How Tall Do You Need to Be to Dunk?

Hello guys, in today’s post I’d like to go more indept and answer the question how tall do you need to be to dunk?

If you enjoy basketball, especially professional basketball, you’ve seen them dunk. It looks cool and easy. You might think – Yeah, sure, maybe for them it’s easy... especially for the players that are very tall. You might even be starting to play or have played for a while and wondering if you’re capable of that. So how tall do you need to be to be able to dunk? What can you do if you’re “short”? Should you give up hope of dunking if you’re not tall?

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How Tall Do You Need to Be to Dunk?

To dunk you should jump around 35 inches, which is quite a lot even in many professional feilds. However, many others will claim that in order to dunk comfortably you should be around 6′ 4″. At least to be able to dunk reasonably easily. You still can if you’re shorter, but it gets exponentially more difficult the shorter you are.

But don’t give up, even if you’re not as tall as a professional basketball player (most of us aren’t). There are things you can do to increase your jump height, if you’re willing to put in a little (or even a lot) of effort. I’ll be discussing ways to measure your vertical jump, ways to increase this and just how high you, specifically, will have to be able to jump to dunk, if that’s a goal of yours.


How Can I Measure My Jump Height?

Measure your standing reach:

  • Stand with your feet flat on the ground
  • Reach as high as you can up a wall
  • Mark where you can reach

Just because you’re tall doesn’t mean your arms are long and vice versa. The longer your reach, the less effort you’ll need to use to be able to dunk. Almost half of NBA players have a reach to height ratio of between 132-135% of their standing height.

Measure your vertical jump:

  • Mark your finger with a marker/chalk that’ll wash off your wall or tape some paper on it where you’ll be measuring
  • Jump and touch the wall at the highest point of your jump

Then just simply measure the distance between your standing reach and jump and this is your vertical jump height.

How Much More Difficult Is It to Dunk When You’re Not Tall?

Measuring on a scale of 10:

  • 5′ 3″ – 5′ 7″(9/10)
  • 5′ 8″ – 5′ 11″ (8/10)
  • 6′ – 6′ 4″ (6/10)
  • 6′ 4″ + (4/10)

As you can see, even an inch can drop or add 2 points in difficulty. If you’re 5′ 10″ and we assume your arm span is the same as your standing height, your standing reach would be around 7′ 8″. To dunk, you’d need a vertical jump of about 34 inches.

At closer to 6 feet, this of course gets easier. You would need to jump 29 inches, based on if your arm length is the same as your standing height.

Of course, this simply isn’t going to be possible for everyone. This is a well above average jump, but still not impossible. An average jump is 16-20 inches for males and 12-16 inches for females. If you’ve been working at it and are close, a running start will help (this can add up to a few inches).

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How Can I Increase My Chances of Dunking/Vertical Jump?

Now that you know how to measure your jump and how high you’d need to jump, we’ll look at how you can increase your chances of being able to dunk, even if you’re not tall. You’ll need to train and exercise your muscles. Mainly your legs and your abs. While calf raises are an important way to strengthen these muscles, you also should be training your larger muscle groups and upper body too. It’s good to vary your training routine. Here are some exercises that can help:

  • Calf raises
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Walking
  • Running
  • An elliptical machine

It’s also important to include stretching, strength training and plyometrics (box squats and squat jumps). Of course, eating a healthy diet with protein will be helpful too. If you’re looking to play basketball professionally, it might be worthwhile to invest in a personal trainer or training program (this could be done online), even just to show you the proper form for any exercises you might want to try.

If you’d like to try some exercises yourself at home, or just curious about what they are, here’s some links to tutorials for calf raises, box squats and squat jumps..

Calf raises (standing)

Seated calf raises (with a machine)

To do a seated calf raise (with dumbells):

  • Sit on a chair
  • Hold your dumbells (you could also use water bottles or soup cans), so that they’re resting on your lap
  • Raise your heels to contract your calves (you can use a block or books if you have to)

 Box Squat tutorial

Squat Jump tutorial

Here’s a calf stretch that can help with tight muscles. Couch potato calf stretch: Sit on the edge of a couch with your feet flat on the floor. With one leg, keeping your heel on the floor, lift and point the toes toward the ceiling, so that you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds, then do the same with the other leg, three times per leg.

How Much Will These Methods Help?

There isn’t a concrete answer to this. This will depend on how tall you are, your standing reach and how strong your muscles are. Of course, some people are genetically stronger and taller, but training will help. I, unfortunately, can’t give a guarantee as to how much…


So, to sum it up, being 6 feet or over does make it easier to jump higher, but you don’t need to be to dunk. While it simply may not be possible for everyone and it is certainly easier for taller people to dunk a basketball, it’s not impossible for people who aren’t tall. It also depends on how strong you are and your reach. You can be “short” with a long reach and vice versa. So with some work (and luck) you just might be able to dunk. Or maybe this article just gave you an appreciation for how much training professional athletes do…

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