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There's no quick fix for improving an athlete's vertical jump. A common misconception is that to boost your vert, you must increase leg strength, and leg strength alone. True, athletes must perform lower-body exercises to strengthen their legs, but many more physical dimensions of an athlete’s make-up must be addressed to maximize vertical potential.
According to basketball performance expert Alan Stein, four key areas must be trained—flexibility, core, strength and power.
- Flexibility refers to the range of motion in a joint or series of joints. You need to improve lower-body flexibility to increase your power production. Perform lifts that work the triple extension, meaning the ankles, knees and hips.
- To achieve higher "ups," core strength is just as important as lower-body explosiveness. And the core includes more than the abdominal muscles. You must also strengthen your lower back, glutes, obliques and hip flexors. The hips play a huge role in an athlete’s ability to produce power from the ground.
- Strength is the ability to produce force. The more force you can create against the ground, the higher you will be able to jump, according to Stein.
- Power, on the other hand, defines an athlete’s ability to exert maximum strength quickly and forcefully, which Stein considers "the essence of jumping."
With a comprehensive training program focused on the "Core Four," an athlete will maximize his or her vertical jump performance, says Stein.
To develop explosiveness for an improved vertical, an athlete must train using full-body, ground-based lifts, such as Power Cleans and Squats, which mimic the explosive movement patterns required to jump higher.
The benefits of performing full-body lifts include increased lower-body power output, core strength development and recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers. By performing Power Cleans and Squats, you will be training the hip drive that generates explosive power to jump higher.
Plyometric exercises are another explosive power driver. When performed and used correctly, plyos help an athlete produce faster, more powerful and coordinated movements. The objective of plyometric training isn’t to jump as high as possible. It's to land softly in a balanced state, and to work for limited ground contact time.
The combination of explosive weight training, flexibility work and plyometrics is a training method known as sequences. Sequences were created by Tim Grover, owner of ATTACK Athletics and performance coach for Michael Jordan and many other NBA stars. Grover says, “When you combine the three together, we are actually training the mind and body for the muscle to work the way it is supposed to work...because now it knows why it is doing the weight training, plyometrics and stretching.”
The benefits of training to improve your vert go beyond jumping ability. The muscles trained and used to execute a jump are the same as those needed to run faster and move laterally. In other words, you are not just improving your vert, you are enhancing your overall athletic development.
Follow the links below to learn how to perform the vert-heightening sequences used by Grover:
Vertical Jump Training with Michael Jordan's Former Trainer
Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion
Dwyane Wade's On-Court Skills and Weight Room Training
Find information on additional workouts for an improved vertical jump at:
Brandon Roy's Explosive Training
NFL Combine Training for Football
Kobe-Inspired Plyo Program
Vertical Leap Training with Connecticut Basketball
Photo: Danny Vega