for 10 to 15 reps. To add a twist to the exercise, try crossing over your legs laterally instead of kicking your legs forward and backward.
Any movements on the basketball court requiring a quick first step, such as sprinting down the court on a fast break, or jumping off one foot, such as shooting a layup or diving after a loose ball, can be enhanced as you build abdominal strength. To build strength and balance in your abdominals while working off one leg, try the anterior reach. Begin by standing on one leg with your knee slightly bent and your arms held in front of you. Slowly lower your upper body until you are parallel with the ground, then extend your leg back in a straight line with your upper body. Hold this pose for 10 seconds, keeping your abdominal muscles tight, and then repeat on the opposite side. Perform this exercise two to three times on each side to build stable and flexible abdominal muscles.
Medicine Ball Throws
If you want to build strength to improve your shooting and passing on the basketball court, you can do so by adding abdominal strength using an age-old training tool, the medicine ball. Practice throwing a medicine ball, which typically weighs 8 to 10 pounds, either against a wall or to a partner. Perform rotational medicine ball throws by holding the medicine ball with both hands on one side of your body and twisting at the waist, throwing the ball across your body toward your target in an explosive movement. Make five to six throws from each side and complete three to four sets, using your abdominal muscles -- not just your arms or chest -- to generate power.