There are few things better in the game of basketball than a rim-rattling slam dunk! If you want to turn heads and enter the realm of basketball elite, one way to achieve that status is to develop the capability of jumping high enough to dunk. There are many different factors that will make up your ability to throw down a dunk. Being tall is probably the single biggest advantage that most people can see, and you may not even have to develop further strength or technique to dunk. However, for most of us, being over the height of 6’8″ is not an option that we can aspire to or that we can achieve through practice and training. However, there are some qualities that we can train to develop in order to help us achieve our goal (or at least grab the rim for starters!!) The most notable features or variables that we can control are leg strength and technique, but many other things will help you jump higher as well such as flexibility, body composition, ab and upper body strength, nutrition, and sleep.
Work Those Legs!
Depending on age, leg strength is usually best improved by doing heavy weight exercises such as leg press, squats, deadlifts, hamstring curls, and calf raises. When you are using weights to train your strength, it is very important that you monitor the weight you use and try to improve it with every workout. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a college or university (or even a high school) training gym, you may come across jump training machines that are meant to develop fast-twitch muscles. Leg press and deadlifts develop more slow twitch muscles which don’t help as much in jumping higher. If you’re like me, you don’t have the money or space to get a jump training machine. However, there are some excellent options available that work almost as well, and cost about 2 hour’s worth of wages. Our favorites are the FIGROL Vertical Bounce Trainer Leg Resistance Bands and the Jump 99 Strength Plyometric Training Shoes. They take a different approach to training to achieve the same end goal. One works on your upper leg strength mostly, while the other develops your lower leg. I have a lot of experience with the training shoes since my best friend from high school (and subsequently, from college) surpassed me in jumping ability solely from the use of jump training shoes.
In order to dunk better, you need to practice dunking, and specifically jumping. There are many ways to practice jumping and the best way is to simply attempt a bunch of dunks. If you know you’re not that close to dunking, and you don’t want to look foolish at the court or you don’t have access to a 10-foot hoop, there are other things that will really help you develop towards the ultimate goal.
One of the more common (and effective) ways to develop jumping strength is doing the famous box jump. Combine box jumps with a number of other exercises, and you’re on your way. Like weight training, try to pick jumping or sprinting exercises that have a height or time that you can measure, monitor, and improve upon.
These workouts are called plyometric workouts, and here is a sample workout to get you started.
- 3 sets of 8 Box Jumps, (Once again, try to increase the height of the box every week or two)
- 3 sets of 8 Side to Side Box Jumps
- 3 sets of 8 Depth Jumps, (Jump off a box and then immediately jump off the ground and try to touch something)
- 3 sets of 8 Med ball backboard touches, (take a somewhat heavy medicine ball and try to jump up and touch the backboard with it)
- 3 sets of 8 Sprints (simply sprint as hard as you possibly can the entire length of the court). You will get more out of this if you bring along a friend to time you while you run.
While doing these workouts, keep in mind that the main focus of this guide is to record your progress, if you have a tangible goal in mind with each little step along the way to dunking a basketball, you will be able to dunk much sooner. If you sprint the length of the court in 8 seconds one day, push yourself to do it in 7. You will be amazed at how quickly your jumping improves once you get the hang of chasing goals for every little exercise you do.
Next, you will need to become flexible to keep your legs from injury and to increase your range of motion with your jumps. In order to improve your flexibility you will need to do a lot of stretching, but which stretches are the most important? In order to jump high, you will need to have really flexible hips. In order to stretch your hips you can try leaning into a lunge or doing a classic butterfly stretch. I would also suggest doing hamstring stretches, (simple toe touch), quad stretch, calf stretch, and glute stretch. I recommend holding each stretch for 15 seconds and resting for 5 seconds between sets of stretches. This routine is great to do after working out and before bed. Especially remember to do this stretch routine the night before you plan on doing a dunk session! To further improve your flexibility, try to look into some yoga routines as this will drastically improve your flexibility and core strength.
What to Eat?
Body composition is obviously one of the most important factors that will allow you to jump higher, if you look at NBA players they are very, very rarely big, bulky guys. Having a low body fat percentage will allow you to carry less unnecessary weight, resulting in higher jumps and louder dunks. In order to lower your body composition, you really need to watch what you eat, next time you think about having a burger or some fast food, prioritize your goals and decide that your dunking goals are more important than fatty food. If you drink a lot of water you will also feel overall much better and have more energy for training sessions and everything in general.
Tips N Tricks
There are a lot of little tips and tricks to the trade that you can pick up to expedite your journey to dunking a basketball. If you learn how to palm the ball, you will make up for a lack of jumping prowess by having a firm grip on the ball. Another great tip for learning to dunk better is to improve your jumping form. This can be very confusing, so I am going to leave you with a simple little tip to think about when you jump. As soon as you plant the foot opposite that you jump off of, (if you are left handed you jump off of your right foot), try to plant the other leg and jump in a rhythmic 1-2 motion. Think of it like two rapid steps so that you can quickly transfer power into your jump. Additionally, try to ramp up the speed of your sprint into the jump instead of going top speed the entire time into your jump. By this I mean, take a little hesitation step and then go from slow to fast as you takeoff into a dunk.
One or Two Feet?
You may have already figured out if you jump higher using a one-foot or a two-foot takeoff. Statistically (and scientifically) it’s known that a two-foot takeoff will get you to a higher point than a one-foot takeoff. However, some players swear by the running one-foot jump, and if that’s you, then work with it! Oh, and if you don’t know this already, it’s SUPER important! Whichever leg is your dominant leg for jumping, you MUST use the opposite hand for the dunk if you want to maximize height. If you can get way up above the rim with your jump, you certainly have the flexibility to play around with which hand or hands hold the ball in what configuration, etc. But, if you need every last inch you can squeak out of your jump, hold the ball with the opposite hand from the foot you use to take off with.
Visualize for Success
A great way to improve your dunking skills is to watch from the best and visualize yourself becoming on their level. Try doing a youtube search with team flight brothers videos and various NBA dunk highlights. This will give you the inspiration to complete your workouts, follow your diets, and overall stick to the gameplan. In addition, these videos will help you visualize what you are trying to do and will ultimately help you achieve your goals. My college coach always made us visualize the perfect shot when we lay in bed at night. It works! Trust me! When you are getting ready to jump imagine that you are your favorite player and try to imitate the dunk you saw them perform. Lastly, do not let old, worn-out shoes stop you from your dunking dreams! The pair of running or basketball shoes that you are wearing will have a pretty massive effect on the transfer of power from your body to the floor, and also the weight on your feet. If you are a six foot nine, two hundred fifty something monster like Lebron James, it will not matter what pair of shoes you are wearing, however, if you are like most of us, you will want to have a light pair of shoes with which to jump. There is also a little bit of research developing in the basketball community that wearing leg sleeves or compression tights will help accumulate heat in your legs and warm them up for explosive jumps faster. Compression tights have been known forever to be great for reducing the time it takes to recover from workouts.
Don’t Overdo it or You’ll Pay the Price!
Overall, when you are training yourself to dunk a basketball, you are training your explosion! Make sure you do every rep of every set of every exercise with as much power, speed, and intensity that you possibly can to train your nervous system and muscles to recruit power as quickly as possible to transfer into an explosive jump and resulting dunk! Another important thing to remember when training your dunking skills that can be surprisingly hard to implement is that you must not overtrain! It may be tempting to spend a couple hours attempting hundreds of dunks, but this will beat down your knees and cause you to have a really slow recovery. You need to practice with moderation, this means that you will really start seeing results once you maximize the focus and intensity of the workout time that you have. Good luck with your training! I hope this guide helps get you on track to take flight and throw down a thunderous dunk!
A Bit More Inspiration and Technique for Training
I’m guessing you’re reading this article because you’re looking to up your ball game! I have lots of experience with basketball having played college basketball in Iowa (EBC) and spent much of my life developing skills. After much research, I’ve come across a training system that I think quite highly of. It is definitely worth the money if you’d like to gain an advantage over a competitor to the extent that you would not be able to without the course. If you’d like to check it out, there’s a banner near the top of this post, and you can also click this link to find out more!
Although I have not personally tried this program (I’m hoping to in the very near future), I’m excited about the possibilities. It looks GREAT! It’s called the JUMP MANUAL and it can only help your vertical in amazing ways. Happy Balling!