How to Dunk Like a Harlem Globetrotter
It’s one thing to know how to dunk on a regulation rim in theory. It’s quite another thing to step onto a basketball court, launch yourself into the sky, and actually throw down the rock. The former requires only your imagination, whereas the latter requires leg muscles. Lots of leg muscles.
The slam dunk is one of the toughest moves to pull off in all of sports, so how do pros like Harlem Globetrotters guard Bull Bullard make it look so easy? Well, it turns out that Bull does it the old-fashioned way, spending plenty of time in the gym before heading to the court and throwing down one of his patented swinging dunks. We asked Bull to give us tips on what mere mortals can do to increase their vertical leap and—hopefully—throw it down one day.
Step 1: Take Care of Your Body
Before you do anything, start with the basics. Preparing your body for a journey to the Land of the Slam is no different than getting it ready for any other workout, Bull says. “You need to make sure you stretch and stay hydrated.”
Step 2: Do Some Simple Bodyweight Exercises
“You need to be outside doing body squats and body lunges,” Bull says. “Do sprints, do high knees, do sit-ups, do a lot of ab work.” This shouldn’t be too difficult, seeing as how “all this stuff requires nothing—no gym or anything.”
Step 3: Push Yourself a Little Further
If you’re crushing bodyweight exercises, Bull suggests adding resistance bands to your routine. These are great because, unlike dumbbells, they don’t isolate one muscle at a time. “It’s going to start triggering all the other muscles that you need to strengthen up,” Bull explains.
So what exactly can you do with resistance bands? Pretty much any exercise you can do with weights—squats, abductors, calf-raises, etc. As long as you’re switching up your routine every so often, you’re doing it right.
Step 4: Build Up Your Explosiveness
Squats, lunges, and calf-raises are crucial for developing dunking explosiveness, but building strength in your upper body is just as important. “I make sure to work on my arms and chest, because when you’re going to explode, you need to swing those arms up,” Bull explains, adding that a strong core and lower back are also vital.
Step 5: Add a Running Routine
Whether it’s through running ladders or the dreaded burpee—Bull does a backflip during his—building cardiovascular endurance is important to dunking. “I do a lot of sprints, a lot of skips, a lot of lunge jumps,” Bull says.
Step 6: Log Your Workouts to Track Improvement
Bull’s advice for making sure you’re inching toward dunkability? “Basically, you just need to keep a log,” he advises. “The first time you go out there, warm up, stretch, and see what your vertical is. Then, wait a couple of weeks after your workouts … and go out there and do it again.” Practice, as always, makes perfect.
Here are three workouts recommended by Bull to help you get started. The best part? You can do them all right now—no gym required.
Body Squat to Box Jump
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly arch your back.
- From a deep squat position, jump as quickly as possible up to a box or bench.
- Be sure to swing your arms up to help with your upward momentum.
- Sets: 3
- Reps per set: 10, 12, 8
- Exercise 1: sprint 40 yards
- Exercise 2: high knees for 40 yards
- Exercise 3: butt kicks for 40 yards
- Exercise 4: lunge jumps for 40 yards
- Sets: 3
- Reps per set: 1 (for a total of 12 reps)
- Place your forearms on the ground, with your shoulders above your elbows.
- Place your feet out and behind, as you would in a push-up position.
- Hold this position, focusing on using your core to maintain balance.
- Reps: 5
- Time per plank: 45–60 seconds