How to Shoot a Basketball Lay-up in 6 Easy Steps

Learn how to shoot a basketball lay-up in 6 easy steps. Discover the keys to better basketball shooting skills and sink more lay-ups consistently.

basketball lay-up

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

The lay-up is the highest percentage shot in basketball. It's considered a "gimme" shot. A shot you're expected to make.

Well, that may be true for more experience players, but I can tell you from experience, they're not easy for beginners.

Like anything new, learning how to shoot a basketball lay-up can be difficult for youth basketball players. It requires hand-eye-foot coordination that's hard for little ones.

I've found it works well to break down the basketball shooting technique into a progression of 6 steps.

The layup is only one of several basic shots that young players need to learn. Follow the links below to find helpful coaching tips for shooting other kinds of basketball shots.

Set shot

Jump shot

Free throw

Basketball Lay-Up
Overhand lay-up

3-Step Approach

There are different kinds of lay-ups, but beginners should start with the basic overhand lay-up.

Let's start with a right-handed lay-up.

As the names suggests, you'll shoot the ball with your right hand from the right side of the basket as you're facing it.

Note: Even if you're left-handed, you'll shoot a lay-up from the right side of the basket with your right hand. That’s really important. I’ll explain why later. (Lefties, you'll get your chance to shine when we move to the other side of the basket for a left-handed lay-up.)

Stand on the right side block.

It's the first mark on the free throw lane closest to the endline.

This is just about the place you will leave the floor when you go up for your lay-up.

Look up at the basket and locate the small square painted in the center of the backboard. That’s your target.

You want to aim for the upper right hand corner of that square.

When the ball hits the backboard at that spot, it has a real good chance of dropping through the basket.

basketball goal

I recommend taking a few minutes to watch this excellent basketball shooting video which gives a really good intro into how to shoot a basketball lay-up.

Basketball Lay-Up
3-Step approach

The footwork is the trickiest part. So, let's start there.

The lay-up basically involves a 3-step approach. For a right-handed lay-up, the pattern for your feet is left-right-left.

Let's break it down...

You don't need a ball yet.

Step #1: Take one step

Starting on the block, take one step backward up the key.

Facing the basket and keeping your eye on your target (the upper right corner of the square), take one step with your left foot.

That should put you just about on the block.

When your left foot hits the ground, immediately hop straight up toward the basket off of your left foot.

Go back and repeat this step over and over until you feel comfortable with it.

Step #2: Add the shooting motion

Go back to your starting spot one step above the block.

Take one step with your left foot and hop up just like you've been doing.

This time on the hop, extend your right arm up toward the basket like you're shooting the ball.

Pretend there's a string attached from your right elbow to your right knee. When you extend your right arm, the string pulls your right knee up with it. When your right arm comes down, your right knee comes down.

Try that several times. 

Step #3: Add the ball

If the player is young, you definitely want to use a shorter basketball goal or even just use a spot on a wall as a target. At this stage, we're not concerned about the ball going in the basket. We're just trying to get the footwork and timing down.

Start one step up from the block just like you've been doing.

Hold the ball with both hands toward the right side of your body.

Take one step with your left foot, hop, extend your right arm, and pull your right knee up.

As you extend your right arm, the ball goes from being held in 2 hands to being held in the palm of your right hand.

Have you ever seen a waiter carrying a tray of food? Pretend you're a waiter, and the ball is a tray of food. Your palm will face up and the ball will be by your right ear.

As you extend your right arm, shoot the ball up toward your target by rolling it off your fingertips and snapping your wrist.

If your target is too high, find a lower one. Your success is not determined if the ball goes in at this stage.

You want to get your footwork down first, then hit your target, and then sink the shot.

Step #4: Add the 2nd step

Take 2 steps up from the block.

Hold the ball in both hands toward your right side.

Step first with your right foot, then with your left, hop, extend, and shoot.

Repeat that until it feels more comfortable.

Step #5: Add the 3rd step

Go back to the block and back up 3 steps.

Your first step will be with your left foot, then your right, then your left, hop, extend, and shoot.

Repeat that several times. 

Step #6: Put it all together

Now, back up to the free throw line and try coming in with a dribble.

When you get about 3 steps from the block, start your 3-step left-right-left approach.

Pick up the ball with both hands when your left foot hits the first time, and keep it on your right side.

Go nice and slow at first and then pick up speed.

Move back to half-court and try coming in full speed.

Don't worry if your feet get messed up every now and then. That will happen. You may even have to stutter step to get your steps to work out right.

To be a complete player, you've got to know how to shoot a basketball lay-up from both sides of the court.

To shoot a left-handeded lay-up from the left side of the basket, start back at Step #1, but all the instructions will be just the opposite.

Make sure the approach step is right-left-right.

During your training for basketball with young players, they will probably have more success if you use a youth-size basketball. The smaller ball is lighter and will fit their hands better.

When you're ready to advance your game, learn how to shoot a basketball underhand lay-up, power lay-up, and reverse lay-up.

Basketball Lay-Up
Related Articles

Making a Lay-Up at Game Speed

How to Shoot a Basketball: Shooting Drills

Shooting Games

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