"It's important in every sport, because every sport requires cutting and moving quickly," says Nick Asay, the athletic trainer for the Utah Flash, an NBA Development League team for the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics. There are 14 teams in the league, which is essentially the "minors" for basketball.
A good vertical jump is more important in basketball than in most other sports, but Asay says working on it will help athletes in every sport, because it builds explosive power. But as in any kind of training, proper technique is important.
He advises against performing the exercise without first getting into shape to do it. "You want to start by warming up and stretching or you're going to tear a muscle pretty quick. You also want to get your aerobic system in shape, because you need to be able to do a lot of repetitive activity."
Rather then running to build aerobic endurance, Asay suggests jumping from side to side or jumping rope. When you are able to do that for 30 seconds, try the square jump: draw a square two or three feet across and jump from corner to corner. "Keep track of how many jumps you can do in 30 seconds then try to increase it each time, so you show a general improvement," he says.
Do those conditioning workouts for two weeks before you begin to practice your vertical jump. Start by measuring your current jump height. Tape a length of wrapping paper against a wall where you train. It should reach from the ceiling down to about a foot above your head. Next, rub colored chalk on your fingertips. Place one hand on top of the other; then with feet flat on the floor, reach up as high as you can and press your fingers against the paper. That is your base height.
Asay explains the technique of the jump, "Squat down with thighs parallel to the ground, then push with all your force down through your legs and up off the floor. At the same time, swing your arms back, then forward and up. You want to be using your arms at the same time as your legs to use that momentum to help you get a little more force."
Touch your chalked fingertips to the paper at the top of your jump. The distance between your base mark and your highest point is the height of your vertical jump. Chalk your fingers for each practice, and date the mark at the end of your workout.
In NBA tests, a good basketball player will have a vertical jump of about 40 inches, which is why these players can explode up to the basket with such force. While you may improve, Asay says it will be a long, slow process.
"It's not going to be something like a bench press where you can get a 50 pound increase in a few months. You may see some improvement in height at first, but then it will slow down. Keep on even though you may not show much progress. Over time, you will see improvements in your explosiveness and power, which is more necessary for sports than being able to jump high," he explains.
Asay warns not to overdo it, however. "Don't do 50 jumps so that you trash yourself and can't move the next day," he says. When your height starts decreasing, it's time to stop.
For good conditioning, he says to also do a full workout, not just the vertical jump. He adds that a good jump is a natural thing for some athletes, like speed or agility; but even if you don't have a naturally high jump, you will still get more physically powerful by practicing.
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