Dunk Journey: 5 Month Update

I lost the $100 bet last Tuesday (that I’d be able to dunk a basketball after 5 months of training), and I wasn’t even all that close. But I learned recently that growth happens when your ego is in a position to be embarrassed, so I feel like I’m on the right path.

Then today I mashed a few low rim dunks and filmed it, and was able to compare it to dunk attempts on another low rim (same height, 9′ 5″). In comparing the footage, it looks like I’m jumping higher (or maybe I’ve just gotten better with filming in slow motion to make it look more epic!).

Filming dunk attempts has helped big-time. I can tell that I get way higher when my approach is full speed, and I don’t get nearly as high with a slower approach. My best jumps today occurred after I mentally primed myself by telling myself to approach the jump as fast as possible. Otherwise I just do a medium-speed approach and get only a medium-high jump.

All the gains come from max effort, so I need to keep on top of keeping my approach speed maxed out.

I’ve lost the $100, but I’ve gained a few inches and lots of technique. Beyond that, I’m more hopeful than ever that I’ll pull this off on a 10 foot rim in the near future.

GAINS! FINALLY! Today I Recorded a 33 Inch Vertical Jump

It may even be 34 inches. That white piece of plastic I’m trying to touch has a 1 inch piece of packing tape attached to the bottom, and if I can touch that tape I’m jumping 33 inches. The video replay of my best jump of the session looked like I smacked the plastic, but I won’t know for sure until I remove the tape and hit the plastic on its own. Then I’ll just keep removing a half inch at a time as my vertical improves.

I’m trying to achieve some level of balance with my reward system in order to encourage maximum jump efforts without discouraging myself with a target I simply never hit. I feel as though I’m more likely to have it in my head that I’ll be able to hit the plastic if it’s only 1/2 an inch higher than last time versus an entire inch. And the point of all this is to execute a high volume of maximum effort jumps. Having the target low enough to hit every time would feel great, but it wouldn’t lead to improvements in my jumping ability as quickly because I’m jumping as high as I already can, instead of jumping higher than I ever have before.

I look forward to the day when my vertical is in the high 30s and I’m touching 33 inches easily. But for now, touching 33 inches takes everything I’ve got. But the fact that it’s now possible for me just makes me want to train harder.

My next goal is to hang with 2 hands on a 10 foot rim.

I have a $100 bill clipped to the board beside these goals so I can see what I lose in September if I don’t accomplish them. I’m only looking at one goal at a time, one that’s just out of reach (literally). I’m doing it this way because the other forms of tracking were giving me a false sense of progress.

For example, I was tracking morning workouts. I was waking up at 5am and going outside and training. The problem is this doesn’t give me any indication of the quality of the workout. There’s no easy way to measure how much intensity I was bringing to the workouts. And what I need is maximum intensity for my vertical jump to improve.

So now I’m just tracking one goal at a time: something I can’t currently do, but that I can almost do. Then when I get it, I increment it up just a bit. Each goal has a deadline. I don’t know what I’m going to do if and when I miss the deadline. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. If you have ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Dunk Progress Check on 10 Foot Rim

Craig Barclay, coach for the Trent women’s volleyball team, gave me some excellent advice last week. He said that I should start working on dunking smaller balls on a full-height (10 foot) rim. That way, I’ll be doing everything at full power in terms of getting off the ground – something I wasn’t necessarily doing when dunking on lower rims.

So, today I tried some single-leg dunks on a 10 foot rim.

I’m only just getting over the rim with my one legged jumps… but I think there’s room to grow with my single leg jumping technique. I should be able to get a little higher if I can attack the takeoff with more speed and drive my right leg up more explosively.

And I managed a new personal record today! I dunked a lacrosse ball with a two legged jump! I was super stoked about this. I felt like I got really good height, and I was happy to really throw the ball down through the rim at a good angle.

It looks like my hand is over the rim by a good amount if you pause the video at the apex of my jump, and this is really encouraging because I’ll be able to dunk a basketball once I can hit my wrist on the rim. Though there’s way more to it than that, as I’m slowly becoming aware of.

There’s also the significant factor of the skill needed to dunk a basketball, and this relates to timing, hand size (luckily I do have big hands and can palm the ball), and a variety of other factors – many of which are mental.

So – thank you Craig for the advice and for pushing me to a new personal best – dunking that lacrosse ball!

 

Dunk Journey Progress Report: Week 8

I’ve been doing vertical jump training for about 8 weeks now, and I’m beginning to see the first glimpses of improvement.

One thing I didn’t know, but makes total sense once you think about it, is that all basketball nets are slightly different heights. So I keep a tape measure in my gym bag and measure every rim before a dump/dunk session and that way I know whether I’m improving or not.

It also discredits any past performance where I wasn’t measuring the rim. For example, I have a memory of dunking a volleyball shoe from standing, like 6 years ago. Ya, that rim was probably low… 9 feet or something.

There’s also the significant factor of the skill it takes to dunk a basketball. So here’s my first dunk on a lower net (9 feet 6 inches).

And my first two-handed hang on a 9′ 10″ rim.

And a height check on a 10′ rim.

All the marbles are on the 10 foot rim. I need to be able to DUNK on it come September, or I lose $100 in bets with various friends. I have lots of ground to cover still. 8 Weeks of training and I’ve gained 1 inch so far. Probably a little more if I rest… but even without rest I’m jumping higher than I ever have in my life.

I’ve finally broken the plateau! Here are the measurements after 1 month of the “8 Inch Race” my buddies and I are doing:

vertical-jump-progress-measurements
Note: Myles was injured for the second set of measurements. Kyle got 4 inches in one month!!!

1 inch of gain in my vertical doesn’t seem like much for the insane amount of effort I’ve been putting into this. But it is. Zero would have been hard to recover from, so even seeing a little bit of gain is enough encouragement to keep pushing.

As of now, dunking on a 10 foot rim in September seems like a long shot. Most of the people I’ve researched have generally taken between 1 and 2 years to make dramatic improvements on their vertical jumps.

But having a big goal and some cash riding on it is great motivation to train, so I’m just going to keep working hard.