How to Master the Slam Dunk

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1. Become Explosive

Unless your standing reach height eclipses a dizzying 3m (the rim is 10ft off the floor) you’ll need to have impressive jumping power and mechanics to make a dunk. “The best way to get your muscles used to firing and reacting for a lofty leap is with plyometric exercises,” says NBA basketball coach Neal Meyer, who’s spent 16 years in the league with six different teams. "Use skipping drills to work your calves, and two and single-leg box jumps for five sets of three reps to build explosive power.”

2. Add Muscle

American player and trainer Brandon Todd, who stands 5ft 5in (1.65m) and taught himself to dunk through pain and perseverance on the court and in the gym, used dumbbell squat jumps borrowed from the workout of Russian powerlifters to achieve his dream. “From my second to third year of college, I gained 25lb [11.3kg] and added 18½ inches [47cm] to my vertical leap,’ says Todd ( With the dumbbells at shoulder height, squat down and drive up, then press the weights overhead. Land as softly as possible and repeat for three sets of ten reps. “I won’t complete a workout without doing them, and I usually superset them with heavy Smith machine barbell calf raises for three sets of 25 reps.”

3. Swap in a Med Ball

“Force progression to your slam dunk training by switching out the basketball for a medicine ball weighing between 4 and 7kg,” says Todd. “It will strengthen your approach from head to toe.”

4. Feel Your Balls

“Most people don’t have big enough hands to naturally grip a basketball,” says Meyer. “Practise squeezing and palming volleyballs and soccer balls until you’re able to palm a regulation-size basketball. I actually learned to dunk by practising running and jumping and touching the rim without a ball or just holding a tennis ball. This is a great way to get your timing down and get a feel for dunking.”

5. Start One-Handed

Jumping is more complicated than you think. “You need to work on your footwork, take-off point and timing so you can maximise your leap,” says Meyer. “It’s best trying a one-handed dunk to start. If you’re right-handed, start from the left side of the wing area and jump off your left foot.”

6. Bring the Net to You

“Mentally grasp the idea of dunking by using a hoop that’s about 9ft 5in or 9ft 8in high and repeat the technique until it feels second nature,” says Todd.

7. Don’t Grab the Rim

The pros do it because they can dunk in their sleep, but it could end up knocking you out. “This is especially true if you’re dunking one-handed. If you only get the tips of your fingers on the rim you could end up flat on your back,” says Meyer. “When dunking, try to land with both feet on the ground to absorb the impact – landing with one foot first can increases the risk of injury. Practise your landing mechanics jumping off a plyo box before moving to the court.” 

Sam Rider

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix. Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.