Within the world of Basketball the Slam Dunk is considered the Holy Grail of the sport. As a huge fan of Michael Jordan I made it my job to learn how to dunk when I was younger. I dunked it once when all the timing seemed to come together and it just worked. Did it feel good? You bet! But it was hard work and I didn’t have the knowledge to improve my ability to dunk. Now I do have the understanding and the ability to train people to dunk.
So how do you dunk?
First and foremost we should not kid ourselves: there is no doubt that someone who is 7 feet tall will find it much easier to dunk than someone who is 5 feet 10 inches and we should accept that if you are 5 feet 6 inches your chances of ever dunking are very remote.
Practise, practise, practise. There is nothing better to improve your chances of dunking than to practise dunking. You should notice that you can jump much higher without the ball than with. Therefore it should be your mission to make that ball so much a part of you that you bring the lay up with the ball to the same height as without the ball. The only way to do that is to live with your basketball, morning noon and night, where ever you go your basketball goes. Practise on the court and make that ball part of you.
Now some people will say you need strength in your legs to be able to dunk and others will say you need speed. The truth is that you will need both and we call that combination POWER. Your power will increase when your strength increases or when your speed increases, but you will progress even faster if you also train for power.
Well I can’t improve your basketball skills and I certainly can’t make you taller but what I can do is show you how to increase your power.
Strength, speed and power
It goes without saying that the leg muscles are the area we will be focusing on and there are loads of leg muscle exercises at our leg exercises section for you to use to increase your strength. When performing all these exercises you should focus on a faster contraction and a slower release. This way you are training the muscles to fire quickly helping to increase power. Your practice on the court will help increase your speed but for now we are going to focus on increasing your power.
Increasing your power
There is a type of training called Plyometrics which trains the muscles to “spring load” and “fire”. This helps us to build serious amounts of power and it is this type of training that athletes and sport professionals use in all different types of sports. You can read all about Plyometrics here but for now we are going to focus on this exercise and basketball.
3 Exercises you must add to your training
There are 3 important exercises that you will need to add to your routine. The first two will help build power throughout a full movement and the final exercise will build power only in the range that is used for the final jump in the layup.
The Jumping Squat
There is no doubt that the two-footed jump uses the same principles as the squat. In the squat you never leave the ground and the reason for this is that you need to access power to blast your feet through the ground. Of course the ground is far too solid for your feet to go through and thanks to our friend Mr Isaac Newton that power is used to launch you into the air. Now you are in the air you must think about your landing. Keep a slight bend in your knees and land as softly as you can, making as little noise as possible. As your feet touch the ground allow your legs to bend underneath you to absorb the impact. When you knees reach 90 degrees launch yourself back up into the air and keep repeating until you have completed 20 repetitions. There should be no rest in this exercise at all until you finish. Learn more about the jumping squat here. When you can do 20 repetitions easily just add another set.
The Jumping Lunge
The great plus about the jumping lunge is that it is the link between the 2 footed jump and the 1 footed jump used in a basketball layup. As with the jumping squat the jumping lunge’s only difference to the standard lunge is the amount of power used. The more power you use the higher you can launch yourself and after all that is what we are looking for from your jump. Starting in the standard lunge position power up and launch yourself as high as you can into the air. Once airborne switch your legs so the front leg moves backwards and the back leg moves forwards, land with a slight bend in your knees and let your legs bend underneath you to cushion your landing. Again the aim is to make as little noise as possible. As soon as your knees reach 90 degrees launch yourself back into the air again and switch your legs back again.
Keep repeating this until you have completed 20 repetitions. Again there is no rest during this exercise and so at no point should you stop, especially on the landing as this is the spring loading stage, which is essential to add power to your legs. Learn more about the jumping lunge here: When you can do 20 repetitions easily just add another set.
All right, so I said I wasn’t going to teach you basketball and I am going to stand by my word. However there is no point in training your muscles without putting it into practice. So this exercise is to practise the layup to get the power in the legs in the exact range of movement that the muscle uses to jump from the layup. You should be able to see that on the step you take to launch at the ring you do not squat and you certainly don’t lunge to get the power to reach the ring. In fact you should notice that the leg doesn’t bend fully and it is only the first 30 degrees or so that the legs bend. It is this range that we need to practice on and the best way is the layup. So practise and practise: at first without the ball to get the speed of your approach and the power from your jumping leg. Keep aiming for that ring and backboard and measure your improvements.
You can make this drill much more difficult by replacing the basketball with a weighted medicine ball. Warning: please don’t try and dunk the medicine ball or even release the medicine ball. Instead keep hold of it but go through all the motions with all the convictions to dunk it. Jumping with that added weight will help you to increase the power in your legs.
How long till you dunk?
Naturally we all like the quick fix and want it yesterday. This on the other hand will take time and a lot of training. These exercises should be added to your regular training as a regular addition and in that combination you should be able to see real results within 2 months; but to see those results you will have to work hard and it will always come down to the fact of how much you really want it.
The 3 exercises I have added should not be attempted if you don’t have a good level of fitness already, if you have an injury or if you are overweight and/or suffer from a heart related illness. It should go without saying that Basketball players are highly trained athletes and you should not expect to be able to dunk if you are not fit and healthy.
Good luck with your training and please let us know how you get on. We want to hear about your first dunk!
In the mean time check out this video below, that should whet your appetite for dunking 🙂