6 Easy Steps to Shooting a Perfect Jump Shot

improve jump shotAre you tall enough to play a forward or center? Is your ball handling, dribbling and court vision on the highest level, so you are or plan to be a playmaker? Are you an athletic freak blessed with amazing vertical, superior quickness and agility?

If the answer to all of these questions is negative, then you don’t have any choice but to become a good shooter. It maybe sounds brutal, but it’s the truth.

Physical limitations exist, and a young player in development must be aware of them for the sake of right drills and training he needs to do, as well as disappointments he could experience if he doesn’t go in the right direction with the choice of the position he plays. If you want a constant chance to prove you’re worthy of every minute you get, be aware that there’s always a deficit of good shooters on a team, so there will always be a spot for one more who does the job well.

Today we’re going to talk about perfecting the shooting technique in basketball. There are only six steps you need to go through, and you’ll be ready to make it rain.

1. Find your dominant eye
2. Index finger position
3. Feet and shoulders stance
4. Knees
5. Forearm exercises
6. The Dip

1. Find your dominant eye

Shooters are usually going through the dominant eye test to perfect their precision. This includes sports and disciplines like gun shooting sports, archery, crossbow, etc. No matter if your strong hand is right or left, this test will help you to know vision better. When you determine what’s your dominant eye, you’ll know in which direction to send the basketball.

For example, if you’re a leftie and your dominant eye is right, then you’ll target with your right eye, which means that your left hand will go around 8-10 inches right when releasing the ball.

If your stronger hand is right and your dominant eye is right (like it’s with the most of the players), move with the ball (and index finger on it) away from the middle of the body (the nose line) to the right around 8-10 inches. This is the most natural line of your shot.

2. Index finger position

The index finger is of utmost importance for precision. If you place a hand at 90 degrees towards the body, which finger is the only one that goes parallel with the arm? It’s index finger, and that’s why it’s called that way. With the index finger, you’re showing the direction. When you would use any other finger as a direction, you’d have to bend a hand (a fist). So using the index finger is most natural. The same goes for a jump shot.

You maybe heard that the finger that’s in the last touch with the ball is the middle finger, but the truth is that it is index finger. With the index finger, you increase precision while other fingers are used for controlling the ball.

There’s a term in basketball „one down, three up“. It’s the position of the fingers that I recommend to use when you’re practicing a jump shot. So when you’re releasing the ball, the index finger is connecting with a thumb, and other fingers stay up. That is the form you need to force with every shooting exercise, not allowing the middle finger to have control over the shot.

This doesn’t mean that you’re going to find the time for this kind of shot in an official game. The goal is that the brain establishes automatic moving of the last finger and a habit for the index finger. It’s totally normal to lower some of the fingers in the moments of pressure.

3. Feet and shoulders stance

It’s possible that you were told as a player that for balance it’s best to set the feet straight, parallel with shoulders. Look at the shooting form of Kevin Love, Devin Booker, Stephen Curry, and you’ll notice beautiful feet turn that makes a shot smoother, prettier and more natural for release.

I can almost say that it lowers the risk of injuries, but that’s harder to prove. In this position, your hip and shoulder are on the same line, which gives a hand a direction and with it helps the elbow to stay put. Exactly this combination is significant for removing the pressure from neck muscles and shoulders that dictate the energy expenditure because more tension means less shot control.

Regarding the jump speed and balance, there’s a standard way of learning that’s used very often. That way teaches that the stance (width between left and right foot) should be the same as the shoulder stance. At ImproveHoops, we’re for a bit narrower stance, or to put it in context – we prefer hip stance. I’ll repeat the term „more natural“ because it’s easier for the body to adapt those move that you already have, and that’s that natural width you have when you walk.

Try jumping with two feet going forward, then backward, then left and right, and vertical. It’s easy to conclude that those actions will be much easier if your feet are the closest one to another. When falling to the ground, throw the feet forward (so-called „sway“) and do what’s the easiest thing to do – to partly close your feet so that the hips and thighs don’t feel too much pressure.

4. Knees

You maybe heard that knees must be flexed before a jump shot. It’s the old way from back when the feet stance was parallel. Luckily, almost no one uses that shot anymore, at least in pro ball. Sometimes they teach it in younger categories although it’s completely wrong.

Look at this image, and you’ll see the maximal flex of knees when shooting a jump shot. It’s basically optimal angle, so-called knee flex that helps with jump shot quickness. You can also observe that a jump finishes with the top of the toes which is another detail important for balance and jump control. As you probably already know, when talking about a jump shot, it’s not about jumping higher but quicker.

The more you flex the knees, you’ll jump higher but slower and with less balance.

My advice to you is that you always jump with both legs. The famous 1-2 shot (the inner foot goes on the floor first – stride step) is used only to gain space in parallel movement. But this shot is getting old, and the players must concentrate on a jump shot with both feet.

Here are some of the exercises that help with improving this technique:

1. Place a small mirror above the door of your bedroom (or any other room).
With both legs, finishing at the top of the feet and with knees slightly flexed, jump straight in the air until you see yourself in the mirror. Repeat the same jump for 30 seconds in few (4-5) sets.

2. Place a rope, pipe, or some other object around 2 feet long on the floor. Jump over it with the same technique as we had in the previous exercise. You can also do this on the court with the ball in your hands.

5. Forearm exercises

One of the better exercises for arms and core are pushups. Start with placing hands somewhere on the top of the ball (a bit to a side) and start pushin’. Make sure your body’s straight. Watch the balance because it’s very easy to slip. Be careful and start with light pushups, see how you are doing and then increase the number of repetitions and sets. Try to go as low as possible without touching the floor.

Try a different version of this using two basketballs, one for each hand. This one’s harder and requires higher concentration. Fists are placed on the top of the ball which makes pushups a bit complicated and makes the joints tired. Your legs will do anything here for you to keep balance.

Go back to the push-up position with one ball and two hands on the ball. Try to lift the basketball. Now repeat that move, without push-ups ofc, moving the legs forward after lifting the ball). You’ll feel the intensity in arms (that are constantly stretched) and chest.

You can do pretty similar exercise but this time instead of lifting the basketball, try to turn it forward. Push it slightly with the left hand, then do the same with the right. Probably the hardest exercise but definitely worth it. Awesome for joints.

The last exercise in this series includes weights. Your arm should be leaning on the bench (or a chair) with the palm looking up and with weight in your hand. Pull the fist towards you. You can do the same when standing, just go forward-backward with a fist holding the weight.

6. The Dip

The Dip is the easiest and the most effective way to improve the release power.

If you don’t know, there are two types of a shot:
– up-rhythm shot – from the chest height, and a
– dip-rhythm shot – when you lower the ball so that you gain the release power.

The theory says that using the up-rhythm you get the power from knees, and with dip rhythm, you get it from the dip because knees are for something else. The dip is better and here’s why.

Using the dip, you save energy and joint health, because when you lack the power to properly release the ball, the tension transfers to joints. Joints must be totally relaxed and with almost no tension, which is hard and it requires practice.

If you perfect the dip, you’ll decrease a jump shot speed and tension of the joints, and increase jump shot power and precision.

How to practice the dip?

The first thing you’ll need to do here is to analyze the hand movement of release when passing the ball. Try to pass the ball to a teammate so that he catches the ball in the chest area. Have you pulled the ball before passing? Because it’s what helps your joints to throw it easier, as they need to be relaxed for a pass and a jump shot. Also, try the same test but without pulling the ball (flexing the elbow).

You might do this more comfortable at a smaller distance, but when you go further than 8-10 feet, it becomes much harder. Try the same exercise but from the 3-point line distance.

For practicing the dip, you can use the medicine ball (the ball heavier than regular basketball). When jumping from one spot with the bounce, or with both feet, just lower the medicine ball towards your knees and with quick movement pull it to head height. Repeat the jumps in sets. Watch your elbows; they should be slightly flexed.

When not to use the dip:
–  you received the bounce pass
–  you’re shooting after a dribble
–  you’re in or around the key

There’s a momentum going on with the bounce pass after the dribble, so it’s unnecessary to lose the power and time for lowering the ball.

The fastest shooters in the NBA league use the dip. Just look at Klay Thompson from Golden State, whose largest role in the team offense, along with actually making shots, is to shoot as quickly as possible.