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.
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Perhaps the most popular obstruction-modified dunk is the Dubble-Up. Aptly eponymous of the its pioneer—T-Dub, an American dunker hailing from Minnesota—the Dubble-Up starts with a person standing before the basket, holding the ball above their head. The dunker approaches and leaps as though their groin would soar above just above the head and their legs around the stationary person. Just prior to clearing the person, the dunker will assume control of the ball with one or both hands, guide it under a raised leg, transferring it to the appropriate hand, clearing the ball-holder, raising the ball above the horizontal plane of the rim, and finally guiding it downward through the basket. While the Dubble-Up mimics a between-the-legs dunk, Kenny Dobbs and Justin Darlington have both performed an under-both-legs variant.
A common, low-tech plyometrics method is performing box jumps, where the athlete jumps repeatedly from the floor to the top of the box and back again. By concentrating on the mechanics of the jump, directing propulsion from the balls of the feet and thrusting with an explosive extension of the legs, the ability of the athlete to land lightly and immediately return to the floor enhances motor control over the movement.
Perform jump and reach exercises for a simple vertical jump workout. Start in a standing position with your arms above your head, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your knees and hips forward. Bring your arms down and back, while simultaneously lowering your hips and bending your knees. Then, swing your arms forward and jump as high as you can.
High pulls can also be done using a dumbbell or kettlebell,. When doing so, position the weight between your feet and pull with one arm at a time (switching arms halfway through the set). A trap bar (aka, hex bar) is also an option, particularly for individuals who have a hard time keeping the lower back flat; the trap bar allows the hands to be positioned behind the shins to help pull the shoulders back.
The loading phase of a vertical jump should look very similar to a Romanian dDeadlift—the only difference is the arm position. In this position, the weight is on the toes. The knees and ankles are slightly bent, the chest is leaned forward and the arms are extended just past the hips. In this position, the athlete can generate the most amount of vertical power.
For taxonomic purposes it is an important distinction, but the modifiers discussed below are often considered dunk types in common parlance. This misconception is perhaps attributable to the modifier being the most salient component of the dunk from the perspective of the observer. However, each dunk modifier requires a dunk type to be a successful dunk—albeit the most-basic dunk type.
Air ball Alley-oop Assist Backboard shattering Ball hog Block Buzzer beater Cherry picking Dribble Crossover Dunk Euro step Fadeaway Fast break Fly Flop Jump shot Layup Finger roll Field goal Four-point play Free throw Hook shot Moves Pick and roll Positions Posterized Playbook Rebound Point Screen Back screen Slashing Steal Three-pointer Three-point play Uncontested shot
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Because jumping ability is a combination of leg strength and explosive power, jumping can be developed in the same fashion as any other muscular activity. The ultimate limit to how high any athlete can jump will be determined to a significant degree by the distribution of fast-twitch versus slow-twitch fibers present in the muscles of the legs. This distribution is a genetic determination. Fast-twitch fibers are those whose governing neurons, the component of the nervous system that receives the impulses generated by the brain to direct muscular movement, fires more rapidly, which in turn creates the more rapid muscle contractions required for speed. As a general proposition, an athlete with a greater distribution of fast-twitch fibers will be able jump higher than one with a preponderance of slow-twitch fibers.
Add some flair with a double-pump. Suggesting you're so high you could dunk it twice, in the double-pump dunk you bring the ball back down to chest level at the apex of your leap, then force it back up to slam it with authority. Some notable players, Tracy McGrady among them, would do this regularly while spinning in the air, doing a 360 dunk variation.
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.”
Among the hundreds of lessons I learned during my youngest child’s first year of life was this: If you earnestly pursue dunking after your athletic peak years of 18 to 30, give or take, it can be done. You can enjoy what it feels like to dunk. You can even feel it more purely than I did, maybe without needing a lob from a friend, and hopefully without all the hand damage. But you should expect a long, frustrating, demeaning war of attrition that pits mind, body, spirit against the most oppressive, unrelenting opponent of them all: gravity. The sun rises and sets, the tides creep in and out—even taxes and death seem negotiable nowadays—but gravity remains constant, forever pounding our shoulders, stooping us shorter as we grow gray, never letting up—no matter what NASA tweets.
At the competitive level (i.e., the NFL and NBA combines), vertical leap is measured using a “jump tester”—a tripod with a series of thin plastic sticks one inch apart. If you have access to this equipment, it’s your best bet for getting an accurate measurement. A cheaper, more feasible option is to do your jump next to a wall and mark the highest point you touch with a piece of chalk.
I mean, I think you can probably improve your vertical some in a month. I think, though, that for most normal people who aren’t teenagers who are trying out for their basketball team, who don’t have all that time on their hands, I think there’s a much saner way to go about it, where you’re steadily improving your vertical over a period of time. You know, there’s a lot of this kind of slightly crazy, kamikaze, self-improvement type of thing, whether it’s trying to jump higher or do anything else. I’m sure those things work to some extent, but it’s not the way I would have wanted to go about it.
Another high pull option is to shorten the range of motion to make it a hang high pull instead of a power high pull (“power” implying that the load starts on the floor). In this case, the start position is from standing, with the bar hanging in front of your thighs at arms’ length. The movement is initiated with a dip in the hips and knees, so that the bar lowers to just above knee level, followed immediately by an explosive pull.
Vertical jumps are used to both train and test for power output in athletes. Plyometrics are particularly effective in training for power output, and include vertical jumps of different types in their protocol. In one recent study, training with plyometrics (which included continuous vertical jumps) was shown to improve jump height and boost vertical jump performance to similar degrees in combination with very different resistance training protocols, indicating that the plyometric jumping contributed to the increased jump height more than resistance training. Research into plyometric jumps found vertical jumps to be among the highest in terms of muscle recruitment (as measured by electromyography), power output, and ground reaction force produced. Fatigue has been researched in athletes for its effect on vertical jump performance, and found to decrease it in basketball players, tennis players, cyclists, rugby players, and healthy adults of both genders.