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How To Dunk A Basketball (Even If You’re Short): 4 Steps To Your First Dunk

How To Dunk A Basketball: The Definitive Guide

By Ball Till We Fall, Last Updated February 6, 2022

Category: Basketball Training Guides

Follow Our Step-By-Step Guide & Get Your First Dunk In Just Weeks

We remember Michael Jordan taking off from the free throw line in 1988 and Vince Carter putting his elbow in the rim in 2000 NBA dunk contest.

These are the type of dunks that will forever be on highlight reels and have been the source of motivation to make basketball players around the world want to learn how to dunk a basketball.

How To Dunk A Basketball If Short

Whether we are 6-foot-7 or under 6-foot, we as basketball players all want to have the power to light up the crowd with a monster jam or deflate your opponent’s spirits with a two-handed slam.

Unfortunately, every basketball player doesn’t have the genetics to just walk into a gym and dunk, but with the right training and hard work you can achieve your first dunk.

In this article, we’re going to breakdown the steps you can take to learn 
how to jump higher and improve your chances of making your dream of dunking a basketball come true.

Hopefully by the time you’re done reading, you’ll know exactly what you can do to improve your ability to dunk.

" If you really want to learn how to dunk a basketball and put in the work required, you will achieve a your goal. We hope you find this article helpful in allowing you to achieve your first slam dunk. "

The road to your first dunk is NOT going to be easy, but the payoff will be well worth it.

It is not ridiculous to think that you can add 10+ inches to your vertical over 3 month period.

In fact, people following some of the best vertical jump programs on the market are pulling off their first dunk in only 8 weeks. Very impressive indeed!

Best Vertical Jump Programs Reviewed and Compared

The Key to Dunking a Basketball: The Vertical Leap

The vertical leap refers to how high you can jump. Obviously a higher jump is crucial for dunking a basketball. If you have a poor vertical leaping ability you will never dunk (unless your 7ft+ tall).

An above average vertical leap allows athletes to add variety to their dunk routines. If you want to throw down two hand jams and windmills you will need an above average leaping ability of approximately 30+ inches.

In this guide we will be focusing on learning how to dunk. Learning how to increase your vertical leap is obviously a major part of that.

In this guide we will focus on dunk tips and only touch on the basics of jump training. We have created many other helpful resources that can help you learn how to increase your vertical leap.

I will refer to these helpful resources throughout this article to make it easy for you to find the info you need to succeed.

How To Dunk A Basketball

Dunking requires athleticism and ball control. It can be very difficult for most people to do. However, there are a few fundamental things that you can learn that will make the process of dunking easier. 

Let's take a look at the 4 basic steps in the dunking process:

Step 1: Build Your Dunk Approach Speed/Momentum

Some people can dunk from a standing position. These people are usually either very tall or very powerful. However, most people jump best and prefer to dunk off a run up leading into a single foot takeoff. Make sure you have enough distance to build speed over your approach. The three point line is a good place to start for most people.

Step 2: Mark Your Dunk Take-Off Position

Mark the area where you want to jump from on the ground. This will eliminate any guesswork about where to jump during your run start. You can use tape or chalk to mark the spot. Remember the faster you run the more distance you will travel horizontally. Having a target will help you build an efficient dunk approach.

Step 3: Try Touching the Rim First. Increase Gradually

You probably won't be able to dunk a 10ft basketball hoop on your first attempt. First, you should work on your approach and take-off technique and just try to touch the rim. You don't need to start on a 10ft hoop. You can use an adjustable hoop and raise the goal height over time. After you've completed a rim tap, grab a tennis ball and start to dunk it. Next, progress to a mini basketball. Once you are ready you can graduate to a full sized basketball. 

Step 4: Slam The Basketball Through the Net With Power

Once you have got your jump technique down and are able to clear the ball above the rim slam the ball down through the net with authority. You're now dunking.

If You Want To Dunk A Basketball You Need To Get Strong and Powerful Legs

If You Want To Dunk You Need Strong Legs

The best way to begin the journey of slam dunking is building up your jump specific leg strength. For many athletes, their physical lack of strength is a major factor that limits their athletic performance.

It’s no secret that the stronger you are the more efficient you can be on the court. Not just for jumping, but in speed, quickness, and agility; which all will help you get over the rim. 

Successful jump training programs such as The Jump Manual By Jacob Hiller incorporate periodised strength training and conjugate training methods to boost vertical jump height fast. In fact, this program has been used by over 100,000 athletes and has shown to add over 20 inches in jump height in around 12 weeks.

The Ultimate Guide To The Jump Manual

There are many exercises and basketball specific weight training workouts you can focus on while you’re in the weight room and these mainly focus on your lower body.

These exercises are building your basic level of strength first.

You should always begin with more of a bodybuilding style workout of 3 sets of 10-15 reps of 6-8 exercises. In the early stage of training you are just establishing correct technique and preparing the jumping muscles for the more demanding training to come

Over time you will aim to increase the load lifted and decrease the rep range to build max strength. 

Read our Ultimate Guide To Strength Training For Basketball Players to learn exactly what exercises you need to use to jump higher and dunk.

The Ultimate Guide To Strength Training For Basketball Players

After you have established a base of strength you should add in some power and plyometric training to really help boost your bounce. Vert Shock is the best selling plyometric program and it has helped thousands of athletes achieve their first dunk. If you want a program that can be done at home without the need for expensive equipment then it is definetly worth a look.

Vert Shock Review

Yes, Jumping Rope Can Help You Dunk

Outside of the weight room, there’s one specific drill you can work on to improve your vertical leap - and that’s jumping rope. This is a great exercise for basketball players and you’ll be hard to find a basketball player that hasn’t spent time training with a jump rope. 

The benefits of jumping rope are quickly visible when you get on the court. It helps you develop quick feet and agility, but the number one thing is it gets your tendons and ligaments prepared for the demands of more intense jump training

I highly recommend athletes begin their path to dunking with daily jump rope sessions. This will help avoid tendon issues when it comes time to level up your vertical jump training.

You can learn how to take your vertical jump training to the next level in our ultimate guide to vertical jump training.

How To Jump Higher In Basketball With Vertical Jump Training

Pro Technique Tips For A Better Dunk

1. How To Perfect Jump Technique For Dunking

Generally, a player can reach their highest when jumping off one foot and reaching up with one hand. For a player that is right-handed, the most common way is approaching from the left and jumping off the left foot with the ball in the right hand. 

Obviously, for a left-handed player, it’s coming from the right and jumping off the right with the ball in your left hand. Some players thinking jumping off two feet to be more comfortable, but it’s different for every player. Take time while you’re practice your jump to find what’s the most comfortable for you. 

As you’re learning the right way to jump, comfort is crucial because you don’t want to hurt yourself making a move that feels awkward.

You want to be comfortable taking off and landing - and that can be done a number of different ways.

2. How To Palm A Ball When Dunking

To begin, go up without a ball first. This will give you a great idea of where you’re at and just how close you are to being able to dunk. For beginners, you should focus on dunking with one hand. 

Your other hand should stay by your side to balance your body while you’re in the air. The two-handed dunk is awesome, but is surprisingly more of an advance dunk and should be an approach you build up to as you work on your dunking. One of the problems with dunking is managing the ball while you’re in the air. 

To dunk with one hand, you’ll need to be able to palm a basketball. Some players have no trouble getting a grip of the basketball and driving it over the rim, but for other players this realistically isn’t going to happen without a lot of practice and hard work.

If you can jump high enough to dunk, but you’re having a hard time going up with the basketball in one hand, the solution is to start small and work your way up. 

A smaller ball such as a soft golf ball or tennis ball is a great starting point. From there, move slowly to a mini-basketball. It will provide more of a challenge but still be easy to palm as you go up. Once you can dunk the mini ball, try moving on to a volleyball until finally a regulation basketball.


Learn the Top 5 PRO HACKS that will Level Up Your Game FAST!

Game Day Dominance Course By BallTillWeFall

"This course helped me add a couple of inches to my vertical jump after just one session. The pre-game drink suggestion also works a treat and palm cooling technique is CRAZY! When I use these I can run faster for longer in games, without getting tired." James O'Conner

Cautions of Dunking a Basketball

Once you dunk a basketball you’ll probably want to dunk every chance you can to show off those vertical skills, but keep in mind a few things to avoid hurting yourself along the way.

1. Check out the rim before dunk sessions

Before you consider dunking, inspect the rim and its condition - especially if you’re playing on an outdoor court. The rim itself might not be in the best condition and you don’t want to risk injuring your hand if the rim is poorly maintained. 

2. Protect your knees and ankles

No matter your height it’s important to jump and land the right way. Stay under control and land properly. It’s not worth dunking if you’re going to get hurt when you land incorrectly and end your season. Learn how to strengthen your knees for basketball.

Final Thoughts On Dunking A Basketball

Being able to dunk will undoubtedly take time, but if you put in the work, you will get there and maybe one day you’ll dunk like the superstars.

Until then, remember to keep using the right form as you jump and handle the basketball and most importantly, don’t give up!

You’ll get painfully close a hundred times before you finally get a clean dunk. You're first dunk may be a little on the ugly side and won’t be with the authority you pictured, but it will still be a dunk and it will be worth it in the end!

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About the Author

Our goal is to provide basketball enthusiasts with free access to the content, skills, and gear they need to level up their game, basketball I.Q and on/off-court swag. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the game or if you’ve been ballin' out for decades, we have everything you need to get your basketball fix.

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