So You Want To Dunk?

Jumping is one of the most primal things ever. After eating. But before agriculture. Either way, jumping is one of those things that people just naturally do. The second that a baby can stand it’s going to hop-hop-hop and then plop over. Nearly every sport has some aspect of vertical takeoff, or at least it mimics the movements of jumping. That being said, even though every-one can jump not every-one can jump high.

Who doesn’t want to feel the air whip through their hair as they soar towards a goal with a basketball in hand? It’s something that people will stop what they’re doing and watch. A spectacle of athleticism and power that is presented in the form of Cirque du Soleil on the court. Jordan. Lebron. Not Shaq. 

There are a lot of fancy new gigs which could assist you in improving your hops. With one online purchase you can get a speed monitoring device that tells you how fast you can move. This is extremely beneficial in testing your velocity with particular resistances, or if you want to know when your training velocity decrease (fatigue sets in). However, if you don’t have a few hundred dollars to purchase a device that straps to you don’t fear – I have a much cheaper system that you can use.

There are a few researchers out there who have concluded some things about high velocity (ballistic) training. For starters, Behm showed that intended velocity may be more important than actually velocity. In other words as long as you’re trying to move a resistance as fast as possible you will stimulate speed improvements. When I did a graduate case study on speed style deadlifts (using a 1RM % of 70-90%) I saw overall strength improvements which suggested improved momentum development. Whatever the case may be, as long as a maximal velocity/ballistic style of lift is used overall performance may increase. For a heavier ballistic exercise, such as speed-back squats, perform sets of 1-5 with 70+ 1RM% all while attempting to move the resistance as fast as possible. Brain power.

On the other hand you could take the advice of Winchester, McMaster, and McBride and use a slightly lighter intensity. Performing ballistic exercises with no more than 35% of the 1RM while moving with a maximal velocity can improve all aspects of speed/velocity while also improving strength. Think of doing squat jumps with 35% of your 1RM for 3-5 reps for 3-5 sets. Just like the previous plan this would require you to attempt to move the resistance as fast as possible. With all of these exercises rest is almost as important as intended velocity, so rest for 3 to 5 minutes between each exercise unless noted otherwise.

So, if you’d like to dunk I would recommend you implementing this training routine into your workouts at least once a week for the upcoming 6 weeks and then try again.

Warm up (lunges, bodyweight squats, pushups, bodyweight squat jumps)
  1. Barbell back squat jump 5x5 @ 35%
  2. Power Snatch 4x3 @ 70%
  3. Clean Pull 5x2 @ 100% (clean max)
  4. Speed Squat 4x1 @ 85%
  5. Bodyweight Squat EMOM (10 min) – 5 squat jumps as high as possible

I know that it looks simple and a bit exhausting, but in the end you may go from flicking the net to breaking the backboard. But hey, if not at least you still have that killer personality, right?

1.      McBride J., Triplett-McBride T., Davie A., & Newton R. (2002) The effect of heavy- vs. light-load jump squats on the development of strength, power, and speed. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Vol 16 p 75-82.
2.      McMaster, D., Gill N., McGuigan M., & Cronin J. (2014) Effects of complex strength and ballistic training on maximum strength, sprint ability and force-velocity-power profiles of semi-professional rugby union players. Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning. Vol 22 p 17-30.
1.      Behm D.G., & Sale D.G. (1993) Intended rather than actual movement velocity determines velocity-specific training response. Journal of Applied Physiology Published. Vol 74 no. 1, 359-368.
1.      Winchester J., McBride J., Maher M., Mikat R., Allen B., Kline D., & McGuigan M. (2008) Eight weeks of ballistic exercise improves power independently of changes in strength and muscle fiber type expression. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Vol. 22 p 1728 – 1734.

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About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.