Other investigators and participants in the trial are as follows: R. Kitzberger, U. Holzinger, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna; A. Roman, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire St. Pierre; D. De Bels, Brugmann University Hospital; S. Anane, Europe Hospitals St. Elisabeth, and S. Brimioulle, M. Van Nuffelen, Erasme University Hospital — all in Brussels; M. VanCutsem, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Charleroi, Charleroi, Belgium; J. Rico, J.I. Gomez Herreras, Rio Hortega University Hospital, Valladolid, Spain; H. Njimi (trial statistician), Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels; and C. Mélot (independent statistician and physician responsible for conducting sequential analysis and evaluation of serious adverse effects), Erasme University Hospital, Brussels.
One morning a week later, the gym at the Y was empty. I picked up the same mini-ball and unsuccessfully tried to throw it down. I found the more relad I was, the higher I could jump. So I loosened my shoulders, took a depth breath, and approached the rim. I held the ball for a beat longer this time, and easily popped it over the rim. It felt incredible. I did it a few more times, each easier than the last, pulling down on the rim with unnecessary force for maximum satisfaction. But as exhilarating as it was to dunk again, I was only using a mini-ball—I hadn’t completely reached my goal.
Before you take on these vertical jump exercises, spend a few minutes looking over the plyometric section of our website. When you increase your vertical jump, you’re actually altering the nature of your muscle fibers, and our plyometric articles can explain how this works. Meanwhile, keep working on strength-building exercises for your quads, glutes and hips, and remember to keep an eye on any hesitation between your jumps.
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My warmup on March 29, following a day of recovery, left me feeling hoppier than I’d expected, and not nearly as achy. After 10 devastating near misses, and several others that weren’t as close, Jeff lofted the best lob I would see during this journey. I leaped, controlled it with one hand and—boodaloomp—in and out. I could have wept. “You got this!” Jeff implored. “You know you got this!”
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Sports scientist are able to measure these ground reaction forces with a technology called force plates. These plates record the exact forces occurring during a vertical jump (or any other movement) and allow you to see how quickly athletes can produce forces, how large these forces are, and to expose potential imbalances between the left and right leg.
When I was growing up, basketball was big in my neighborhood. Everyone wanted to be able to dunk on a regulation 10-foot high basket and, thus, everyone focused on improving their vertical jump. The progression usually went a little something like this: touch the rim, grab the rim, hang on the rim, dunk with a volleyball and, finally, dunk with a basketball!
Dunking a basketball is a lot of fun, and for most of us that is really the only reason to do it. Especially when you are a shorter player, it is cool to see the looks on the big guys’ faces when you do something you really ought not to be able to do. But let’s be realistic here: If you want to be a good basketball player there are many, many skills that are more important to spend time on. For most of us, the ability to dunk is an insignificant part of our game.
Keep that in mind, and progress slowly. A mini basketball is a little more challenging than a tennis ball, but it's easy to palm and that helps. See if you can get high enough to get your hand over the rim--almost up to your wrist--so you can stuff the mini ball. If you can't throw it down with a little authority, a bigger basketball won't be any easier.
Whichever equipment you use, the first thing you’ll need to do is measure your reach standing flat-footed on the floor with one arm fully extended straight overhead. (You can measure your reach up against a wall for the chalk option.) Then, when you mark the highest point you touched, you’ll subtract your reach from that number. For example, if your reach is 90 inches and you touched 115 inches up on the wall with your chalk, your vertical leap is 25 inches.
Rope skipping is also a very basic form of a type of exercise called plyometrics. Plyometric exercises involve repetitive explosive movements, such as jumping up and down or catching and throwing a medicine ball. The idea is to execute the movement with as little downtime as possible between repetitions. This, in effect, trains muscles to be powerful and explosive, and utilize the kinetic energy inherent in athletic movements in the most efficient way.
I think one way of thinking about it is, less parts of the body, and more the kind of muscle. You want to develop your quick-twitch, or fast-twitch, muscles, because at the end of the day, trying to dunk a basketball is an explosive activity. You’re not going for a long-distance run here. You’re doing three quick steps, a hard shove against the ground, and exploding upwards. So the question is how to turn yourself into basically a sprinter. You do a lot of jumping exercises where you’re doing box jumps, where you jump off one box and as soon as you hit the ground, you try to jump up onto another box. That sort of thing.
Step 2. Nudge the bar out of the rack and step back, setting your feet at shoulder width, with your toes turned slightly outward. Without letting your feet actually move, try to screw both legs into the floor, as if you were standing on grass and wanted to twist it up—you’ll feel your glutes tighten and the arches in your feet rise. Take a deep breath into your belly and brace your core, pulling your ribs down so your torso forms a solid column.
Athletes often do depth jumps with two plyo boxes: one to step off of and another to jump onto. Essentially, it’s a depth jump into a box jump. When doing this variation, make sure to leave enough room between the boxes to allow you to land and jump safely (3–5 feet between boxes should work). To advance within this progression, increase the height of the second box gradually as you develop more strength and power.
A more accurate method would be to use a Jump Tester (like these here.) The problem with these, obviously, is that they are way too expensive. In fact, the only scenario in which I recommend using one of these is if you’re a coach, trainer, or athletic director who is purchasing it to test a large number of athletes over time and who needs as accurate of a number as possible for scouting purposes.
Other obstruction-dunks are worth noting: Haneef Munir performed a Dubble-Up, dunking with his right-hand and then caught and dunked a second ball with his left hand—a yet to be duplicated dunk pioneered by Jordan Kilganon on a lower, non-regulation rim. Jordan Kilganon, a Canadian athlete, approached from the baseline a person standing, holding the ball above their head. Kilganon leaped, controlled the ball in front of his torso and raised it above the horizontal plane of the rim before bringing the ball downward into the hoop and hooking both elbows on and hanging from the rim.
Start with a ping-pong ball, then a tennis ball, then a softball, then a volleyball, then a youth-sized basketball, and on up until you can dunk with a regulation size ball. If you can't palm the ball, then you will need to learn how to control the ball with two hands until the last minute extension for the dunk with one hand, or you will have to jump high enough to dunk two-handed.
Asher Price, a reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, spent a year of his life trying to find out and chronicled his quest to jam on a regulation hoop in the book The Year of the Dunk, which comes out in May. Price, who played coy about whether he was able to achieve his goal, spoke to Science of Us about what a rec leaguer would need to do to fly like a pro. (Spoiler: lots of squats and alley-oop attempts.)
The method described above is the most common and simplest way to measure one's vertical jump, but other more scientifically accurate methods have been devised. A pressure pad can be used to measure the time it takes for an athlete to complete a jump, and then using a kinematics equation (h = g × t2/8), the computer can calculate his or her vertical jump based on the time in the air.