There are certain gifted folks in this world, the Michael Jordans, the “AIR” ones. There are others who can learn “air”.
I am gonna tell you how to do this in 500 words and a few links or less.
When flexors flex, extensors extend. Ida Rolf said that, and we all know it to be true. If you want to feel a fight with yourself, just look at the fingers of your fist and try to hit yourself. You can’t do it, unless you, my dear readers, are nuttier than I think.
How? because the flexors (the biceps) start to hit you in the nose with your fist, and the triceps stop the action. Saved by the extensors (the triceps) grabbing up.
When you jump up, it is the same thing. Keep tightening up those jumper muscles after you have started to jump and you won’t go very high, unless you are Charles Barkley and have (had!) the muscles to override yourself. The upward jumper muscles must release, all of them, especially the hips and legs.
The upward release is practically a pre-movement, it is that fast. Here is a young dancer, Gabe Shayer, who has the release part down, and he can release very quickly. Notice how fast he looks. It is not that he isn’t smooth, it just seems that nothing is premeditated. You can see that the young dancer, Tory Muth, after Gabe in this pas de deux, is holding up in the upper part of her legs and hips. She, too, is in the top echelon of youth dancers, it is the lift that is missing.
So, wanting to go up and release from the legs, start with marching in place. Bring your knees/quads up to 90 degrees straight out from your body. Keep going. Go past when you are really really tired, until you can feel a sort of bounce at the bottom as the foot comes out of the ground and a release which lets the leg float up. Keep going. When you get it right, you will be tireless.
Now to try a translation into the upper body:
1.Pick a spot above you that is higher than you can reach. An 8 foot doorway, a tree limb, but not 10 feet high, a spot for the first tries lower than the height of a basketball goal. 2. Allow your dominant hand to be attracted to the spot, reach toward it with your hand. 3. Begin to spring up, pointing the hand on each jump, it is almost carrying you along. 4. Copy Gabe’s springing motions, letting the hand go first.
5. Is your hand touching the spot? If not, pick a lower spot.
6. Randomize the spots, one here, one there. Have fun with it.
If you are feeling all tied up and heavy, go back to just letting your feet/legs bounce up and keep your hand POINTing AT HIGHER PLACES off and on as your feet/legs bounce up.
I once taught a guy who was 5’8″ to dunk. When we started, we just jumped for awhile, and he got tired before I did, though he had 50 years on me. Then, armed with this info, he used Spud Web as a model, and he was relentless in learning to release quickly on the upspring.
Here is a picture from another discipline, orchestral conducting, that also demonstrates the release. I like the “two beat” release the best, the others are a little slow on the uptake for me.
Paraphrasing an old saw “Speed Kills” we can also say “Extensor speed release DUNKS”
Here, the NBA top 10 dunkers. Notice what happens when they leave the floor, how they contact the floor, and how relaxed they look one foot—or even one inch–off the floor.