How to Improve Your Vertical Leap

Power

As obvious as it sounds, if you want to be able to jump higher, you need to practice jumping as high you can.

Plyometrics are exercises that usually involve some form of explosive movement such as a jumping, hopping, or bounding and are designed to increase power and explosiveness. If used appropriately, plyometrics can be a great tool for increasing your vertical jump. These exercises usually use the force of gravity to store potential energy in the muscles, and then immediately release this energy in the opposite direction--similar to pulling a rubber band back before you fling it. The energy stored is used to produce a more powerful muscle contraction--in other words, a more "explosive" movement.

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Plyometric exercises such as jumping, skipping, and bounding--if incorporated appropriately--provide a means for you to practice jumping with maximum effort in a controlled and safe environment. Additionally, a proper plyometric program can help train your nervous system to perform athletic movements more efficiently. These exercises and drills should be chosen carefully and be done in limited volume. Attempts should be made to reduce as much impact and orthopedic stress as possible, so try to use soft training surfaces, make sure you are wearing proper footwear, and know that when it comes to plyometric training, more is not necessarily better.

Squat jumps, broad jumps, and box jumps are some common plyometric exercises used to increase your explosiveness and improve your vertical jump. When performing box jumps, it is highly recommended you jump on to the boxes only; not off of them. You should step down off of the boxes to eliminate as much impact as possible. It is important to note that these exercises should be performed when your legs are fresh; so do them before a strength training workout if both workouts are being performed one after the other.

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Core

When most athletes think of their "jumping muscles" they think of their legs and hips. However, your core (abs, low back, hip flexors) play a huge role in jumping. Your core is the center of every athletic movement, including jumping. To truly maximize your vertical jump, you need to have a strong core. The days of lying on your back and just doing regular crunches are long gone; you need to stimulate yourself with new and innovative exercises to work your core from a variety of angles and motions.

In addition to the "Core 4", there are two other aspects to consider when trying to increase your vertical jump:

  • Keep your body fat percentage low. Excess body fat is simply dead weight. Too much dead weight will inhibit your explosiveness and vertical jump. In order to maintain an appropriate body fat level, you should eat a nutritious, calorically appropriate diet and adhere to a year-round conditioning program. Please note this is referring to body fat, not necessarily body weight. Additional muscle mass is not a hindrance to jumping higher, but rather an asset. Putting on five pounds of muscle through proper strength training will help you jump higher. Putting on five pounds of fat will weigh you down like an anchor.
  • Practice the vertical jump test exactly as it will be tested. There is a slight difference between being explosive on the field and testing well on a vertical jump test. If your focus is aimed primarily on a vertical jump test, you must follow the exact guidelines and specifications as the combine test protocol and you must to perform countless hours of task-specific repetitions. No sense in practicing your vertical jump with a running start if you can't do that when you are tested at the combine.

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Here is a great drill to improve your explosiveness and vertical jump:

Highest Point

  • Reps: 1 jump
  • Sets: 10
  • Rest: 30 seconds in between jumps

Instructions:

  • Player stands in an athletic position (chest over knees over feet, slight bend in the knees, most of their weight on the power pads of their feet) facing a wall with a tennis ball in their dominant hand.
  • They throw the tennis ball underhand in an upward motion against the wall.
  • Without taking a step, they vertically jump to catch the tennis ball at its highest point.
  • The key is really challenging them by throwing the ball in a manner that requires them to jump as high as possible.

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Alan Stein is the owner of Stronger Team and the head strength and conditioning coach for the Montrose Christian boys basketball program. Stein has trained NBA stars like Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley and is the head conditioning coach for the McDonald's All-America Game, the Jordan All-American Classic and the Nike Summer Skills Academies. He has a vertical jump training program which helps athletes in a number of sports. Visit his website at StrongerTeam.com for more information.

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