Increase Your Basketball Vert With This Step-Up Progression

January 7, 2013 | Mike Atkinson

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When you jump up for a layup or a dunk in basketball, you almost always leap off one leg. So, to improve your jumping ability and help you posterize defenders, you need to train on a single leg with Step-Ups.

The Step-Up increases single-leg strength through the ankle, knee and hip to maximize the muscles powering your jump. Working one leg at a time helps improve your jumping ability on both legs, so you can even drive to the hoop on your weak side.

The following basketball Step-Up progression is designed specifically to improve these skills on the court. This is accomplished by incorporating a basketball into the exercises to mimic live gameplay.

Learn more about increasing your basketball vert with STACK's Guide to Jumping Higher.

The Basic Components of a Step-Up

Step-Up Start Position

Start Position

Starting Position

  • Start with 18- to 32-inch box
  • Keep lead leg on box for duration of exercise
  • Knee should be directly over heel with leg bent at 90 degrees
  • Drive force through foot on box

Acceleration/Concentric Finish

  • Full extension through leg on box
  • Foot flat on box
  • Tall posture

Swing/Gate Leg

  • Drive opposite knee up until parallel to ground
  • Foot is dorsiflexed directly under knee
  • Shin angle is at 90 degrees

Deceleration/Eccentric Finish

  • Stabilize leg on box
  • Reach back with swing/gate leg
  • Control eccentric movement on the way down
  • Finish in starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Step-Up Progression for Basketball

Step-Up with Ball Press

Basketball Step-Up

Basketball Step-Up With Ball Press

This variation provides a base for more aggressive movements in the progression. Adding the basketball provides sport-specificity and increases body and ball awareness.

How to Perform

  • Stick to the basics above
  • As you begin to accelerate upward, press ball out and up to simulate attacking the rim for a dunk or layup
  • Keep ball at chest level
  • Extend body upward

Sets/Reps: 2x12-15 each leg

Step-Up with Ball and Dribble

Step-Up With Ball and Dribble

Step-Up With Ball and Dribble

This is a great exercise to work on your timing and how to use the ball during the acceleration phase. The dribble adds some proprioception and kinesthetic awareness that simulate game demands.

How to Perform

  • Focus on the three phases of the Step-Up
  • Dribble ball off side of box
  • As ball bounces, rise up with ball
  • Finish with balance and check your form
  • Bounce can be a dribble or "crab dribble"
  • Bounce ball then drive up with leg

Sets/Reps: 2x12-15 each leg

Step-Up with Ball Press and Single-Leg Jump

Step-Up With Ball Press

Step-Up With Ball Press

The final variation increases single-leg explosiveness and stability through the deceleration phase. This exercise is only for advanced athletes, best performed after mastering the first two steps in the progression.

How to Perform

  • Focus on all the basics of the Step-Up
  • Aggressively step up and jump vertically with leg on box
  • Land on same leg and decelerate into position for  next rep
  • Think about extending your leg on the box
  • Land softly and transfer energy evenly to the glutes, hamstrings and quads
  • Focus on form in air

Sets/Reps: 2-3x4-8 each leg

See also Step Up Progression for Basketball from Mike Atkinson on Vimeo.

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