A vital part of basketball training is improving your vertical leap. As an athlete, you should be incorporating exercises into your basketball drills and fitness training that focus on increasing muscle strength and leg speed. Simply put, you won’t turn into Vince Carter or Andre Iguodala overnight, but learning how to work the appropriate muscles on a daily basis will go a far way towards improving your overall vertical.
The phrase "slam dunk" has entered popular usage in American English outside of its basketball meaning, to refer to a "sure thing": an action with a guaranteed outcome, or a similarly impressive achievement. This is related to the high probability of success for a slam dunk versus other types of shots. Additionally, to "be dunked on" is sometimes popularly used to indicate that a person has been easily embarrassed by another, in reference to the embarrassment associated with unsuccessfully trying to prevent an opponent from making a dunk. This ascension to popular usage is reminiscent of, for example, the way that the baseball-inspired phrases "step up to the plate" and "he hit it out of the park," or American football-inspired phrases such as "victory formation" or "hail Mary" have entered popular North American vernacular.
I followed the Jump Attack program to the letter, and my training in December, January and February looked and felt nothing like what had preceded it. I spent a month doing those nonsensical lunge holds (and squat holds, push-up holds, chin-up holds). I trusted those holds, and the tendon-testing leg workouts that lasted 2 ½ hours and left me tasting my own broken down muscle in my mouth. I trusted all of it because I was living in that moment, as Carter put it, when the hammering of Carter’s “muscle memory” into my body finally would bear fruit and I’d pitch the ball downward into a 10-foot hoop like a cafeteria customer dunking a roll in coffee.
Dunking isn’t much different. You’ll likely find yourself getting slightly higher with each attempt at first, but before long, fatigue will set in and your vertical leap will decrease. At this point, it’s a good idea to end the session, rather than try to push through and force yourself to jump higher. It’s an indication that your nervous system has mustered all the energy it has to help you jump, and you need to let it rest. Give your legs a couple days’ off, then come back again and try.
An important component of maximizing height in a vertical jump is attributed to the use of counter-movements of the legs and arm swings prior to take off, as both of these actions have been shown to significantly increase the body’s center of mass rise. The counter-movement of the legs, a quick bend of the knees which lowers the center of mass prior to springing upwards, has been shown to improve jump height by 12% compared to jumping without the counter-movement. This is attributed to the stretch shortening cycle of the leg muscles enabling the muscles to create more contractile energy. Furthermore, jump height can be increased another 10% by executing arm swings during the take off phase of the jump compared to if no arm swings are utilized. This involves lowering the arms distally and posteriorly during the leg counter-movements, and powerfully thrusting the arms up and over the head as the leg extension phase begins. As the arms complete the swinging movement they pull up on the lower body causing the lower musculature to contract more rapidly, hence aiding in greater jump height. Despite these increases due to technical adjustments, it appears as if optimizing both the force producing and elastic properties of the musculotendinous system in the lower limbs is largely determined by genetics and partially mutable through resistance exercise training.