How to Dunk If You’re Under 6 Feet Tall

How to Dunk If You’re Under 6 Feet Tall

Yes, it’s time to talk about one of the most exciting moves in sports – the slam dunk, and it’s time to answer that age-old question – “How to jump higher?

hot girl vertical jump cropped 2[She won't improve your vertical jump, but she still belongs in this post. photo: daily sunny]

Whether you’re short, tall, white, black, purple, WHATEVER, there is a simple, proven way to increase your vertical jump. And we’ll get into that in a moment.

But first, who the hell is Jacob Tucker?

This is Jacob Tucker:

Tucker is 5’11″ and has a 50″ vertical leap! That’s ridiculous!

[He plays for Division III Illinois College, and submitted this video trying to get a spot at the Division I slam dunk contest.]

To put that vertical jump stat into perspective, Blake Griffin -the winner of the 2011 NBA slam dunk contest- had the 2nd best vertical jump in the 2009 NBA draft with 37.5″. Tucker beats him by over a foot!

Tucker has joined the ranks of :

Spud Webb, who is 5’7″

And of course, Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson’s character in White Men Can’t Jump)

All these guys are under 6 feet tall and can throw down a dunk.

So if you’re in the same boat and want to get above the rim, how can you train to increase your vertical jump?

How to Jump Higher in 3 Steps

To improve your vertical leap and jump higher you need to get more powerful.

What is power?

Power = Strength (Force) x Speed (how quickly you can apply that force)

Let’s see how you can use this formula to maximize your vertical jump ability:

Step 1 : Get Your Bodyfat to Less Than 10%

How can you expect to get above the rim if you are carrying around a 20 pound spare tire around your waist?

Lose that gut with a combination of general fitness and diet (see my six pack abs workout for more details)

Step 2 : Get Strong

You can’t launch a rocket to the moon if it’s powered by a little go-kart engine.

Remember – to jump high, you need to be powerful. And strength is the first component of power.

  • How strong is strong enough?

Here is a good rule of thumb:

Work up to being able to squat at least 2x your bodyweight

It’s no surprise that Frank Hatfield, the first man to squat 1000 pounds, had a vertical jump of 40 inches without training specifically for it. Strength is the foundation of the vertical jump, especially if you don’t have very good natural jumping ability due to your body structure.

  • But what if I don’t have access to heavy weights and a squat rack?

You don’t necessarily need access to a squat rack to get really strong legs. Never fear. Here at HomeWorkoutBlog I am always looking out for the equipment-challenged. Here is one great option:

One Legged Squats

one-legged-squat-2

[Here I am doing a one legged squat using a post for balance]

And when these become too easy, try adding weight like this guy:

Don’t worry if you don’t have a weight vest lying around. Just grab your diy training sandbag (click for instructions) and throw it into your backpack. You can wear the backpack on your chest to make balancing easier.

Step 3 : Get Quicker

The second part of our definition of power is speed or quickness.

You could be as strong as a bull, squatting 600 pounds, but you won’t be able to dunk unless you can apply all that force quickly into the ground to blast yourself into the air.

Here is a rule of thumb for quickness -

Can you jump back and forth over a 1 foot high cone or string 20 times in 10 seconds?

Jumping rope and other agility drills are great for improving foot speed, as are plyometrics.

Wrapping up… How to dunk

So, to improve your vertical jump and start throwing down mean dunks, do the following:

  • Get Lean
  • Get Strong
  • Get Quick

If you can apply the force of a 2x bodyweight squat QUICKLY into the ground, guess what?

You’ll be doing dunks like this in no time:

(That was 5’10″ French/Algerian dunker Kadour Ziani, with a 56″ vertical leap(!), by the way)

Thanks for reading and have a great week.

-Ian

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24 comments to How to Dunk If You’re Under 6 Feet Tall

  • I stumbled upon this article, and I have to say that it provides a great summary of what most people need to do to improve their vertical jump.

    Vertical jump = display of power.
    Power = force x velocity.
    Increase your force by getting your strength up, increase your velocity with plyometric and speed workouts, improve both with ROFD training (e.g. power cleans, jump squats).

    Great post.
    Improve Vertical Joel recently posted..Improve Vertical – The Single Leg Jump GuideMy ComLuv Profile

    • admin

      Hi Joel-

      Thanks for bringing up the “power” (in the strictest sense of the word) lifts, such as power cleans and weighted jump squats.

      I checked out your site (lots of good info) and was interested in your take on these lifts.

      In your opinion, how should someone who is looking to improve their vertical use these ROFD (rate of force development) exercises along with general strength and plyometric work?

      Thanks for your comment,

      Ian

  • Cool post but I’m 5’7″ and think the only way I’m gonna slam dunk is on a chair.
    But the exercises I still have a go at.
    Raymond
    Raymond-ZenMyFitness recently posted..How to Make Easy and Quick Healthy Cheat Meals That Will Help Lose Body FatMy ComLuv Profile

  • Aric

    Great article! If I’m 5’9″, what kind of vert would I need to do a simple dunk?

    • admin

      Hi Aric-

      It depends on how high your arms can reach. But in general, to dunk you need be able to get your hand 4-6 inches above the rim. If you can’t palm the ball, you will need to jump higher.

      So see how much hand you can get above the rim, and work from there.

      It is pretty impressive to be able to dunk from a standstill underneath the basket. Chances are you will be able to jump much higher off a run. Some people naturally jump higher off of two feet, others, off of one.

      Regardless, improving your strength and explosive quickness will get you jumping higher. If you are squatting over twice your bodyweight and pass the quickness test above, chances are you’ll be able to throw it down!

      Hope this helps,

      -Ian

  • Ky

    Alright so im also 5’9. I have a reach of 91″. My vertical is about 32″. When i run and jump off two feet i can hang on the rim. So ive been working hard on my verticle doing “JUMP ATTACK” but im not really increasing. What would you recomend me doing? And how often should i work out my legs, doing sqauts, cleans..ect? Any advice would be greatly appreciated and im willing to do anything. thanks

    • admin

      Ky-

      It sounds like you are pretty close to being able to dunk.

      How is your squat? Can you squat 1.5 – 2 times your bodyweight?

      Building your base of leg strength could be just the ticket to boosting your vertical and throwing down dunks easily.

      Here is a general idea of a solid strength program for improving your vertical:

      Monday:
      Squat 3 sets x 10 reps (do a couple warm up sets first)
      Glute Ham Raise – 4 sets x 8 reps
      Calf Raise – 3 sets x 20 reps

      Tuesday – Rest
      Wednesday – Plyometrics
      Thursday – Rest
      Friday:
      Deadlift – 3 sets x 8 reps (do a couple warm up sets, then use the same weight for your 3 ‘working’ sets)
      Barbell/Dumbell Lunge – 3 sets x 8 reps (for each leg)
      Calf raises – 3 sets x 20 reps

      This is basically the first month phase of the strength program for Kelly Baggett’s Vertical Jump Develpment Bible . Kelly recommends lifting like this for the first 4 weeks or so – the plan gets a bit different as time goes on, training other factors like ‘speed-strength’. But it all starts with strength.

      As for plyometrics, Kelly has a cool test for figuring out just how much plyometric training you need. But for the sake of this little post, don’t overdo the plymetrics, like some jump programs that will have you doing hundreds of jumps per day. Your body will need to recover properly between workouts to gain strength.

      Hope this helps,

      Ian

  • Jordan Marcero

    I am 5’8, and am about 2 inches short of touching the rim. I am not able squat even close to twice my body weight, but there is a dunk tournament held at a nearby college in late June. If I started working out now, do you think I could be able to dunk by then? I am only thirteen nearly fourteen so i doubt i could squat twice my weight but as of now i can sqaut like a fourth. Haha.

    • admin

      Jordan-

      So you’re 2 inches below the rim right now. To dunk you need to get your hands at least 6 inches over the rim. So you need to add about 8 inches to your vertical.

      You have about 2 months to add 8 inches to your vertical for the contest. It could happen, but to be honest, there is good chance it won’t happen. Whatever you do, DON’T try to ‘cram’ for the event by training way too much – you’ll probably hurt yourself AND reduce your gains in the long run.

      BUT, don’t worry. If you start training now, you will most likely be throwing down some dunks within a a year. You will probably get a bit taller and if you train smart, you will get stronger and quicker.

      I’m no expert at weight training for teens, but I just did a bit of research (here are some helpful articles on the topic:)
      http://www.criticalbench.com/kids-weight-training.htm
      http://www.teenbodybuilding.com/derek42.htm

      I’ll have to play it safe and recommend that since you’re 13, if you ARE going to lift, to get proper instruction on the squat and deadlift. Don’t just try to improvise. Get some good instruction. If you can’t find a coach, here is an EXCELLENT book on the subject – read it with your training buddy, and spot each others technique:

      Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe
      (most libraries should have this book)

      The author, Mark Rippetoe, also has some excellent videos on youtube:
      Squat:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kawBY5p29fQ
      Deadlift:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Syt7A23YnpA
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX8jgCFXYTU

      Start by focusing on proper form instead of trying to lift too heavy. Here’s a quick thought to keep in mind:

      When you’re a senior in high school, do you want to be injury-free and throwing down CRAZY dunks, or do you want to be sidelined with knee and back injuries and barely able to run down the court?

      It’s SO important that you lift with good form and gradually build your strength. I hurt my back when I was a teenager while trying to squat too much weight with bad form, and if it wasn’t for some helpful lower back exercises, I would still be in pain today.

      So, again – get educated on proper form, don’t lift too much too soon, and remember that Rome was not built in a day.

      In the weight room, trying to do too much too soon is a recipe for career-ending, lifelong injury.

      I honestly can’t emphasize that enough!

      Personally, I found Kelly Baggett’s Vertical Jump Bible to be very helpful, but for you, here is my recommendation:

      Get a program designed specifically FOR YOU.

      Consult with Kelly Baggett or Jacob Hiller (author of the excellent Jump Manual), and have them design you a program that will get you close to your goal and set you up for a career of rim-rattling dunks!

      When you buy Jacob’s program, as a free bonus, he will help you design your own program. This is SO much better than just trying to follow a cookie cutter routine. Let him know your goal of wanting to dunk in 8 weeks, and I’m sure he will be able to help.

      (But in case you are on a serious budget, here is a great free intro routine:
      http://www.adarq.org/forum/performance-training-blog/an-introductory-block/

      (That forum also seems to be a decent place to ask questions about vert jump improvement.)

      So, wrapping up, remember to take it slow, learn proper form, educate yourself, and start your path to throwing down MEAN dunks.

      Hope this helps,

      -Ian

  • Dwayne

    Hi I’m in grade 11 and I’m 5’10 and when running and jumping off of one leg I can only just get my fingers to touch the 10ft rim. I know its very sad but I really want to dunk 10ft. Plus I’ve noticed some improvements when doing squats and explosiveness tests. If I’m committed to this for one month, do you think I’ll at leasr improve by 4 inches. Or, what will you reccommend I do to really see improvements in one month.

  • Kev

    hi im am able to dunk because i started of with basics but no i want to do stuff more creative any ideas ? thanks :)

  • David Gaines

    I am Jacob Tucker’s manager and I would love the chance to talk to the administrator of this website. Please email me at gaines.david@mail.ic.edu

  • kobe

    hi im a freshman in high school and im 6 foot i can touch rim but i need to get higher so i can dunk any advice man i really need help

  • Hi, I am 5-10 and can touch 2/3s of the net. I’m almost 16 and am finishing up my sophomore year. Do you think i will be able to dunk by senior year? If so, what would be a preferable workout

  • Iapogue

    Ian,
    I am about 5 feet 6 inches tall and can touch the rim just enough to say I can do it consistently. For strength would two days of squats and the rest either jump training or playing basketball be sufficient if I would like to be dunking (only for the vertical leap) before basketball tryouts come by in a month or two? Any Strong recommendations for workouts I am also wondering what would be a good way to increase the endurance of my jump, and finally a good exercise for speed in jumping? If you could wither comment on this, shoot me an email, or all of the above that would be amazing!
    -iapogue

  • KaleX

    Heyo, Im between 6 and 6’1 and i am able to put my wrist over the rim! What do i need to do to improve and throw down some decent dunks in a month ?????????

  • Tyler qonzo

    Im 5’9 can barley get rim only 14 maybe these will help

  • Paul

    hi im 16 years old and 6’0 foot. i really want to dunk but i can barely touch the 10 foot hoop. i would be really thankfull if you told me what can i do to get my wrist above the rim so i should be able to dunk. im a great shooter but now all i want to do is dunk that ball through the net, plz giveme some tips to increase my vertical jump so i can go from barely touching the rim to dunking

    thanks

  • kolr

    Hey I have an strange issue. I am able to touch the rim without runing so I jump form standing position under the rim.(im 185 cm aka 6 feet tall). But when I try to jump from runing I cant jump any higher. Why is that?

  • kolr

    O by the way some times I jump even less the from standing possition WTF

  • Ryan

    can you give me a sample of a plyometric day? like one exercise for explosiveness and one for quickness or what? please help. i also need to get my squat up its at 215 and i weigh 135. im 5’9″ and my reach is like 7’2″ so my arms are pretty long. i can dunk a dodge ball running and jumping off of one foot and i can ALMOST touch rim running and jumping off of two feet.
    Thanks

  • jp

    Nice recommendations. Few things though, the youtube says Ziani is the best dunker ever. No way. He’s got some crazy skills, but no way is he the best ever. I don’t think you coined that, probably got it from youtube.
    Also, a lot depends on genetics. You can definitely increase it with lots of work, but genetics with any physical activity is huge. Doesn’t guarantee success, but without certain genetic capabilities, you can only go so far. Just be your best. Thanks for the insight. Best wishes.

  • john

    hi. i am 6 foot 2 and was able to hit rim. i am 15 years old and play ball for my high school team.i wanted to dunk so i did a vertical leap program called air alert. but now i can’t touch the rim. what should i do? i think it might be the way that i am jumping, i am not sure.

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