How hard is it to dunk at 511?

For many basketball players, the ability to dunk is the mark of an elite athlete. Dunking is an exciting play that demonstrates explosiveness, vertical leap, and skill. As more players aim for the rim, the question arises – how hard is it to dunk at 5’11”?

At 5’11”, dunking is certainly achievable but requires dedication and athletic ability. With the right training, there are examples of players at this height throwing down impressive jams. However, it’s not an easy feat and shorter players will need to put in hard work to get up high enough. Let’s dive into the factors that determine dunking potential at 5’11”.

Vertical Jump

The most important physical attribute for dunking is vertical leap. This measures how high a player can jump from a standstill. For a 5’11” player to dunk, they typically need a vertical leap of at least 28 inches. This provides enough lift to reach the 10′ rim.

Elite leapers at this height have verticals in the 30+ inch range. Former NBA dunk champion Nate Robinson is 5’9″ but boasted a vertical over 40 inches. However, most recreational players will be in the 20-25 inch range without specific jump training. Improving vertical leap involves plyometrics, weightlifting, and power exercises. With diligent training, players can add several inches to their max jump height over time.

Arm Length

Having long arms provides an advantage when dunking at any height. It effectively makes the player taller and able to reach higher on the dunk attempt. Arm span is measured as the length from fingertip to fingertip with arms outstretched. The average wingspan for a 5’11” male is around 5’11”. However, some players have disproportionately long arms up to 6’+.

Longer arms make it easier to dunk at 5’11” as less vertical leap is required. But it’s not strictly necessary. Players with average or below average wingspans can still dunk with sufficient jumping ability and timing.


To maximize jump height, players need an explosive approach before leaving the ground. This involves sprinting towards the hoop and timing the last few steps to harness momentum. Building up speed helps convert power from horizontal to vertical.

An aggressive and controlled approach sets the stage for liftoff. One or two footed jumps are possible. It’s about generating force from the calves, quads, and hips to explode upwards. Developing sprinting mechanics through speed drills develops this fast-twitch ability. Using a two, three or four step approach gives momentum to jump off either one or two feet.

Hand Size

Ideal dunking requires not just vertical leap but also the ability to grip and control the basketball. Smaller hands make palming and gripping the ball difficult during the dunk attempt. Measure hand size from the tip of the thumb to tip of the pinky finger with hand fully spread out.

The average male hand length is 7.5″. But among elite dunkers and NBA players, hand size is usually over 9″. Large hands help control the ball mid-air and explode through the rim. Developing hand strength aids this, via exercises like squeezes and grippers. But ultimately hand size is genetic. Those with smaller hands will need to rely more on explosive leaping ability.

Weight and Strength

Weight and strength have dichotomous effects when it comes to dunking potential. Heavier players struggle more to get sufficient lift to dunk. Excess body fat weighs players down. But added weight from muscle helps in powering off the ground.

For dunking at 5’11”, lean muscle mass provides an advantage over bulkier builds. Aim for basketball-specific strength gains that maximize power and acceleration. Core strength, hip flexibility and hamstring strength allow translating speed into vertical explosion. Lifting weights must complement on-court leap training.


Younger players have a biological advantage when developing dunking ability. Fast twitch muscle fibers and vertical leap generally peak from ages 18-25. High school provides the optimal window for improving vertical jump. But players start losing elasticity and slow twitch muscle past 25 years old.

However, with consistent training, players can maintain and even improve vertical leap into their 30s. Proper technique and effort can make up for some loss of youthful bounce. Without injury, seasoned 5’11” players can extend their above-the-rim careers. Prioritize plyometrics, recovery, andbounce as you age.


Eating right fuels athletic performance and jumping ability. A diet full of lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, fruits/veggies supports muscle growth and fast twitch fibers. Hydration is also key before/after workouts. Supplements like creatine may provide an extra boost.

However, an unhealthy diet with excess fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol, etc. can severely hinder gains. Excess weight from poor nutrition makes it tough to get airborne. Eat clean and use supplements judiciously to maximize your genetic vertical potential.

Speed and Quickness

Bursting off the floor requires developing speed and quickness. Even with added height from vertical leap, slower players will struggle to elevate in time. Quickness training improves fast-twitch muscle coordination. This allows translating steps into an explosive leap.

Develop foot speed and change of direction with ladder drills, cone drills, and suicide runs. Improving acceleration by a fraction of a second can be the difference between a big dunk or a miss. Speed and vertical leap go hand in hand for dunking success.

Mental Approach

Confidence and fearlessness are requirements for dunking at any height. You must believe in your abilities and attack the rim. Self-doubt often hinders max jump height as you may hesitate. Being nervous causes tension rather than fluidity during motion.

Visualization, positive self-talk, and in-game experience all build mental edge. See yourself executing the dunk successfully before attempting it. Embrace failures as learning opportunities while building confidence. Game pressure can unlock an extra gear.

Factor Ideal Specs How to Improve
Vertical Leap 28+ inches Plyometrics, squat jumps, depth jumps
Arm Length 6’+ wingspan No impact on this genetic trait
Approach 4 step approach Speed training, sprint mechanics
Hand Size 9″+ long Hand strength training
Weight 170-190 lbs lean Lift weights, improve diet
Age 18-25 years old Maintenance training
Diet Lean protein, veggies Cut junk food and sweets
Quickness Elite acceleration Ladder drills, suicide runs
Mental Approach Fearless, confident Visualization, experience

Sample Training Regimen

Here is a sample workout program to improve dunking ability at 5’11”:

Monday: Lower Body Strength
– Squats 5×5
– Deadlifts 3×5
– Calf Raises 3×10

Tuesday: Plyometrics
– Box Jumps 5×5
– Lateral Cone Hops 5×5
– Depth Jumps 3×5

Wednesday: Upper Body + Core
– Bench Press 5×5
– Pullups 3×10
– Planks 3x30s

Thursday: Speed + Agility
– Ladder Drills
– Suicide Sprints
– Change of Direction Drills

Friday: Active Recovery
– Light Jogging
– Stretching
– Foam Rolling

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Basketball Skill Work
– Dunk Attempts
– Basketball Drills
– Scrimmaging

This allows you to develop the key physical abilities needed to dunk at 5’11” – strength, quickness, vertical leap, and in-game experience. Maintain this regimen while eating right to see steady improvements over time.

Realistic Expectations

While dunking is possible at 5’11” with the right genetics and training, it’s important to be realistic. Not everyone will be able to jam it down at this height. Vertical leap averages around 25 inches for most players. Other physical traits may limit potential.

It takes serious dedication to achieve a 30+ inch vertical. Expect only incremental gains over time rather than overnight success. Measure progress in fractions of an inch. Appreciate smaller milestones like touching rim or net. Enjoy the process and stay motivated. Don’t get discouraged comparing yourself to elite athletes.

Maxing out your vertical potential through intelligent training can still produce excellent results. You may not end up on highlight reels, but can become an above-the-rim threat. Consistency, effort and perseverance are key. If dunking doesn’t come easy, find satisfaction in the hard work and achieving your personal best.


Dunking at 5’11” requires you to maximize every facet of your athleticism. Natural physical talents provide an edge. But determined training over time can help many players get airborne. Focus on developing vertical leap, quickness, strength, in-game skills and fearlessness attacking the rim.

With consistent, intelligent training, dunking is an achievable goal at 5’11” for most healthy athletes. Test your limits and defy expectations. Put in diligent work on your weak points. Learn proper technique and believe in your abilities. The satisfaction of throwing down your first dunk is worth all the effort and sweat. Keep your eyes on the rim and your mind on the process. Enjoy competing against yourself while you build towards basketball’s most exciting play.

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