How to Shoot a Layup

:: From the Hoops U. ‘How-To’ Series ::

Layups are the easiest and most basic shot in basketball. They are also the first type of shot that players should learn. There are certainly a variety of layups that players can utilize and we’ll discuss them below. It is important, however, that players master the fundamental progression. That is, learn the basic layup before attempting reverse layups, finger rolls, etc.

Footwork is the biggest factor in shooting a layup and they need to master the footwork techniques from the most basic layup prior to attempting to perform more advanced layups. Before we get into the various layups and how to execute them, there are a couple of general concepts that apply to all types of layups.

  1. Always use the backboard. Whether you are shooting from the left side, right side, or down the middle, shoot the basketball softly off the backboard. Remember, the backboard is your friend!
  2. Practice each type of layup first without a basketball. Learn the proper footwork before adding the extra challenge of shooting and making the layup. You can also practice with a ball against a wall before using a basket. This allows you to focus on the footwork and shooting without worrying about makes or misses. Young players, once they are using a basketball, should learn without having to use the dribble. As they master the technique of the layup, then the dribble should be incorporated.
  3. Begin at a walk-through pace. Eventually you will want to go at game-speed but the initial focus should be on executing the layup properly.
  4. On the right side, shoot with the right hand. On the left side, shoot with the left hand. Young players will have difficulty shooting with their weak hand so you may allow them to shoot with their strong hand until they are strong enough to shoot with the weak hand. Also, older players should be able to utilize both hands equally well on both sides. At times, a defender may dictate you shoot with the left hand from the right side and that is okay. The idea here is to make sure players develop equally the right and left hand in shooting the layup.

2-Foot Layups

The 2-foot layup is basically a power layup without any initial movement before the shot. This should be taught and learned first because there is essentially no footwork involved in shooting. With the 2-foot layup, the player is simply learning to shoot the basketball off the backboard.

  • Players stand inside the lane and to the right or left side of the basket. Anything outside the lane becomes a jump shot instead of a layup.
  • Jump off both feet and shoot the basketball off the backboard.
  • Aim for the corner of the square on the backboard. (Upper left corner when on the left side; upper right corner when on the right side).

1-Foot Layups (Regular Layups)

I put ‘1-foot layups’ simply to correlate the difference between the 2-foot layups … but this the basic, regular layup we know and love!

  • The footwork for the regular layup is “right-left-jump” from the right side and “left-right-jump” from the left side. This is easy to practice without a basketball before performing the actual layup.
  • On an attempt from the right side, the right leg should be lifted up so the thigh is or very nearly parallel with the floor. On the left side, it is the same except the left leg will be lifted up to parallel. I like to use the imagery that the right leg is attached to right arm by a string. When the right arm goes up to shoot, the right leg goes up with it (and vice versa for the left side).
  • Once the ‘right-left-jump’ and ‘left-right-jump’ footwork is established, have the players dribble in from the 3-point line.
  • When dribbling in to shoot the regular layup, do no stop while dribbling (one of the biggest mistakes young players make). As you reach the point of going ‘right-left-jump’ or ‘left-right-jump’, grab the basketball with both hands and continue to lay the ball up and off the backboard.
  • The regular layup is shot in a similar fashion as a regular shot, with the shooting hand under the ball and the off hand on the side as a guide. As you advance in ability, you can learn to shoot with the hand under the ball, or a finger roll. This shot takes more strength, so it should not be attempted until players have the strength to get it up to the basket.

Jump Stop Layup

In my opinion, the jump stop layup is the most important of all the various layups to master. I believe this because most layups are contested by at least one defender. The jump stop layup allows you to be strong with the basketball in such a way that the regular layup cannot. With the regular layup, once you jump up off the one foot, mistakes can happen if a defender gets in the way. Mistakes such as a poor or rushed shot being thrown up or a turnover because you can’t shoot the ball and you aren’t prepared to pass it.

The jump stop layup gives you the chance to be strong with the ball, strong throughout the shot, and can give you plenty of ‘and-1′ opportunities (fouled in the act of shooting and making the shot).

  • Make sure to jump stop on both feet at the same time. It’s not a 1-2 step. Landing on both feet at the same time allows you the ability to pivot on either foot should the need arise.
  • Jump and land under control. If you are losing your balance when performing a jump stop, you are out of control.
  • Land with both shoulders square to the basket.
  • Jump straight up to the basket.
  • Jump explosively, but shoot the basketball softly off the backboard.

For drills to learn the Jump Stop, check out our ‘Jump Stop Series‘ in the Ballhandling Drills section of the Basketball Playbook.

Reverse Layup

Reverse layups are definitely for more advanced players but they are an important type of layup to learn. I’m not talking about Kobe- or Jordan-esque reverse layups. I’m talking about fundamentally sound reverse layups.

The reverse layup is very useful because you can utilize the hoop to keep away the defender. If the defender tries to block a layup, you can often go up and under the other side where he is blocked by the rim. If the reverse is performed off of a post move, it also allows you to quickly shoot without having to spin all the way back around to face the basket before shooting — which would take time and allow the defender to recover.

  • In a similar manner to regular layup, lift the right or left leg as you shoot. Which leg you lift depends upon which side and which hand you are shooting with.
  • As you shoot the reverse layup, tip your head back to see the basket.
  • Keep the ball at about chest level to shoot. From there, raise the arm up and flip the ball off the backboard. Basically, don’t shoot from the knees and be strong throughout the shooting motion.
  • As you become more proficient, you may learn to put some spin on the ball so it can bounce softly off the backboard and into the basket from varying angles.

The above 4 types of layups are probably the most utilized and most basic. As with any fundamental skill, the basic fundamentals need to be mastered before you gain the ability and confidence to perform more advanced maneuvers. You will not be able to shoot a reverse layup like Michael Jordan if you can’t shoot a regular layup. You won’t be able to shoot a runner like Steve Nash or Derrick Rose if you can’t first master the regular layup.

You get the idea. First, learn the fundamental skill of shooting a layup. Master the various types of layups. The more you develop the proper techniques and build your confidence, the more your layup skills will expand.

Are there any other steps in the development of shooting layups? Add to the discussion in the comments below.


  1. Professional Athletes David says

    I really found this post interesting and useful because my team are also concentrating to improve this type of shot, the layup to get more chance and gain more percentage shots during a game.

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