One way to add a few inches to your reach and get the ball higher when you are learning to dunk is by palming the basketball. You can also jump higher when you’re not holding the ball with both hands. Contrary to popular belief, palming a basketball is not entirely dependent on hand size. Having bigger hands and longer fingers is helpful, but with enough grip strength anyone can learn to palm a basketball.
Palming a basketball is not only useful when you’re going up for a dunk. It also makes you a bigger overall threat on the basketball court. In the low post, you will often see good players hold the ball straight out with one hand. This allows them to have one hand free when they drive, turn around for a jump shot, or pass it off. It also allows you to use your body to protect the ball better. Once you’re able to palm the ball easily, you give yourself the option to pick up your dribble with one hand to quickly pass or shoot. Michael Jordan was a big fan of this technique.
Proper Technique to Palm a Basketball
- Hold your hand in front of you, palm down.
- Place your middle and ring fingers on one of the basketball’s seams
- Open your hand making it as big and wide as possible
- Using your other hand, press the ball into your fingers
- Reach with your thumb as far down the ball as possible
- Get a good grip, but don’t squeeze the ball out of your hand
Birdman palming a basketball.
Improving Grip Strength
When you’re trying to palm a basketball, finger strength is more important than grip strength. Since these are so closely related, most exercises work on both, but just keep that in mind when you’re working on strength. Try to focus on your fingers, rather than your grip only.
Palm a ball - If you can’t palm a regulation ball yet, find a smaller or flatter ball to work on your grip. This will help you stretch and strengthen your hands and help you get used to the feeling of palming a ball. If your gym has a small medicine ball, try palming that for as long as you can. These are the best types of exercises to do as it directly relates to palming a ball.
Plate pinch - The most common grip workout is the plate pinch. To perform this exercise, pick up a stack (as many as you can do) of 10′ plates and hold for as long as you can with either one or both hands. Make sure your fingertips are touching the plates and squeeze!
Rice grip - Another great strength builder is the rice grip. All you need is a bucket of rice. Put your hands in and grab the rice squeezing as hard as you can. It sounds easy, but it’s not.
Finger pushups - These will not only give you strong fingers and hands, but you will get some chest and triceps work too.
Deadlifts – Deadlifting heavy will test your grip strength. Plus, you will get strong and improve your vertical jump in the meantime.
I don’t recommend a hand gripper, because it’s focuses so heavily on hand strength and doesn’t work your fingers. When you’re palming the basketball your fingers will hold the ball in place.
If you’re close, a new ball can make all the difference.
Tips for Palming the Ball
If you’re not quite there yet, don’t worry. There are a few tips that can help you get that extra grip and have you palming a basketball to throw down a one handed dunk.
Get a new ball - If your ball is used and slick, no matter how strong your grip or big your hands are it’s going to be hard to palm the ball. A new ball could make all the difference. If you only play indoor My recommendation is the Spalding Tack Soft Indoor/Outdoor. It’s a great all-around leather ball, excellent for grip, and isn’t too expensive. Just make sure to keep in mind, after a few outdoor pick up games the ball may not be as easy to palm anymore!
Lick your fingers – Licking your finger tips may give you that extra grip you need to palm the ball.
Adjust your grip – The technique given above works for most people, but everyone is a little different. Try moving the ball side to side to not only get your middle and ring fingers on a seam, but also your thumb. One of the most important parts of your grip is the angle of your thumb. Try increasing or decreasing the angle between your thumb and the rest of your fingers until you find what works for you.
Practice - As with most skills, practice makes perfect. Now that you know the proper technique and know the best ways to improve your grip strength, start trying to palm the ball more often. The more you practice, the stronger your fingers will get and the better your technique.
Still Can’t Palm the Basketball?
If you’re still having trouble palming a ball, keep working at it. If you have small hands, it can be a challenge. For the time being, work on increasing your vertical jump and you can be dunking with two hands sooner than you may think. You can also throw the ball off the backboard, bounce it off the ground, or jump using both hands, then use momentum to keep the ball in your hand while you throw it down.