The ability to get up off your feet is obviously important in sports like basketball and volleyball. But what about other sports? Well, since your vertical jump is an indicator of your lower-body explosive power (and since lower-extremity strength and power is important for virtually all sports), it’s in every athlete’s best interest to develop his/her vertical jump performance.
Here are 6 ways to improve your vertical jump:
- Get stronger. Jumping is about pushing your body away from the ground. The stronger you are through the hips and legs, the greater the force you can generate against the ground. Exercises like squats, deadlifts (we like using the trap bar), glute-ham raises (on the bench or manual resistance), and Romanian deadlifts should be incorporated into your training plan.
- Develop your “fast-twitch” muscle fibers. Your fast-twitch muscles are your body’s largest and have the most growth potential. They are responsible for maximum effort jumps, sprints, and lifts. However, to produce movement, your body recruits muscle fibers in an orderly progression from smallest to largest. That means, in order to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers, you must work at about 70% or more of your capacity (we benchmark at about 80% of an athlete’s 1RM) – heavy weight, low repetitions for most exercises.
- Contrast training. This strategy will help you accelerate the development of lower-extremity strength and power (and it will also wear you out!). Contrast training involves performing a strength exercise, immediately followed by an explosive movement. An example would be to do a set of squats and proceed, without rest, to a set of squat jumps.
- Push the Prowler. We love the weighted sled for the development of hip/leg drive, strength, and power. You can push it and/or pull it, and adjust the weight to the needs and abilities of each individual athlete. We use the Prowler as a workout “finisher” for many of our athletes, especially during their off-season training phase.
- Plyometrics. Once you’ve built a strong foundation through strength training, it’s time to add plyometric exercises to your workout. Plyometric training involves exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible, using something called the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC). SSC is basically an eccentric (lengthening) muscle movement rapidly followed by a concentric (shortening) contraction. Examples of plyometric exercises are box jumps, depth/drop jumps, hurdle jumps, and even jumping rope.
- Steer clear of injury. Vertical jump training should include landing mechanics, since research shows that most non-impact knee injuries result from landing and/or cutting instability. Balance and stability exercises are important additions to any vertical jump training program. Biomechanical considerations, such as knee flexion, knee alignment, and hip motion should be closely observed.
Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!