Shooting Techniques in Basketball: The Lay Up

Lay Up techniques and exercises simply explained

Woman doing a lay up with a basketball.

The lay up is the most fundamental and accurate shooting technique in the game. It's the bread and butter of any shooting arsenal. The first step is learning the right foot placement and jumping technique. We'll give you a step by step explaination how the lay up works and how to train your jump.

What is a lay up in basketball?

Approach the hoop while dribbling. Grab the ball with both hands, jump into the air and flick the ball onto the backboard and into the hoop. The lay up is one of the most fundamental offensive basketball manuevers and can be performed by beginners and professionals alike.

Due to the short distance to the basket, the basket lay up is a sure way to score points.

Basketball player
With the lay up, the correct step sequence and jump are most important.

Did you know?
The lay up and jump shot are the oldest shooting techniques in basketball.

How does a lay up work in basketball?

To learn the sequence of movements and steps, we recommend starting your lay up from a standing position with a single dribble.


Here's how a basketball lay up works with your right hand:

Step 0: Positioning, 10 feet from the right of the basket

Position yourself about 10 feet from the basket, half way to the 3 point line, and run to the basket at a 45° angle.

Assume the starting classic shooting position.

Hold the ball close to your body with both hands at hip level.

Step 1: Dribble the ball with your right hand and place the left foot on the ground

Dribble with your right hand, the ball one step ahead of you. At the same time, step with your left foot.

Step 2: The right foot in front

Grab the ball with both hands, and hold it close to the right side of your body. Then take a step forward with the right foot.

3. Jump off with your left foot

Now take a step forward with your left foot and jump up and towards the basket.

At the same time, pull the right knee up. This helps stabilise your shot and accelerate you to the basket.

Important: When jumping off, focus on jumping upwards more than forwards.

Step 4: Guide the ball towards the basket and shoot

When taking to the air, bring the ball from the waist on the right side of your body. In one fluid motion, your right hand should be under the ball. Your left hand is kept to the side of the ball.

Once in the air, stretch out your right arm. At the apex, straighten your arm and elbow to shoot the ball towards the backboard. Your goal is the upper right corner of the square on the backboard.

In this video, you can see how a fluid lay up looks:

The lay up with the left hand works exactly the same but inverted, so start with your left foot, jump off with your right leg, and lay up with your left arm.

Our tip: Be sure to train both hands. This will help step up your game.

The following exercise helps beginners practice and internalise the lay up:

Here's another step by step guide on how to perform the lay up.

Step 1: Catch the ball landing with your left foot
Step 2: Step forward with your right foot
Step 3: Jump off with your left foot
Step 4: Drive forward with your right knee
Step 5: Simultaneously, bring the ball up with your right hand
Step 6: Lay it up softly

The 4 different types of lay ups

There are four different lay up techniques. The technique we've mentioned is simple and well suited for beginners. The other lay up techniques are more difficult and suited for experienced basketball players.

The overhand lay up

The original and simplest version of the basketball lay up is suitable for children and beginners.

The ball is thrown from the hand onto the backboard. The basketball lay up can be done with or without the backboard.

Underhand Lay Up

This lay up variation is also called the finger roll and suited for experienced basketball players.

When laying up, the whole arm is stretched out. The hand is placed under the ball. Snap your wrist upwards so that the ball rolls off the fingertips. This will help the ball rise and fall softly into the basket.

The underhand lay up is:

  • easier to block,
  • for lay ups farther from the basket,
  • only possible with a strong jump.

The following video shows how to do the finger roll with the underhand lay up:

The Power Move

The only difference between the overhand lay up and the power move is that you jump with both legs. This is where a strong jump is a necessity.


The Up and Under

The most difficult lay up variation is the up and under. Here, the lay up is faked to bring the opponent out of position.

The player starts by jumping past the opponent, fakes the throw, bringing the ball around, and then lobbing the ball just before landing. In action, here's how the up and under lay up looks:

How do I practice the lay up?

The lay up is a very elaborate technique and can best be trained methodically in a series.

This means: For the lay up, first practice the individual steps and start with the simplest part. If you manage these steps individually, connect the steps in the correct order one by one.

Here's how the process works:
Step 1: Perfect your accuracy on the back board. Stand 45° from the backboard and practice.
Step 2: Practice the two-contact rule: Right - left - jump - back board shot.
Step 3: Add in a single dribble then repeat step 2.
Step 4: Add more dribbling in to feel more comfortable transitioning from dribbling to shooting. Then repeat step 2.
Step 5: Practice these steps with your weaker hand.

A woman performing a basketball lay up.
It takes a few training sessions before the basketball lay up can be used in a game.

Common lay up mistakes

Since the lay up is quite complex, problems are sure to arise in the beginning. Perfect practice makes perfect execution. Here's how to counteract typical mistakes:

Jumping with the wrong leg or approaching the basket with the wrong sequence of steps

  • Go through the steps slowly, one at a time.
  • Have your coach or teammate tell you right leg during the step sequence.

Missing arm extension with the standing shot

  • Train the standing throw for a while.

Jump is not high enough

  • Pull the non-jumping knee actively up.
  • Do excercises that isolate your jump.

Strength and jumping exercises for a better lay up

A strong jump is vital for a successful lay up. We'll show you how to practice this.

Important before starting your lay up exercises:
Warm up to get your muscles and joints ready for the strain. Be sure to plan sufficient breaks while practicing your jumping. Take care of your body to prevent injuries.

Genetically speaking, you can increase your jump height by a maximum of 10 to 20 percent. In addition to leg strength, a stable core is a necessity. A stable core allows you to better catapult yourself upwards, as your jump and core then work together to throw yourself up.

Along with jumping excercises, you can strengthen the core with the following excercises:

  • Plank
  • Push up
  • Sit ups

We recommend the following excercises if you'd like to train your jump.

Lunge Jumps

The jump lunge trains your explosive power:

  • Place your feet hip wide.
  • Take a large step back with your right foot.
  • Knee is just over the ground.
  • Jump and change legs.

Half squats

Half squats train your jumping power from a squating position. This excercise is helpful because many basketball manuevers involve jumping.

  • Place feet hip wide apart.
  • Bend your knees to go into a squating position.
  • Expload upwards into the air.

Half deadlift

As with the last excercise, perform this exercise from a half squat. Place the weight on two boxes.

Note: Only perform this exercise once you've mastered the dead lift. If not, you could injure your back.

Box Jumps

To do box jumps, you'll need a stable box or bench.

  • Stand upright with feet hip-wide in front of the box.
  • Bend the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Jump upwards and swing your arms forward.
  • Land as gently as possible on the box in a squatting position.
  • Jump back down gently to the ground.

Ball catching

This exercise trains your reflexes as well as your jump.

Throw the basketball against the backboard and try to catch it at the apex of its flight path.

One legged jumps

For this exercise, put one leg in the air, bend your knees and explode upwards. Once your leg is exhausted, switch legs. We recommend this excercise at the end of your training session.

Even more ideas for your next basketball practice

Still looking for more tips for your training? Sport psychologist and performance coach Sebastian Altfeld shows you how to effectively plan a basketball practice session. Or take a look at our other articles on the same topic:

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Image credits: Image 1: lechatnoir/ Gettyimages/E+; Image 2: 4x6/Gettyimages/E+; Image 3: miodrag ignjatovic/ Gettyimages/E+