Hi, I’m Trevor Theismann and welcome back to the blog. Today we’ll be focusing on the vertical jump and looking for ways to jump higher and increase our vertical distance. We’ve demonstrated some vertical jump exercises on the blog in the past, but now let’s take a minute to talk about technique. Training your body to jump higher isn’t just a matter of reps and strength building. No matter how many box jumps you take on, your vertical distance isn’t likely to increase unless you’re building your jump reflex correctly.

i am 6 foot 2 inches tall, i am in the 8th grade, and i am 13 years old going on 14 in september. I discovered on May 15th that I could hang on the rim at my school with two hands by jogging about 3 steps very very slowly and jumping off both of my feet. I have dunked about 3 times before, but the last couple times I tried, I got "hung" and sent backwards but I managed to keep balance on the way down due to my height. What is my problem? Also after I attempt to dunk about 4 times in a day my shin begins to hurt. Why does this keep happening?
Seventy-nine years later, the feat that Daley unwittingly named “the dunk” still flabbergasts. But how it felt to Fortenberry, a pioneering barnstormer whose name we’ve forgotten despite the gold medal he and his teammates won in 1936, remains a mystery. “He never talked about being the first person to dunk and all that,” says 65-year-old Oliver Fortenberry, the only son of Big Joe, who died in ’93. Indeed, the famous dunkers throughout history have been either reticent on the subject or unable to adequately express how it felt to show Dr. Naismith that he’d nailed his peach baskets too low. After more than a year of rigorous research on the subject, I’ve concluded that the inadequacies of modern language—not the ineloquence of the dunk’s practitioners—are at fault. In the eight decades since Fortenberry rocked the rim, words have repeatedly fallen short in describing the only method of scoring, in any sport, that both ignores one of its game’s earliest tenets and, in its very execution, carries a defiant anger.

In the 1950s, Jim Pollard[28] and Wilt Chamberlain[29] had both dunked from the free throw line—15 feet from the basket. Chamberlain was able to dunk from the free-throw line without a running start, beginning his forward movement from within the top half of the free-throw circle.[29] This was the catalyst for the 1956 NCAA rule change which requires that a shooter maintain both feet behind the line during a free-throw attempt.[30]
Go between the legs. While he wasn't the first player to complete it, Vince Carter wowed crowds at the 2000 NBA dunk contest by passing the ball under one leg while in the air and slamming it with authority. It didn't hurt that his forehead was almost touching the rim. If you've worked your ups to that height, try passing it under one leg and dunking it.
The slam dunk is usually the highest percentage shot and a crowd-pleaser. Thus, the maneuver is often extracted from the basketball game and showcased in slam dunk contests such as the NBA Slam Dunk Contest held during the annual NBA All-Star Weekend. The first incarnation of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest was held during the half-time of the 1976 American Basketball Association All-Star Game.
Dunking (or attempting to dunk) is a high-impact, highly intense activity that deserves a sufficient warm-up prior to a throw-down session. Just as you would for a lifting workout, start your warmup with a few minutes of low-intensity cardio, then progress to more dynamic movements—dynamic stretching/mobility drills as well as jumping. Before attempting your first dunk, take a couple dry runs with no ball where you’re touching or grabbing the rim at the top.
If you took a poll of the areas athletes wanted to improve the most, their vertical jump would be among the tops. Athletes playing basketball and volleyball rely on their verticals in a number of ways, but one major way is it gives them an edge to stand out amongst their peers. Players want to jump higher and coaches are looking for players that can put some space between their feet and the court.
The materials and information provided in this presentation, document and/or any other communication (“Communication”) from Onnit Labs, Inc. or any related entity or person (collectively “Onnit”) are strictly for informational purposes only and are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a qualified medical professional. Some of the concepts presented herein may be theoretical.

Four times a week, from April through October, I embarked on 90-minute explosive weightlifting sessions based on the years I’d spent working as a strength coach to club, college and professional volleyball players. Squats, squat jumps, deadlifts, lunges, box jumps, cleans, sprints. . . . Three or four days a week I visited one of my local blacktops, where I tried to dunk tennis balls on 10-foot rims or throw down basketballs and volleyballs on lower ones. By May 3—one month in—I could dunk a tennis ball on a 9' 10" rim. I considered this a better-than-good start, not realizing that compared to dunking a basketball, this tennis-ball jam was akin to a child scrawling the diagonal line that begins a capital A on his first day of learning the alphabet.


No, I think there’s a practical aspect to that. It’s hard to grip a basketball. I mean, that’s another physical challenge. I have pretty small hands, and one thing I had to train myself to do, which I couldn’t do at the start of this project, is palm a basketball. So that involved fingertip push-ups, to get the tips of your fingers much stronger. It involves, while hanging out and watching television, trying to palm a basketball for as long as you can. You want to get into a quick, full sprint, and you want to be able to grip the basketball as you go up to jam it. So doing those things can be a challenge. That’s partly what’s behind people doing the alley-oop-type things or throwing it up off the backboard. In some cases, they simply can’t grip the ball on the way to the hoop, so their solution is to throw it in the air, catch it, and try to bring it down.

“No, not Dad,” Oliver said in the brick tract home where he grew up. “He was an older dad, like you, and his family was the focus of his life. The only time he wasn’t home with us kids was when he went out on the road for Phillips Petroleum, buying and selling leases in western Kansas and Oklahoma. When he got back he’d say, ‘All I wanted to do was come home.’ ”
At pickup the next night, buoyed by the previous day’s accomplishment, I found a regulation ball that had good grip, one I could palm, and in between games, when no one was looking, I dunked for the first time in eleven years. If some dunks are described as thunderous, this one could be best described as a gentle fart in the breeze. But a dunk’s a dunk—and I had dunked.
In the tradition of New Year’s resolutions and the like, you can give yourself a year. I certainly didn’t want to give myself more than a year, because after a year I knew I would grow tired of it, and my body would start to get quite unhappy with me. But I would recommend to someone that they give it a go for at least six months. It’s also a way of just getting yourself in fantastic shape. I mean, trying to dunk a basketball in itself is awesome. It’s really great to be able to dunk a basketball, to get yourself higher up than you thought possible. But the process of getting yourself in that kind of position is itself rewarding.
No, I think there’s a practical aspect to that. It’s hard to grip a basketball. I mean, that’s another physical challenge. I have pretty small hands, and one thing I had to train myself to do, which I couldn’t do at the start of this project, is palm a basketball. So that involved fingertip push-ups, to get the tips of your fingers much stronger. It involves, while hanging out and watching television, trying to palm a basketball for as long as you can. You want to get into a quick, full sprint, and you want to be able to grip the basketball as you go up to jam it. So doing those things can be a challenge. That’s partly what’s behind people doing the alley-oop-type things or throwing it up off the backboard. In some cases, they simply can’t grip the ball on the way to the hoop, so their solution is to throw it in the air, catch it, and try to bring it down.

The days and jumps and deadlifts and calf raises rolled on, rep by rep, protein shake by protein shake. Six months became seven, then eight. To protect my right hand, I began wearing a canvas gardening glove with the fingers cut off. It soon became stained with blood—the equivalent of Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, but with one-millionth the significance. The rims where I toiled belonged to me now, such that I barely noticed the toddlers wobbling nearby, the skateboarders swirling around me as day turned to dusk, the elderly couple ambling arm in arm, looking for all the world like my wife helping me to the shower on the morning after a double day.
How do you know these will work? A little over a year ago, I was a 6′7″ HS junior, and I could almost touch rim. I decided that I wanted to dunk as soon as possible. I worked by butt off, doing these numbers or more every day (well, almost). 3 to 4 months later, I threw down my first dunk on a regulation goal (10 feet). Fast forward to today, I am a 6′8″ HS senior, and can dunk regularly (am close to doing a two handed standing dunk).
Step 3. Land squarely on the floor on both feet (again, around hip-width apart) and immediately jump as high as you can, straight up in the air. It’s important that you spend as little time as possible with your feet on the floor before the jump—it should be a split-second reaction. Don’t lower down into a squat before leaving your feet. Just let your hips and knees dip naturally, then extend them explosively to launch upward. Drive your arms straight up as you do so.
Still, by the late 1950s and early 1960s players such as Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain had incorporated the move into their offensive arsenal. The dunk became a fan-favorite, as offensive players began to aggressively intimidate defenders with the threat of vicious slams. Through the 1970s, the slam dunk was standard fare; David Thompson, Julius Erving, Darryl Dawkins, and others wowed crowds with high-flying moves.
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Janik was available by text whenever I needed him, like my very own dunk training app. The important thing, he said, was to work out hard and smart. When my knees or back were sore, he advised lowering the weight for a few sessions and eliminating depth jumps. "Listen to your body," he told me. And I did: I took a day off here or there if I needed it; I added more weight when I felt good. When, after five weeks, I started to worry that I wasn’t going to dunk again, he kept me motivated. "Leg strength is the key. Squat deep. Ass to grass," he told me, unsympathetic to the known fact that squats are fucking terrible.
After four months of failing to pull off anything even resembling a real dunk, the planets aligned on Aug. 9: After at least 19 failed attempts that afternoon, I dunked a soccer ball on a middle school court whose rim measured 9' 11". (The original basketball, incidentally, was a soccer ball, property of Dr. Naismith’s employer, Springfield College.) Video from that afternoon shows me standing there, looking confused, in the moment afterward. Did that just happen? Failing had become so routine that even this small success felt foreign.
My son asked me to get book to help improve his jump and was thrilled with the terrific tips it gave him. According to him, this book covers all the important basics and is a must-read for anyone looking to increase their athletic performance. The exercises are described in a clear, easy to follow manner...and now that I've read it as well I'm happy to say, I understand more of what my son is always going on about! ;)
Not so long ago, I played the worst basketball game of my life. I missed layups, turned over the ball, allowed my opponent free reign to the hoop. It was dark. As I slumped on the sidelines after the game, I realized how far I’d fallen from my prime a decade ago. Back then, I could dunk; now, at 33, I could barely curl my fingers over the rim. My game had regressed to hovering around the arc jacking threes. The last time I dunked a basketball, Michael Jordan was a Washington Wizard and people still listened to Coldplay.
The simplest method to measure an athlete's vertical jump is to get the athlete to reach up against a flat wall, with a flat surface under his/her feet (such as a gym floor or concrete) and record the highest point he/she can reach flat-footed (the height of this point from the ground is referred to as "standing reach"); fingertips powdered with chalk can facilitate the determination of points touched on the wall. The athlete then makes an effort to jump up with the goal of touching the highest point on the wall that he or she can reach; the athlete can perform these jumps as many times as needed. The height of the highest point the athlete touches is recorded. The difference between this height and the standing reach is the athlete's vertical jump.
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