Basketball Rebounding Skills for Outworking Your Opponent

Vince Lombardi

It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up that counts.


The Art of Rebounding the Ball

In a lot of ways rebounding is a completely misunderstood aspect of the game of basketball. Many believe that it simply requires athleticism and strength to soar above your opponents and pull the ball down aggressively. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, rebounding is actually a gentle skill that requires patience to learn and master. Moreover, it is a skill that if learned correctly will help you to gain pivotal positioning under the basket therefore allowing you to out-rebound seemingly taller and stronger opponents.

This IQ Matrix map will specifically focus on the fundamental aspects of rebounding, boxing-out and subtle observation skills that will help you to get the edge over your Opponent.

This article post is part of a Basketball Success Series of IQ Matrix map. Topics within this series include:

Part 1: Basketball Shooting Skills
Part 2: Basketball Defensive Skills
Part 3: Basketball Dribbling Skills
Part 4: Basketball Passing Skills
Part 5: Basketball Offensive Skills
Part 6: Basketball Rebounding Skills
Part 7: Basketball Movement Tactics
Part 8: Basketball Post Play Skills
Part 9: Basketball Mindset Strategies


The Fundamental Rebounding Technique

The 1st Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map provides an overview of the fundamental rebounding technique you must incorporate into your basketball game in order to become an effective rebounder. We specifically discuss what you must do Before, During and After rebounding the basketball.

Before Rebounding Ball

The following presents a list of guidelines that lay down the fundamentals of what you must do before rebounding the basketball. These suggestions will allow you to gain good position under the basket and gain leverage on your opponents.

Box-Out Your Opponent

It is important that as soon as the shot is released that you immediately box-out your opponent in order to prevent them from bringing down an easy rebound. The discussion that follows will show you a number of techniques and strategies on how to specifically go about boxing-out your opponent within a Zone or Man-2-Man basketball game scenario.

Low and Wide Stance

When you position yourself in a low and wide stance this naturally provides you with good stability and balance. It also grounds you securely to the floor making it difficult for Opponents to shove you off your feet.

Maintain Position and Balance

When the ball is on its way towards the basketball rim, it is important to maintain your position and balance under the basket. It is after all the player who gains the most leverage at this time who will be in the prime position to rebound the ball when it hits the basketball rim.

Create Leverage Using Solid Footwork

Your goal before rebounding the ball is to gain as much leverage on your Opponent as possible. To do this you must use your strength and tenacity to body up your Opponent and progressively nudge them away from the basket while maintaining your ground.

Shuffle Feet Quickly

You must stay loose and light on your feet, while at the same time standing solidly on the ground with a good Center of Balance. This may seem like a contradiction, yet it is this very delicate balance in basketball that is required if you seek to become an effective rebounder.

Stay loose by lightly shuffling your feet on the ground. This will enable you to react to changes in the bounce of the ball and to your Opponent’s movement. Staying loose on your feet will also make you quicker and improve your jumping ability when it comes time to pull down the rebound.

Stick Bum into Opponent’s Mid Section

When it comes to basketball, your Bum is designed as a leveraging tool that keeps your opponent locked away behind you in a weak position to rebound the ball. You must therefore use your Bum to your advantage whenever possible, and the best way to do this is to push it into your Opponent’s mid-section or thigh area just before going in for the rebound.

Knees at 90° Angle

When your knees are bent they naturally enable you to draw power from them and rise for the rebound with more force and greater athleticism. Bent knees also provide you with stability and enable you to gain greater leverage over your Opponent.

Arms Extended Outwards

Extend your arms outwards in order to gain better positioning over your Opponent and to balance your body before going in for the rebound.

Extending your arms outwards also adds size to your frame. When you are wider and more solid, than it is more difficult for Opponents to step by you. Instead they will be forced to try and step around you in order to get to the basket.

Hands Firm, Fingers Widely Spaced

Make sure that your hands are firm and that your fingers are widely spaced and directed at the basket. Your hands are very much like magnets for the basketball. The wider you position them, the greater the chances that you will get your hands on the rebound.

Palms Above Shoulders Facing Ball

When preparing to rebounding the ball it is important to keep your palms above shoulder height. After all, the ball is falling from the top down and not from the bottom up. It just makes sense that if you prepare your hands in a good high position that you will have more of a chance of rebounding the basketball than someone who keeps their hands “low” up until the very last moment.

Concentrate on Ball and Opponent’s Movement

While you are gaining leverage and position under the basket, make sure to concentrate on the trajectory of the ball and your Opponent’s movement. The better you are able to predict where the ball will hit the rim and how your opponent will react to your movements, than the more chance you will have of rebounding the basketball.

We will discuss this in greater detail and depth a little later within this article post.

While Rebounding Ball

The following presents a list of guidelines that lay down the fundamentals of what you must do while rebounding the basketball. These suggestions will allow you to gain good position under the basket and gain leverage on your Opponent.

Explode to the Basket

Explode to the basket with commitment and determination to rebound the ball for your team. Your objective is simple: seek out the ball and secure the rebound safely in your hands.

After Rebounding Ball

The following presents a list of guidelines that lay down the fundamentals of what you must do after rebounding the ball. These suggestions will allow you to gain good position under the basket and gain leverage on your Opponent.

Chin the Ball

Your “chin” acts like a clamp that locks the basketball against your body. As soon as you pull down the rebound you should immediately bring the ball up and tuck it into your chin, while protecting the ball on the outside with the palms of your hands.

Protect Ball with Body

Your body is another essential tool that can be utilized to protect the ball after you have pulled down a rebound. Your body should always be the “center piece” that stands between your Opponent and the ball. This means, that no matter where your Opponent moves, your body will always be between them and the ball. Making the most use of your pivot foot is important in such situations.

Stick Elbows Out

Your Elbows are utilized as a third protective mechanism that will secure the ball firmly in your hands. As soon as you have rebounded the ball and tucked it under your chin and against your body, simply extend your elbows out in order to discourage your Opponent’s wondering hands trying to scoop the ball out of your grasp.

However, be very careful not to swing your elbows around too much once you have pulled down the rebound, as this may lead to an offensive foul being called on you, and can also injure other players.

Look for Outlet Pass

Once you have secured the rebound and the ball is safe within your grasps, immediately look for an outlet pass to another teammate who can begin moving the ball up the court.

And of course, once you have passed off the basketball, sprint up to the other end of the court for a possible fast-break layup on the transition.

Guidelines for Rebounding a Basketball


Rebounding Within a Zone Defense

The 2nd Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map breaks down the rebounding strategy you must utilize when playing within a Zone defensive formation. We specifically discuss what you must observe, how you must box-out and rebound when playing against a Zone defense.

Observe Carefully

Becoming an effective observer is one of the most important skills of the game of basketball. In this scenario, before rebounding the ball, you must become a diligent observer in order to gather a deep insight and understanding on how to maneuver yourself into an ideal position to pull down the rebound.

Observe Shot Release

Pay careful attention to the “shot release action” of the shooter. This will give you a good insight as to whether the ball will fall through the basket or hit the outside or inside of the basketball rim, or possibly miss the basket all together.

Observe Flight of Ball

How the basketball flies through the air – it’s spinning rotation and motion – will give you an even better insight and understanding of where the ball is likely to hit the basketball rim. Pay particular attention to the trajectory of the ball. Is it a flat or arcing shot?

Position yourself accordingly under the basket based on your observations.

Observe Location of Closest Opponent

Immediately lock your eyes and attention onto your closest opponent in order to get an understanding of their movement and field of vision. You must position yourself to “box them out” accordingly with the observations you have made.

Box-Out Immediately

Once you have gained good position under the basket, have carefully observed the flight and bounce of the basketball, and are in optimum position to gain leverage on your Opponent, than you must immediately box-out your Defender in order to gain the best advantage to pull down the rebound for your team.

Box-Out Technique

First you must make sure that you go body-to-body with your Opponent. This is important as it will allow you to feel your Opponent’s movements and reactions to the bounce of the ball on the basketball rim. It will also allow you to maneuver into optimum position to pull down the rebound.

Here are some guidelines that will help you gain good leverage on your oOpponent when boxing-out:

Bum Low and Sticking Out

Make sure that your bum is low and you are leaning directly into your Opponent’s mid-section or thighs. This will help stabilize you and lock your Opponent behind your body.

Arms Extended and Elbows Out

Arms must be extended and your elbows need to stick out in order to make yourself as wide of a target as possible. The wider you become, than the more difficult it will be for your Opponent to maneuver past you to get the rebound.

Hands Up and Fingers Spread

Keep your hands up above your shoulders with fingers spread and face them directly into the path of the ball following it’s trajectory as it bounces off the basketball rim. This is important as it enables you to react quickly to unexpected bounces of the ball that suddenly swing in your direction. It also provides you with an advantage over Opponents who begin their rebounding motion holding their hands below their waist.

Feet Shuffling in a Solid Stance

Stay balanced by shuffling your feet in a rapid and controlled motion while standing in a solid stance. This rapid foot movement will allow you to gain better balance and enable you to adjust your position under the basketball rim more effectively and efficiently in response to the bounce of the ball and the movement of your Opponent.

Boxing-Out Shooter

If your direct Opponent has suddenly shot the basketball, than your main objective is to “box them out” by keeping your Opponent at arms-length while utilizing your arm-bar as a leveraging tool that is locked into your Opponent’s chest area, or your Bum into their mid-section. If you are able to, than also gently nudge your Opponent away from the basket in order to enable you to rebound with more freedom and space. The key is to make sure that your Opponent does not get a second opportunity to score off an offensive rebound.

Boxing-Out Non-Shooter

Whenever an Opponent who isn’t within your “zoned area” shoots the ball, you must immediately box-out the closest Opponent within your space and force them a step or two away from the basket if possible. However, be careful not to push, but rather use your arm-bar, body, elbows and your hips to move your Opponent out of position.

The key here is to stay between your Opponent and the basket at all times. In this fashion you will minimize their chances of grabbing a rebound while maximizing your ability to do the same.

Guidelines for Rebounding the Basketball Against a Zone


Rebounding Within Man-on-Man

The 3rd Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map breaks down the rebounding strategy you must utilize when playing within Man-2-Man defensive pressure. We specifically discuss what you must observe, how you must box-out and rebound when playing against a Man-2-Man defense.

Observe Carefully

Becoming an effective observer is one of the most important skills of the game of basketball. In this scenario, before rebounding the ball, you must become a diligent observer in order to gather a deep insight and understanding on how to maneuver yourself into an ideal position to pull down the rebound.

Observe Shot Release

Pay careful attention to the “shot release action” of the shooter. This will give you a good insight as to whether the ball will fall through the basket or hit the outside or inside of the basketball rim, or possibly miss the basket all together.

Observe Flight of Ball

How the basketball flies through the air – it’s spinning rotation and motion – will give you an even better insight and understanding of where the ball is likely to hit the basketball rim. Pay particular attention to the trajectory of the ball. Is it a flat or arcing shot?

Position yourself accordingly under the basket based on your observations.

Observe Location of Direct Opponent

Immediately lock your eyes and attention onto your direct Opponent in order to get an understanding of their movement and field of vision. You must position yourself to “box them out” accordingly with the observations you have made.

Box-Out Immediately

Once you have gained good position under the basket, have carefully observed the flight and bounce of the basketball, and are in optimum position to gain leverage on your Opponent, than you must immediately box-out your defender in order to gain the best advantage to pull down the rebound for your team.

Box-Out Technique

First you must make sure that you go body-to-body with your opponent. This is important as it will allow you to feel your Opponent’s movements and reactions to the bounce of the ball on the basketball rim. It will also allow you to maneuver into optimum position to pull down the rebound.

Here are some guidelines that will help you gain good leverage on your opponent when boxing-out:

Bum Low and Sticking Out

Make sure that your bum is low and you are leaning directly into your opponent’s mid-section or thighs. This will help stabilize you and lock your opponent behind your body.

Arms Extended & Elbows Out

Arms must be extended and your elbows need to stick out in order to make yourself as wide of a target as possible. The wider you become, than the more difficult it will be for your Opponent to maneuver past you to get the rebound.

Hands Up & Fingers Spread

Keep your hands up above your shoulders with fingers spread and face them directly into the path of the ball following it’s trajectory as it bounces off the basketball rim. This is important as it enables you to react quickly to unexpected bounces of the ball that suddenly swing in your direction. It also provides you with an advantage over Opponents who begin their rebounding motion holding their hands below their waist.

Feet Shuffling in a Solid Stance

Stay balanced by shuffling your feet in a rapid and controlled motion while standing in a solid stance. This rapid foot movement will allow you to gain better balance and enable you to adjust your position under the basketball rim more effectively and efficiently in response to the bounce of the ball and the movement of your Opponent.

Guidelines for Rebounding a Basketball While Playing Man

Boxing-Out Shooter

If your direct Opponent has suddenly shot the basketball, than your main objective is to “box them out” by keeping your Opponent at arms-length while utilizing your arm-bar as a leveraging tool that is locked into your Opponent’s chest area, or your Bum into their mid-section. If you are able to, than also gently nudge your Opponent away from the basket in order to enable you to rebound with more freedom and space. The key is to make sure that your Opponent does not get a second opportunity to score off an offensive rebound.

Boxing-Out Non-Shooter

Whenever an Opponent who isn’t within your “zoned area” shoots the ball, you must immediately box-out the closest Opponent within your space and force them a step or two away from the basket if possible. However, be careful not to push, but rather use your arm-bar, body, elbows and your hips to move your Opponent out of position.

The key here is to stay between your Opponent and the basket at all times. In this fashion you will minimize their chances of grabbing a rebound while maximizing your ability to do the same.


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Final Thoughts

Effective rebounding is all about careful observation, good footwork, balance, positioning and aggression. Tick all of these off your list and you will be well on your way towards becoming a solid and efficient rebounder on any team. However, keep in mind that rebounding also requires intelligent decision making and stamina that will help you to excel down the stretch when the game is on the line.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any further queries or questions, or would like to share your experiences about this topic, than please do so in the comments section below.


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Basketball Rebounding Skills

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.