How to Train Yourself to Dunk a Basketball

Updated on March 27, 2020
EricDockett profile image

Eric is a weight lifter and former college athlete with an interest in a wide range of sports.

Some are born with the athletic ability to dunk, while others have to work at it.
Some are born with the athletic ability to dunk, while others have to work at it. | Source

The Slam Dunk

There are few things in sports more impressive than a monster slam dunk. Sure, it’s only worth two points, the same as a layup, but it looks a heck of a lot cooler! Not only that, but a commanding dunk has the power to turn the momentum of a game, fire up the crowd and deflate your opponent’s ego.

Dunking a basketball is a skill some players take for granted. If you are 6-foot-6 and can jump through the roof of the gym, you probably aren’t going to benefit much from this article.

On the other hand, if you are under 6-foot and have always wanted to throw one down, there is no reason you can’t work toward this goal. Maybe you can grab the rim on a good day, or maybe you’re really close but not quite there. There are things you can do improve your ability to dunk, and your hard work will definitely have rewards.

In fact, that was me back in high school. At 5-foot-10 I worked and worked until I was able to get the ball over the rim. In this article, I’ll share some of what I learned. As a bonus, the same drills you do to learn how to dunk a basketball will make you a better all-around athlete. That’s really the point here, right?

So let’s get to it!

Strength Training

For many athletes, their physical strength is a major limiting factor in their performance. This is not just true for jumping ability, but also for speed, quickness, and agility. It's pretty simple: The stronger you are, the more efficiently you can move your own weight through space.

Some people are born with a higher percentage of lean muscle mass and are great natural athletes. If that’s you: Congratulations on winning the genetic lottery! The rest of us need to work hard to increase strength and muscle, and that means lifting weights.

When I was a young athlete, I was one of those guys who would rather be running around in the sunshine on the court instead of spending time in a dank weight room. Then I read a book called Fitness for Athletes by legendary strength coach Dr. Terry Todd.

In one section of the book, Dr. Todd writes about a seven-week strength program he’d done with a college basketball team. In the end, on average each member of the team had increased his vertical leap by five inches. They lifted three times a week, for only twenty minutes per day!

So, as a basketball player will you benefit from a 5-inch increase in your vertical leap? Yes, you will. Will strength training help you be a better athlete? Yes, it will. I learned quickly that I needed to lift weights, and the stronger I got the faster I could run and the higher I could jump.

It’s best to stick with basic, compound exercises like squats, bench presses, barbell rows, and military presses. These exercises are great for gaining strength and muscle mass. Find a coach or trainer who can teach you how to perform these exercises correctly.

If you can find someone to help you learn Olympic-style lifting that’s even better. The explosiveness and power you get from Olympic lifting translate very directly to improved athletic performance.

Put in the hard work and you can dunk like the pros
Put in the hard work and you can dunk like the pros | Source

Drills to Increase Your Vertical Leap

Strength training is the number-one way to condition your body so you can be more powerful and jump higher. If you want to dunk a basketball but don’t quite have the ups for it, a good strength program may be all you need to put you over the top. But there are a few other things you can do to increase your vertical leap.

Skipping rope is a great all-around exercise for basketball players, and for most athletes. It helps you develop quick feet and agility, and of course, is outstanding for cardiovascular conditioning. It also helps to increase your vertical leap.

Once you get good at it, you can mix it up with double-skip jumps, one-legged jumps, and other variations. The constant repetition of jumping will have your calves screaming, especially if you do your rope skipping after a hard strength-training workout.

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.

In skipping rope this means repetitive short hops, but there are many far more advanced plyometric exercises. These include box hops, where the athlete jumps back and forth over a box or hurdle of a certain height, and depth jumps where an athlete starts off on an elevated platform and drops to the floor, then quickly leaps back onto the platform.

Like strength training, a plyometric program should only be undertaken after the guidance of a professional coach or trainer. Many strength coaches recommend an athlete be able to squat 1.5 times their own weight before engaging in such exercises due to the chance of injury.

Spudd Webb Wins '86 NBA Dunk Contest at 5'7

Practice Makes Perfect

As you work on your strength and jumping ability, you will likely find you are inching closer and closer to your goal each time you try for the basketball rim. But what are you going to do when you get there?

Dunking a basketball isn’t just about the ability to jump high enough. You also have to be able to handle the ball, and if you intend to dunk in a game, you need to do it without traveling. This means you have to practice.

For smaller guys, much of the problem, and one I struggled with, is managing the ball. Like most guys my size, I can palm a basketball if a grab it carefully, but realistically it isn’t going to happen without a little concentrated effort. Some of those big guys can make a basketball look like a volleyball, and they have no trouble getting hold of it and shoving it over the rim.

If you can just about jump high enough to dunk but you’re struggling with the mechanics of it, the solution is to start small and work your way up. If you can dunk with two hands all the better, but you are probably going to have to learn to manage the ball with one hand, at least in the beginning.

Start off with one of those mini basketballs until you get the groove down. Then move on to a volleyball, then to a regulation women’s basketball, and finally to a regulation men’s ball. Keep your form under control as you move up to more challenging levels, and be patient. If you keep working hard, you will get there.

A ferocious dunk can swing the momentum of a game.
A ferocious dunk can swing the momentum of a game. | Source

Tips and Cautions

Once you can get up and slam dunk a basketball you’re really going to be feeling your oats, but there are few things to think about if you want to avoid injury and embarrassment:

  • Be careful where you dunk: Depending on where you play, the rim itself may be a mess. You can really tear your hand open on a rusted rim that’s poorly maintained.
  • Protect your ankles and knees: For us guys under 6-foot, the way down is no small fall. Stay under control, especially if you are around other players. Busting up your ankle or knee will ruin your season in a hurry.
  • Don’t practice dunks on portable goals: Unless you want to end up in the hospital, and/or go viral on YouTube. Those things are prone to tipping over if you put weight on the rim, leading to injuries.
  • Don’t grab the rim without good reason: Hanging on the rim is legal in a game only if you are doing it to protect yourself or other players. Otherwise, you will get a technical foul for acting like an idiot. It's also dangerous if done incorrectly. You could lose your balance and end up flat on your back.

Unleashing Your Newfound Power

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.

In fact, if you are a very short player and can barely reach the net when you jump you should probably put the dream of dunking the ball out of your mind. It is better to spend time working on your layups and ball-handling skills. You can still lift weights and do all the other things to increase your vertical leap, and you can still be a very effective player.

Should you try to dunk in a game? If you are confident in your ability, or if the game is way out of hand, go for it! However, if the game is close and you have the choice between making a layup or going for the dunk, you’d better be a team player and get the sure points.

So, good luck turning yourself into a backboard-shattering dunking machine, even if you are under 6-foot. Let me know how it goes in the comments!

The Power of the Dunk

How important is a slam dunk in a game?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • EricDockett profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dockett 

      6 months ago from USA

      @Zayd - I just did a quick look. The Vert Shock program appears to concentrate of plyometrics and strength training without weights. If that's the core of the program then I'm sure it works very well. The question is whether you want to pay for a system where a coach has arranged your workouts for you, or whether you want to design your workouts yourself. Nothing wrong with either approach. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Zayd Qubbej 

      6 months ago

      Hello there Eric great article on dunking ! I am not sure if your tips are enough on drills to increase my vertical jump from my perspective because i am not tall am a 5'5 player who is trying to increase my vertical jump with high intense exercises because am sure rope skipping is not enough for my case since i need a high intense exercises on plyometrics as you said there is an advanced level on plyometrics i hope you can make an article on that. That would really help me for my problem. I was reading an article on one of the best vertical jump programs but am not quiet sure if its legit or if you have heard about it before its called the Vert Shock its kinda costly but i dont want to throw my money away i wanted take your opinion on that should i buy such program or are there free legit programs that actually work in your opinion? This is the program am about to jump to i really need your help on that if you can at least give an opinion. Thanks

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      I want to try to Dunk


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)