There is a lot of misinformation floating around on the web, so no doubt you’ve come across plenty of theories and opinions on how to improve your vertical jump.
Vertical height is a crucial aspect to many sports, and the muscles and mechanics of a jump are closely related to the basic mechanics of many other movements, including running sprints.
1. Make Sure You Have The Strength
Before getting into the more complex stuff, you need to have a strength base to work from. If you’re under 21 and haven’t done proper strength training before, this is the time to start.
You need to begin training those legs. The quadriceps, hamstrings, gleuts and lower back are the producers of the movement for a jump and those muscles should be well conditioned and strong compared to your body-weight.
The other body structures engaged in the movement are there for stability and balance, including the feet, calves, core, and shoulders/arms.
The best and most effective training for this is to start doing squats. Do low repetitions (no more than 5), with 5-7 sets. These are the traditional squats with a standard barbell on the back of the neck.
Keep a narrow grip, set your back and descend as low as possible. If you are only able to handle half squats (not descending fully) then reduce the weight on the bar, and try to do it correctly.
Quality technique is key when you start, if not, you’ll find yourself being held back down the road. Do yourself a favor and don’t worry about impressing people with how much you can lift! Focus on doing it right!
2. Make Sure You’re Eating The Right Stuff
Eating right is a part of your basis for training. Eat as much food as you can, as long as you avoid junk, and are getting plenty of carbohydrates and protein.
When you start this kind of training, your body will be screaming for quick, usable energy, and in desperate need of nutrients to repair muscle and connective tissues.
Good nutrition is a part of the basis of your training to improve vertical height.
3. Mobility Drills
Doing mobility drills is slightly different than flexibility training. These are important so you can loosen up the joints and structures in the spine and pelvis to be more conducive to the training and to the actual jumps you’ll be doing in whatever sport you’re playing.
There are dozens of mobility drills and styles which take after various practices, including yoga. You’ll want to focus on opening and loosening the muscles and joints of the lower spine, hips and pelvis, all of which are highly involved in a jump movement.
4. The Viking Throw
Use this great exercise which is has an explosive movement but also a plyometric component to it:
- Get a medicine ball which you can comfortably handle
- Locate yourself where you can toss the ball behind you
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart hold ball with both hands evenly
- Dip deeply down into a squat to create momentum
- Toss ball over head in an arched trajectory behind you
- Repeat with 10 repetitions, start with one set, work your way up to 3
This exercise is really easy to do and takes you a long way in training. All of the muscles that you’d use for jumping are being trained both with resistance and for power.
5. The Unload Jump
There are a few different versions of this jump, the simplest can be to use dumbbells.
The principle behind the unloading jump is to load the muscles associated with the eccentric contraction (the muscles used to crouch or dip before taking off) in order to strengthen the concentric contraction.
Here is what you’d do:
- Take a couple of 10-15lb dumbbells
- Stand back from the rim of the net, or use a wall with a marker indicating rim height
- You’ll be preparing to jump up and forwards towards the net as you would in game situation
- Take a dumbbell in each hand, crouch very deeply
- Drop dumbbells at lowest point in crouch and explode into jump
- Do 6-10 repetitions of this and just 1 to 3 sets
6. Use Visualization
This technique is not used enough by amateur athletes. Elite and professional athletes are trained and encouraged to use visualization as a part of their everyday training. This is a part of a real science!
Once you start jumping, and training for it, you should start visualizing yourself using proper technique in game situations.
- Find a quiet space
- Stand up, breathe deeply, relax your muscles
- Imagine yourself jumping faster, higher and with greater ease
- Imagine the feeling in various game situations
- Consider all of your senses; what you’ll see, hear, smell and feel.
If you find it difficult, you can start with visualizing for just 1 or 2 minutes, until you break concentration. With time, this is a skill which can and should be improved, refined, and practiced more and more.
These are the 6 basic and practical steps you can start with to improve your vertical jump.
You’ll find a lot more in-depth information on these and other training tips in The Jump Manual.
If you’re serious about improving your vertical height for basketball or another sport, this is a fantastic place to start.