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.

Next Stop, A 33 Inch Vertical Jump

In pushing for a higher vertical jump I’ve found myself looking for a “silver bullet” to make progress quicker. To nobody’s surprise, I haven’t found anything yet which has had a sudden, magical impact on my jumping ability. Instead I’ve learned a valuable lesson which is probably super obvious to everyone who isn’t me.

Maximum Effort, High Volume

David Zanchetta is someone you should care about if you want to know about jumping. Until recently, he held the record for McMaster University’s Men’s Volleyball team for max vertical jump, at 39 inches!

His advice to me is this:

I think my vert came mostly from jumping all the time! I played a shit ton of volleyball in high school. The biggest single thing for increasing your vertical is playing beach volleyball on a high net. It really forces you to get high up in the air just to be able to hit. One thing I know that can get you a little bit more is getting really hyped. The combination of adrenaline and a higher heart rate can really give you a boost. It needs to work for you, so maybe try and think of a way to get yourself hyped seconds before you jump. You might find that having some people watching can do it for you. Or listening to “Killing In The Name Of.” Something to get you amped!

So what I take from this is that you push your vertical into the high 30’s from jumping alone. Deep down, I’ve always thought raw strength had far more to do with it than it potentially does. I’ve thought that lifting (power cleans, deadlifts, squats) would be a faster route to increases in my vertical jump, but more and more I’m drifting toward the belief that the most important thing to do is to JUMP AS HARD AS I CAN AS OFTEN AS I CAN.

This seems so obvious that it’s almost difficult for me to believe. It seems like there should be a lot more to it. But the more I reach out to these ridiculously high jumpers, the more I hear that many of them didn’t even start lifting heavy weights until they were looking to make progress on their vertical jump at an advanced level (closer to 40 inches).

For someone who is already capable of jumping almost 40 inches and has been doing so for a decade, it makes sense that the best way to continue to see increases is to become stronger. And that means lifting heavy.

I’m not going to throw lifting out the window. I’m still going to lift a couple times a week. I’m just going to shift my focus and prioritize jumping, and removing any resistance preventing me from getting out there and doing it.

For example, I was all in my head about how I should be practicing on a 10 foot rim. But I’ve only managed to get to the court that has a 10 foot rim once in the past month! What’s wrong with just having a jump target in my driveway? Nothing. So that’s what I’ve set up. I’ve placed a target 33 inches above my reach, and every jump is now at full power because it’s just outside of my current ability and fuck do I want to hit that thing. When I touch it, I’ll know my max vertical has finally crept up to 33 inches.

And I’m hoping this will happen soon! Since April my standing vertical has gone up 1.75 inches. So I’m getting stronger. Those miserable god damned  workouts are doing something even if just barely. My max vertical gains have stuck at 1 inch and haven’t budged in over a month.

With higher volume at max effort, I think I’ll be able to touch 124.25 inches for a 33 inch max vertical by the end of July.

To put everything into perspective, I need to get my hand about 6 inches over a 10 foot rim to dunk. I will accomplish my goal once my vertical reaches 34.75 inches. My current vertical has been stuck at 31.75 inches since June. So I have 3 solid inches to go. The $100 bet comes to fruition in September when volleyball resumes. Hopefully those gains Seabiscuit my body at the very last minute so I can win that bet!

Or at least not look like I’ve been sitting on my ass all summer.

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.

Postgame Report on my 1000 Burpee Month

If you don’t see any change whatsoever, except for my pants – that’s because there hasn’t been any. Not a damn bit!

I almost didn’t finish. Half way through the month I was lagging way behind and a friend of mine (Shaggy – we rented his place for a bit in Hawaii) texted me that he was almost done the 1000 burpees. So I had to finish. I couldn’t have Shaggy finish my own god damn workout without me.

So I did somewhere between 50 and 70 burpees each day and caught up, and it sucked and I hated every day of it.

But the overall purpose of all of this – which is to force me to exercise every day mainly so I don’t end up staying indoors for 3 straight days and not changing out of my track pants – was a wild success.

I haven’t had that cagey feeling, that restless shitty “I need a shower” feeling – and not from exercise but from precisely the opposite. Nobody should ever need a shower because they haven’t exercised. And I was doing that. Or not doing it. And it felt like shit. So now I’m needing showers again because I stink because I worked out. And I feel way better for it.

This month, 1000 deadlifts.

Maybe there will be visible change, but probably not. I’m feeling the internal change, so that’s enough to keep me going.

That and god damn Shaggy texting me every few days with an update that he’s ahead of me in reps – again.

Check out my face in this picture. Looks like I have half an orange in my mouth and I’m about to cry. Probably was about to cry.

Ryan deadlifting in the snow

1000 Burpees? WHY!?!

So, without being obligated to post a workout video for the past couple days – I just flat out stopped working out. Damn! So much for a habit forming. And last night I had a crazy hard time falling asleep. Probably because my body is used to expending at least a bit of energy every day – and I didn’t do a damn thing.

Everywhere I look, it seems like people are talking about burpees. In the audiobook I’m listening to (Spartan Up) the author talks about doing 10,000 burpees in a week. Another author I follow talks about his aunt committing to 40,000 burpees in a year.

After a little Googling and YouTubing, I’m now convinced that burpees are awesome and that I should do some. So this month I’m going to do 1000, all of them outside. I’ll even post before and after pics to see if there’s any notable change.

Before pic:

Ryan before 1000 burpees

So far I’ve done 43 (18, 15, big rest, 10) and felt close to vomiting. Guess we’ll see how it goes!

The 1000 Rep Month: Day 70

I go for the 2 minute handstand in this FINAL DAY of this video series.

My goal in publishing a short workout video each day was to force myself to form a new habit of working out each day (in accordance with Google’s estimation that it takes 66 days to form a new habit).

Despite having completed the series, I won’t know if the habit has formed until I’m no longer socially obligated to post these videos. So we’ll see.

As for the deeper reason behind working out every day – which was to improve my mood – that has been a total success. I had been finding myself getting frustrated and cagey if a day or two went by without any outdoor time or exercise, and simply doing a couple minutes of (even super light) exercise (and preferably outside) has 100% abolished those shitty feelings.

Keeping that realization at the front of my mind in upcoming days will help keep this going off-camera. It feels great to get outside and move a bit. It’s not intimidating if I don’t have any expectations of myself in terms of workout intensity.

Along the way, I discovered that skipping and handstands emerged as being great fits for me because they weren’t intimidating at all, and yet forced a minimum effort (ie jumping high enough to get over the rope, or holding 175 lbs overhead for over a minute).

Even entering into either of these exercises with an internal motivation level of “half-assed” – the very nature of the exercise forces you to perform at a reasonable level.

So, after all that rambling, here is my final video in this series: