Can a 5’7” Person Learn to Dunk a Basketball?
sports & fitness
Mark Moschel wanted to learn how to dunk a basketball over the summer. He shares how he did it, how he improved himself and what he learned. He also shares the frustrations, challenges, and the progress he's made.
So my name is Mark Moschel, and I’m going to be talking about my dunk challenge from this summer. And I’ve always been a basketball player. I’ve been playing ever since I was little, I love the sport and when I was 12 I was on the three teams at the same time, playing all the time until my brother and I decided it would be fun – it would be a good idea to dunk a basketball and film it.
So we set up a camera, and you can see here we got a ball that we could grip, and I came so close to dunking on a six-foot hoop, but I couldn’t quite get it. And recently that video got posted on Facebook, YouTube and my friends have seen it.
So I grew up watching MJ and always wanted to be able to do that, and you know it always felt like an impossible dream.
So at the end of the conference last spring I was talking to this guy Heron Patel, who is another quantified selfer, and we both have a shared interest in basketball. And somehow it came up that we both had this goal of trying to dunk a basketball. And we decided let’s just do it, let’s just try and see what happens.
So come June 1, we jumped in and I did an initial test, and you can see here on the picture here on the right that I was able to touch very bottom of the backboard. And then doing a standing vertical jump it was 21 inches, which was the initial reading.
So phase 1 was tried to do anything that I thought that might help. I did a little bit of research and learned that to jump higher you need to be able to push harder off the ground for strength, and push faster off the ground and that is speed. I just did an array of exercises that fit that category.
But really quickly, I ran into a whole bunch of challenges. I didn’t know how to track progress. I didn’t know which of these exercises was working, and which ones weren’t. And I didn’t know when to rest. So I realise that I needed to define more structure to what I was doing.
So one thing I learned immediately is that I have really weak legs. So most resources online recommend that you are able to squat one and a half to 2 times your body weight in order to jump significantly higher, and I was way way under that. So I kind of decided to refocus, and for the month of July I decided to focus on squat and strength, and the question became how do I become stronger. And you can see here there is a slight update after one month of just trying to doing a little bit of everything, I was able to gain about an inch on the vertical.
But phase 2 was all about increasing squat strength. So I found a program online called strong lifts five by five, where where you do five sets of five reps and every session, you increase the weight by five pounds and you do a session every other day.
So you can see here I started at 115, and about a month later I was at 190, which is a 75 pound increase in squat strength, which was pretty incredible, but it also wasn’t sustainable. And the two red lines are failed attempts, and at some point in that period. I sustained an injury. I pulled a muscle in my leg, and I learned later that it was actually a hip mobility issue, but that kind of set me back.
And so as you can guess this kind of led to additional challenges and questions like what is the optimal recovery time, and what is this injury and how can I prevent it, how can I fix it, and then you know, how can I ensure that I don’t just sustain something similar in the future.
So again, you can see on the picture on the right that by increasing squat strength, right before the injury I had actually increased vertical pretty substantially and I was already touching the bottom of the rim, the extended part of the rim. But then I got that hurt and it kind of set me back.
So phase 3 was all about recovery, mobility and flexibility. So this hip stretch thing really did help me out. I was rolling about five times a day, and I was just focused on trying to get past this. But again, I ran into challenges and more questions like how much should I be lifting, when can I start lifting again, and how much can I be working out.
I didn’t feel like I was making progress, so how can I tell if I’m actually making progress right now because I was no longer quantifying anything.
So most of my tracking so far had been mostly observational, so I wanted it to be more quantitative, so I found a spot on the side of my house where I could jump and put up post it notes. I was able to track standing vertical based on the difference between where I could reach and where I could jump. And you can see all of the course of August that vertical kind of stayed the same.
I was feeling that frustration, and lack of progress, and now I could see that I actually wasn’t making progress. So, come September I had recovered from the injury and I was feeling back to 100% and I decided to refocus my efforts on how I can get a quick return, so a quick ROI, so I could feel like I’m making progress again.
I decided to take a different approach, and I kind of took a step back from just vertical and look at the actual dunk, and I saw that there were four phases that seemed to come out. There was the approach, the dissent, the rise, the reach and after experimenting a little bit. I realise that my approach was really inconsistent. So I thought that if I can – when I had a really strong approach. I was jumping significantly higher than when I had a really slow and inconsistent approach. So I thought that would be a place where I could start to focus, and that was actually the time when I made this presentation.
So a little bit more has happened and I plan on doing more, but really quickly. I wanted to talk on the progress that I made over the course of those 3 ½ months.
So vertical, I was able to go from 21 to 27 inches, and you can see that I went from touching the bottom of the backboard to the bottom of the rim. So the and set to the question no, I have not dunked yet, but I am starting to see the path where I will be able to. So once I get back from this conference, where I haven’t been working out and I have just been eating a lot. My next step is to go back to squatting because that’s where I saw the most return, but to do it a little bit smarter and to listen to my body and to provide more rest in between.
Then also work on the approach, like I talked about in the short-term to get back to be more consistent, and especially having a faster last two steps. So after that I could start to see a couple of more things that will be needed, but these are the immediate steps.
So one thing is when I was making this I kind of realise was that I started this with the vision of having a gold to dunk. But I didn’t really know how to get there and I didn’t really know what to track even or what I should do. And I’m the type that always likes to have a plan when I go into something, and have all the details already planned out. So I know exactly how it’s going to go.
So this was a kind of a different approach for me to kind of just jump in and figure out through experimentation when I needed to apply data, and how that data can be used more effectively, like used to help me learn more effectively.
So I’ve been trying to apply that and looked for areas to apply that in other areas of my life, like in business and the work that I have been doing. So there is Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose, some little kid and I hope to be up there with them soon, and I think may be six more months of work and it’s going to take longer than I originally thought, but I’m starting to get a better sense for what that means.
So that’s my presentation, and that’s kind of what I did, so thank you.