One of the most impressive athletic feats is the ability to dunk a basketball. People are amazed at the power to catapult oneself off the ground to reach a basketball hoop 10 feet high. But it’s more than just dunking that’s impressive. A high vertical jump is indicative of athletic prowess, explosive ability as a whole and will have spectators drop their jaw. If you’re looking to improve your jumping skills, then we have the perfect program for you.
Your Starting Point
If your vertical leap isn’t very high to start, don’t get down on yourself. Increasing your vertical leap is definitely possible if you put in the time and effort.
A good place to begin is by measuring your current leap. An easy way to do this is to stand by a wall or pole, jump as high as you can, and reach your hand up. You can either mark the height with a piece of chalk, a video, or some other object.
Over time you should continue to track your performance on the same wall if possible. It’s not necessary to do it every day, nor even every week. In fact, measuring too often will only frustrate you as progress won’t be as noticeable over such a short time period.
The importance of tracking your progress is to a.) Show that you really can improve your vertical leap and b.) To see if your program is effective. If your vertical leap is not improving, you’re going to have to change your program.
Soft Tissue Work, Mobility & Stretching
Making sure your body’s muscles are properly taken care of is often overlooked in vertical leap training. Even if you do all the right exercises, if you’re not letting your body recover properly, nor move properly, then you will never reach your full vertical leap potential.
Soft tissue work is important for not only health and wellness, but proper recovery. To get the most out of soft tissue work, you should definitely consider getting a foam roller. This will allow you to break up knots in your muscles, which normally restrict the length of the tissue. When your muscles are shorter they’re weaker- you can’t have that!
When using the foam roller, don’t simply roll back and forth over the muscles. Move slowly, and when you reach a point on your muscle that is tender, stop moving and keep the foam roller there. Really let it dig in deep to help the muscles rejuvenate.
In terms of muscles you want to focus on the ones of the lower body: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and the IT Band (the outside of your thigh).
Mobility work is also important. This is essentially moving your body through its natural range of motion without weights. One example of this is deep knee bends, or squatting. Move slow and gently, going through the full range of motion.
Before engaging in your workout for the day, you have to do an adequate warm up. Not only will this prevent injury by allowing your body to acclimate to exercise, but it will actually allow you to perform better.
Start by doing some sort of cardiovascular exercise for at least 5 minutes, preferably emphasizing the lower body. This could be the elliptical, jumping rope, jumping jacks or just plain running. After that, take several minutes to stretch your whole body.
Before designing your workout, you need to know which exercises are most effective at building strong and powerful legs. But not all exercises are created equal, and you must know which exercises build the most strength. These exercises are called compound exercises. This means they target multiple muscle groups at a time.
One of the best lower body exercises is the squat. The squat not only build muscle and strength, but it improves the jump as it takes the body through a similar range of motion. There are numerous squat variations to use, and you should make use of them. The most well-known is the barbell squat. This allows you to handle a lot of weight, and is absolutely a full body exercise, as it targets the core and lower back.
Bulgarian split squats are another excellent variation. They are performed by placing one leg on a bench behind you, and one on the ground in front. Descend fully until your front leading leg reaches parallel, or as low as you feel comfortable, then explode up into a standing position. This can be done with or without weights, and should be performed for at least 8 repetitions per side.
It’s also important to work on your core and abdominal muscles. These muscles play a role in almost every physical endeavor you do. They’re essential and can’t be ignored in vertical jump training.
There are numerous exercises for core training: Planks, sit-ups, leg raises and more- they’re all great! Abs are best hit with high reps so shoot for at least 12, and with exercises like planks hold it for as long as you can.
There are also other exercises like snatches and cleans which help build explosive power. These are a great idea to include in your workout, as not only will they help you jump higher but they’ll build muscle in the upper body.
Also, the calves play a huge role in exploding off the ground. It’s important to strengthen these muscles for maximum power. There are a variety of calf exercises you can perform, but they are all done by simply extending the feet (i.e. standing on your toes). You can start by performing bodyweight calf raises. Find a box or raised platform and stand with your toes on the edge. Lift yourself up fully contracting the calves, then lower down. Perform these for high reps.
In addition to weight lifting exercises, you want to practice jumps. And while you should definitely practice regular vertical leaps, you want to add a variety of jumps to your routine. One of the best jumping exercises are depth jumps.
A depth jump is done by standing with both feet on a very short box or platform. Then step off the box. As soon as your feet touch the ground immediately bounce up as high as you can. What this does is it teaches the body to move with a quick reaction time and to activate at will.
Now that you have a solid grasp of what is needed to boost your vertical leap, it’s time to put together a workout program. While different people will have different schedules, different strengths, prior injuries etc. there’s not a one size fits all routine. However, check out the sample routines below and adjust it as needed:
1.) Depth Jumps: 3 sets of 3 reps. Rest 2 min between sets.
2.) Jump Squat: 3 sets of 3-5 reps. Rest 2 min between sets.
3.) Barbell Squat: 3 sets of 6-10 reps. Rest 2-3 min between sets.
4a.) Bulgarian Split Squats: 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Super-set with
4b.) Hamstring Curls: 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Rest 60 seconds between sets.
5.) Machine Calf Raises: 2 sets of 15-20 reps.
Upper Body Focus
1.) Standing Vertical Leap: 3 sets of 3 reps. Rest 2 min between sets.
2.) Dumbbell Snatch: 3 sets of 3 reps. Rest 2-3 min between sets.
3.) Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 10 reps.
4.) Dumbbell Row: 3 sets of 12 reps.
5.) Hanging Leg Raises: 2 sets of 15 reps.
6.) Seated Calf Raises: 2 sets of 15-20 reps.
As you can see the workout hits on several different aspects of your routine, and follows a particular pattern.
The depth jumps, vertical leap and jump squats are great to start the workout with. They fire up the central nervous system to prepare for heavy activity to come. Also, they provide volume to practice your jumps.
The dumbbell snatch is another exercise that fires up the central nervous system and really builds explosiveness. It also mimics the movement of swinging your arms up to jump and helps build muscle on the upper body.
After that, you’ll hit either the lower body or upper body with some compound lifts in a higher rep range. This works to build muscle.
Calves will then help round out your routine. The calves are a small muscle group and can tolerate a lot of reps, so hit them frequently. This is the same for abs too, so feel free to do some abdominal and core work on your off days. Plus having six-pack abs is nothing to complain about.
You may be wondering why there is an upper body focus on one day, and why every day isn’t entirely focused on the lower body. The reason for this is that the body can’t take that much volume on a regular basis. Certainly pro athletes could do this, but not the average trainee. Also, if you ignore your upper body there will be imbalances in your physique which creates problems down the road.
This workout can be done either 3 or 4 days per week. If you want to do it 3 days per week, say Monday, Wednesday, and Friday then simply do the upper body workout one day and then the lower body the next day. When Monday comes around again, do the opposite workout of what you did Friday. If you want to do 4 days per week, then have the same days each week be your upper or lower body exercise.
Again, these workouts are flexible. Also feel free to add in cardio, arm exercises, or more volume depending on your goals. The exercises and workouts listed are primarily focused on improving your vertical leap.