The most exciting highlight play in basketball.
Throwing down a slam dunk for the first time is a milestone for hoopers everywhere.
Some may be closer to reaching this goal than others. Some may have more potential to improve than others.
REGARDLESS, the advice below is sure to help you get your first dunk.
Jump training for your first dunk
Trying to throw it down for the first time?
Working on the speed and strength of your muscles should be a top priority.
One word: PLYOMETRICS.
This refers to jump training that works to increase your muscle contraction speed.
Some examples are:
- Standing jumps
- Lateral jumps
This refers to exercises which improve the raw strength and force production of your muscles.
For jumping, it’s best to focus on compound movements.
These will train multiple muscle groups at a time and mimic the motion of jumping.
The two exercises I recommend starting with are the squat and the deadlift.
Perform these with good technique and increase the weight over time as you improve.
This will help your muscles produce the force needed for that first dunk.
However, not everybody has consistent access to gym equipment. That’s understandable.
There are also some ways to improve lower body strength without equipment.
Practicing for your first dunk
For someone who has never dunked before, actual dunk practice is just as important as jump training, if not more.
Each time you attempt a dunk, your body gets better at the movement.
As with anything, with practice it will improve.
LET’S USE ME AS AN EXAMPLE
At 16, I threw down my first in-game dunk. Before school ended that year, I told my friends I’d be able to do windmill dunks next season.
It was a passing comment… I’m sure a lot of them thought I was joking.
That summer I attempted HUNDREDS of windmill dunks.
Day after day, I’d go out and miss the dunk OVER and OVER and OVER again.
But, I’d gone through this same process with my first dunk and knew what to expect. So, I didn’t let this discourage me.
As explained above, with practice, I gradually improved. Then, as promised, the next school year… this happened:
- If you have access to an adjustable hoop, use that to your advantage. Lower it to the point where you can just about dunk. Then, slowly increase the height until you reach 10ft (regulation height)
- After you’re able to touch the rim, try dunking with a tennis ball. Then, progress to a softball/volleyball, until finally practicing with a basketball
- RECORD YOURSELF! This will help you see mistakes in your approach and technique
This leads on to the final point…
Jump technique for your first dunk
Strength and speed training is necessary… Practicing dunking is a must.
But, you can also add some height to your jump by improving technique.
Here are two general keys to good technique:
- Don’t stutter or slow down before takeoff. Accelerate throughout your run-up
- Triple extension: fully straighten your leg at your hip, knee and ankle (by contracting your glutes, quads and calves respectively)
But, for a more detailed jump technique breakdowns:
As you make these technique changes, your jump may get worse at first. (it may not be what you’re used to)
Don’t be discouraged.
As you practice your technique and dunk more often, you’ll see the gains that better technique provides.