To begin, go up without a ball first. This will give you a great idea of where you’re at and just how close you are to being able to dunk. For beginners, you should focus on dunking with one hand. Your other hand should stay by your side to balance your body while you’re in the air. The two-handed dunk is awesome, but is surprisingly more of an advance dunk and should be an approach you build up to as you work on your dunking.
The vertical jump is one of the most explosive physical movements executed in sport. In a number of sports, the higher the athlete is able to jump, the greater the prospects of success in that discipline. Basketball and volleyball are the two most prominent examples of sports where that correlation is plain. The jumping ability of an athlete is also an indicator of overall athletic ability, as there is a clear relationship between the ability to jump and the running speed that the athlete will develop over short distances. The National Football League, where prospective players are subjected to various physical tests, requires every player to be tested for both vertical leaps and 40-yd (37 m) sprints, irrespective of the position played.
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Exactly which muscles are most important for improving the vertical jump is still relatively unclear, and may differ between individuals. Clearly, the spinal erectors, hip extensors, quadriceps, and calf muscles are all involved in the jumping movement, and the hip extensors and quadriceps are likely the prime movers, but which of the hip extensors is the primary muscle is very unclear. Importantly, since force production is required right up until take-off, the lower body muscles must produce force from moderate through to short muscle lengths, which differs from the barbell back squat exercise.
If you can jump high enough to dunk, but you’re having a hard time going up with the basketball in one hand, the solution is to start small and work your way up. A smaller ball such as a soft golf ball or tennis ball is a great starting point. From there, move slowly to a mini-basketball. It will provide more of a challenge but still be easy to palm as you go up. Once you can dunk the mini ball, try moving on to a volleyball until finally a regulation basketball.
Sets/Reps: For general strength and lower-body development, Benguche recommends 3–6 sets of 3–8 reps with moderate loading—70%–85% of your one-rep max (1RM). For developing more speed and power, he recommends lighter loads (55%–70% of 1RM) for 3–6 sets of 2–5 reps. Squats performed with light weights but done so explosively that your feet leave the floor when you come up are called jump squats (see “Progressions” below).
A slam dunk, also simply dunk, is a type of basketball shot that is performed when a player jumps in the air, controls the ball above the horizontal plane of the rim, and scores by putting the ball directly through the basket with one or both hands. It is considered a type of field goal; if successful, it is worth two points. Such a shot was known as a "dunk shot" until the term "slam dunk" was coined by former Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn.
In the 2011 NBA contest, Los Angeles Clippers power-forward Blake Griffin completed a self-pass off of the backboard prior to elbow-hanging on the rim. A number of other variants of the elbow hang have been executed, including a lob self-pass, hanging by the arm pit, a windmill, and over a person. Most notable are two variations which as of July 2012, have yet to be duplicated. In 2008, Canadian athlete Justin Darlington introduced an iteration aptly entitled a 'double-elbow hang', in which the player inserts both forearms through the rim and subsequently hangs on both elbows pits. Circa 2009, French athlete Guy Dupuy demonstrated the ability to perform a between-the-legs elbow hang; however, Guy opted not to hang on the rim by his elbow, likely because the downward moment could have resulted in injury.
Unfortunately, I’m not the 6' 7" son of a Hall of Famer, so I had to resort to desperate devices—like Hennessy, an infamous and inexpensive cognac that, according to one of the two NBA players who recommended it to me, “will give you that Yah! That bounce. That little bit of meanness you need.” The little minibar-sized bottle that I downed 30 minutes into an intense session of dunk attempts on a sweltering day last summer, had no effect other than scorching my esophagus, giving me a headache and releasing from my pores an aura that, as my six-year-old put it that evening, “smells like medicine.”
A great summary of what it takes to improve vertical jumping ability Joe. There is definitely an art and science to optimizing vertical jump height. I actually just completed a huge post on the topic of How To Jump Higher which your readers may find complements this post nicely. It is a long read (12000+ words) but for those of your readers who want to learn more about the art of jumping they may find it helpful. Keep up the great work!
I gave myself six months to dunk because that was the low end of the “six to eight months” prescribed on the website of Brandon Todd, a 5'5" former D-III star who set the same goal for himself in 2005, and then, at age 22, accomplished it. When I first contacted him, Todd perfectly expressed the more shallow reason behind my goal: “When you can dunk, it means you’re a good athlete. Period. It takes away any subjectiveness.” I also chose six months because, as would be proved repeatedly during this mission, I am prone to tragic spells of overconfidence.
A second, more efficient and correct method is to use an infrared laser placed at ground level. When an athlete jumps and breaks the plane of the laser with his/her hand, the height at which this occurs is measured. Devices based on United States Patent 5031903, "A vertical jump testing device comprising a plurality of vertically arranged measuring elements each pivotally mounted..." are also common. These devices are used at the highest levels of collegiate and professional performance testing. They are composed of several (roughly 70) 14-inch prongs placed 0.5 inches apart vertically. An athlete will then leap vertically (no running start or step) and make contact with the retractable prongs to mark their leaping ability. This device is used each year at the NFL scouting combine.