Dunks are exhilarating to witness in-game, but the impact they leave travels even past screens when watching them in a replay. Although they aren't necessarily any better than their lay-up counterpart when it comes to the score, the real value comes in how entertaining they are.

Not to mention that lay-ups are a common sight at the local court, but you'd hardpressed to find someone capable of throwing slams like the best, much less reach the rim.

What makes this skill so elusive, and what can you do to eventually dunk yourself?

While there are various factors you need to account for, dunking is not an impossibility, at least not as much as you might think.

Reasons Why Players Can't Dunk

Although it's rather obvious, let's pinpoint the main reasons that people for not being able to dunk:

Low jump
No ball control
Poor Athleticism

These three are about as broad as you can get, so let's tackle each one and see whether or not they hold up.


Your genes can have a significant impact on your ability to dunk as they determine your height, wingspan, and standing reach, all of which naturally affect the distance between you and the rim. If you're below 6 feet, have a small wingspan, and a low standing reach, then you could definitely say you're at a disadvantage.

Unfortunately, this is the one factor that you cannot control. But let me give you a tip; no one has control over this factor, yet there are people who despite the odds, still manage to dunk. Obviously, it's difficult to fairly compare yourself to a professional athlete and say "Well he can do it, so why can't I?"

I like being optimistic, not naive. However, it would be all too unrealistic to say that while genetics play an important in determining you're abilities, they're not the only factor. After all, some people measure 6 feet and higher who can barely do a lay-up, and there are NBA players like 5'7" Spud Webb who not only competed but won in dunking contests.

If you really want to dunk, then don't bother focusing on your genes. Instead, focus on what you can control and improve those qualities by as much as possible. If after that you still can't reach the rim, then at least you'll know you tried.

Low Jump

When you get down to the nitty-gritty of putting a basketball through a 10-foot hoop, the whole process breaks down into simple math. The basic way of looking at it is,

"If I measure X amount in feet, and need to reach a 10-foot rim,

how much distance do I have to make up in jump height?"

First, you take your standing reach, with is essentially your arm length added to your height, and then subtract that from 10 feet to give you the net vertical distance. Then you measure your jump height with tape on a wall or a vertec and see where you're at and by how much you need to improve.

Now comes the hard part: improving your vertical jump. If you have a low jump and haven't do any jump training, then I would actually consider this as a reason for why you could dunk since there's so much potential for massive gains.

This factor also gets somewhat subdued by your genes since they can determine to what degree you can maximize your jump. With that said, your muscle fibers can always be trained, and in our case, we want to focus on the type 2B "fast-twitch" muscle fibers.

These muscles are responsible for generating most of the force behind your jump. Unfortunately, they're also rather difficult to develop through normal training since the body only relies on these muscles as a last resort. This means that instead of your average cardio workouts, you need to implement an explosive training regimen that centers around high-intensity low-frequency training.


This type of training is best carried out using a mix of both plyometric and weight training exercises (basically what's used in most jump training programs).

Plyometrics, or "jump-specific" exercises, incorporate the jumping motion into the workout, which allows you to target the exact muscles responsible for jumping. They should be done at maximum intensity all the way, with repetitions kept low to maintain high-level performance.

The benefit of including these plyometric exercises is that they:

Work on improving your explosiveness.
Increase your speed through quicker recruitment of the muscles.
Heighten coordination when jumping.

Weight training incorporates resistance to a movement, making it harder to carry out and putting greater pressure on the muscles, which helps with breaking them down. Lower body and core exercises are largely used with a little given to the upper body to maintain body composition.

These are carried out in much the same way as plyometric exercises, with high intensity and low repetitions, but are carried out in a much more controlled manner to account for the increased probability of injury.

The benefit of including weights comes in:

building strength which adds to your overall jumping power.
Bettering stability in the core.

When combined, you get a much higher rate of force when jumping, which is essentially greater mass (muscles) moving at a greater acceleration (muscle recruitment).

No Ball Control

Weak handles result from a lack of practice, specifically dunking.

Although you may not be able to dunk on the real deal, a smaller rim can work even better if it means you get to actually dunk something. The path to greater ball control when dunking is to simply put in the practice of jumping and putting a ball through a hoop.

Aside from starting on a smaller rim, use a smaller ball. The major problem you have is balancing a basketball on your hand(s) on the way to the hoop, so the solution is to first eliminate having to balance the ball so that you can then focus solely on your technique when jumping and dunking.

This means using something like a tennis ball, to begin with, and then progressing to a volleyball, soccer ball, etc, all the way until you reach a basketball.

As for the frequency and length of these sessions, I think pro dunker Jordan Kilganon, has the best advice when he says to start off dunking 1 to 2 hours a day 3 times a week and to slowly make your way up to 3 to 4 hours almost every day.

No doubt your overtraining meter must be going off, but this is genuinely what worked for him. However, if you aren't inclined to doing what feels like endless sessions, then at least understand that:

frequency matters much more than the amount of time you spend practicing.

That is to say that sticking to your habit of training and doing it as often as possible will prove more beneficial than spending long hours a few times a week.

Poor Athleticism

The final piece of the pie.

To be quite honest, poor athleticism gets fixed when you essentially take care of your jump and your handles, since the inclusion of weight training, plyometrics, and dunking makes for a pretty solid regimen that makes up your athleticism.

Your reaction time, jumping ability, and mobility through the air all get worked on incrementally, which slowly but surely shows up both in practice and in-game.


So, is dunking as impossible as you thought it was?

Again, I'm optimistic, but not naive. Some people might never be able to dunk, and that's fine, but accepting defeat before ever trying is a sure way of feeling bitter about the topic. Besides, it's impossible to determine whether you can or can't just from looking; if that were the case, we wouldn't have greats like Nate Robinson.

Instead, just try your hand at dunking, and who knows, you might just surprise yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Ball Amazingly is a basketball blog that covers various topics on becoming a better basketball player, information regarding basketball and training, and content made to entertain.