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4 Exercises to Increase Your Vertical Jump

Posted September 6, 2011 by

Anyone who plays basketball, volleyball, or other sports that require vertical leaping is almost certainly interested in increasing the height of their vertical jump. After all, dunking, spiking, and general dominance in these sports depends heavily on how high off the ground you’re able to get. Many people attribute the ability to jump high to genetics, and while genetics can be partially responsible for gifted athletes who can seemingly fly through the air with little effort, every athlete can significantly increase their vertical “hops” through a proper workout routine.

A common myth in the fitness industry is that calf strength is the primary factor determining one’s jumping power, but this is not true. The vast majority of the power of a jump is generated in the thighs (hamstrings in particular) and hips (gluteus maximus in particular), thus creating a training regimen that focuses primarily on improving the strength of these muscle groups makes the most sense. Below, I’ve outlined my favorite 4 exercises that I use with my personal training clients (and myself) to help them achieve an increased vertical.

Top Vertical Jump Exercise #1: Squats – Demonstration

No doubt, to many people’s dismay, the squat reigns absolute king when it comes to jump development! Sorry guys and girls… it’s time to sack up, get under that barbell and push some heavy weight! The barbell squat targets a huge number of muscles and primarily focuses on the areas we’re mainly concerned with—the gluteals and hamstrings (along with the core for stability). It’s imperative that you use proper form when performing the squat, not only for safety reasons, but also because incorrect form can result in involuntary compensations, meaning you won’t actually be working the gluteals and hamstrings properly. Pushing through the heels, keeping your core tight, pushing the chest out and leading the movement by “sitting” the waist back before bending the knees will help ensure you’re getting the most out of this exercise.

Top Vertical Jump Exercise #2: Deadlifts – Demonstration

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Heavy-weighted, basic compound exercises should be the meat of your program if you’re looking for optimal results. After all, the physical equation for power (in this case, your vertical jump performance) = force (strength) x velocity (speed), so focusing on increasing the strength of the prime movers is 50% of the equation. Deadlifts, like squats, allow the trainee to move heavy weights and incorporate the use of the entire body’s musculature to perform. Again, proper form is imperative, so keeping the chest up, shoulders back, core tightened and originating the movement from the hips by bringing them forward before straightening the knees is going to ensure that you get the most out of this exercise.

As I stated earlier, power = strength x speed, so working on the speed of muscle contraction (also known as “rate of force production”) is critical to increasing your jumping power. The following plyometric exercises are extremely effective in this regard, due to the explosive timing of the movement, along with something called the stretch shortening cycle, which basically states that when stretched, our muscles can store energy similar to a spring, allowing our subsequent muscle contractions to have a greater force output than they would otherwise. By choosing exercises that center around this principle, we can actually train our muscles to optimize this increased force output. Thus, plyometrics not only increase the SPEED at which our muscles contract, but, when exercises are progressed steadily, will ALSO increase our STRENGTH in those movements, effectively addressing BOTH factors in the power equation.

Top Vertical Jump Exercise #3: Split Squat Jumps – Demonstration

Split squat jumps are great for targeting the leg musculature while simultaneously reaping the benefits of plyometric training. Like all training, form is important, meaning you will want to keep your torso upright (a common compensation is to lean forward as you bend your knees—this needs to be avoided), core tight and push through the front heel rather than the toes.

Top Vertical Jump Exercise #4: Depth Jumps – Demonstration

Depth jumps are probably my favorite exercise of all, but are listed last because they are an advanced movement that should only be performed once your squat, deadlift and split squat form has been perfected. Improper squatting form and unaddressed muscular imbalanced can cause you to injure yourself if you perform this exercise because it is very high impact. That being said, when performed with proper form and a gradual progression, this exercise is quite safe and extremely effective at increasing vertical jump height. To perform correctly, ensure that feet are pointed straight forward upon landing and that the knees follow the toes as they bend forward in preparation for the jump. Speed of contraction is crucial here—you want to jump as SOON as you can after the initial landing—the sooner you make the jump, the more benefit you will achieve from this exercise.

If you are looking to greatly increase your athletic ability in this regard, you will want to incorporate these exercises into your training program on a regular basis. After a couple of months of consistent training, you should see a big improvement in your vertical jumping capabilities. Remember, safe progression is key, so it’s important to increase the intensity of the exercises (via increased volume, adding resistance, increasing rate of force production, etc), but do so in a gradual, controlled fashion to avoid injury.

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