The question “how to dunk” has many layers and steps to it, and can be a complex process. Unless you are extremely tall, it is a very complex technique and something that requires a lot of hard work to achieve. This article will lay out three key things to focus on as a guide. This guide will focus on three key aspects: technique, fat loss, and strength and mobility.
Technique needs to be optimized
When trying to learn how to dunk, the technique and approach is very important. There are two types of jumps and two variations of those jump techniques, the two foot and one foot approach.
Two Foot Approach
The two foot approach can either be left-right or right-left, preference is determined by what feels more comfortable. Mastering the approach speed and the final step before the two foot breakdown, the penultimate step, is crucial. It essentially is converting the forwards motion to a vertical motion. This step is a big push before your jump, and is recommended to be low when attempting for maximum power.
One Foot Approach
The one foot approach can be off of your left or right foot, depending on what is more comfortable, start there. Most recommend to go off of the left foot, just because most people that are right handed can control the ball better. The movement is a similar technique to a right handed layup. The one foot approach has its technique based on speed, where the faster you go while maintaining control, the higher and longer you will jump. Swinging the ball on your hip to above your head can give you some upwards momentum as well.
Overall, if you are a more power based jumper, and more comfortable with two feet, and if you are more speed oriented, and more comfortable with one foot, stay consistent with that. Eventually you want to master both feet, with each variant, but when first learning to dunk, work on one until you are sufficient to dunk.
Fat is holding you back
Technique can be very important, but if you have body fat, it can inhibit your ability to reach your goal in dunking. Fat is excess weight that serves no benefit in jumping, so the more you can get rid of, the better. It is entirely possible to perfect the jumping technique and still not be able to dunk solely off of one’s body fat percentage. The bear minimum for complete optimization for jumping is at least 20 percent body fat, but I would recommend 15 percent.
Weight loss is a super convoluted subject that few people get right, and many make seem complicated. In simple terms, weight loss is about two things, calorie deficit, meaning eating less calories than you normally do. And, make sure you get nutritional value out of less calories. You can start small, cutting just 100 calories every day for a month can make a big difference. After one month, you can reduce another 100 calories, and so on until you optimize your body’s jumping capabilities.
Best part is you can still eat whatever you desire as long as you get nutritional value out of those less calories a day. Most importantly are the macros, fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Supplementing fat loss dieting with strength training will allow you to convert that fat into muscle, specifically when prioritizing a higher protein diet. High protein will make sure you can recover for the third point, strength training.
Strength Training and mobility
Perhaps the most grueling of the three points unless you really love food, strength training. It will be a very grueling journey. If you can stay dedicated and consistent, it will pay its dividends for getting that first dunk, or maybe more. Strictly for learning to dunk and dunk training, focusing on legs is obvious, but do not neglect the core strength, hip strength, and even upper body. When lifting, it is important to stress hypertrophy, which is the state where your muscles are being pushed to the limit. This is important so your body prioritizes muscular growth. Basically, no slacking, make sure you are going 100 percent. But, try to find that balance where you are not risking injury.
For legs, squats are effective in working on all aspects, as it is a full body exercise. However, it is rare for many to prioritize front squats, which are safer for the back than back squats. Front squats work the core more, and require more shoulder and arm stability. They also provide an easier escape upon failure, which will allow you to not only be safer from injury when lifting, but also push yourself further. This can help with hypertrophy.
Lifting form and stretching
But perhaps the most important thing is form. This is not only for injury prevention, but making sure you are maximizing your gains. Many people struggle to get low enough to go 90 degrees with their legs in squats. I would recommend getting all the way down where your butt is almost touching the floor. The reasoning is most people, when fatigued, do not execute a full range of motion. The lower your baseline is, the better. Other leg exercises include the Nordic hamstring curl, where you isolate your hamstring muscle.
To strengthen your core, calisthenics leg lifts can go a long way, and as you get stronger, try to do harder and harder calisthenics leg pull movements and increase the repetitions.
Hip mobility is something that can allow you to create more potential torque on your jumps, and prevent injury. Stretching is a must, and can improve not only your lifts but your jumping capabilities. I would recommend hamstring stretching (touching your toes), quad stretching (leg grabs), and sideways leg lifts. Also sitting on the floor and trying to hold yourself up without using your hands can go a long way.
Learning how to dunk is really complicated and requires hard work, but anyone is capable of doing it. Of course it may require more or less work depending on where you are starting in your fitness journey or genetics relating to muscular strength, athleticism, and height. Stay consistent and motivated and you might just be able to hit your first dunk and more.