As you watch high-flying basketball players soaring on the court, you might get the sense that the ability to jump and fly is something you either have or you don't. Shooting, rebounding and hustle are all things that anyone can learn. But not jumping.
Well, that may be true if you're playing at the NBA level. But the rest of us can do exercises to improve our vertical jump. These exercises are based around improving the leg and calf muscles, creating additional athletic benefits.
Here are four tried-and-true exercises that can end your days of being stuck on the ground and get you dunking the ball for the first time.
1. Jumping rope
So many health and athletic benefits come with jumping rope. Jumping rope can improve your aerobic ability and coordination, burn calories if you are looking to get in shape, and decrease the chances that you will injure your feet and ankles.
In addition to all of that, jumping rope can improve your jumping ability. A good vertical jumper must strengthen all of the muscles in his or her legs, from the glutes to the calves to the hamstrings. Jump-roping is one of the few exercises that works all of those muscles at once, making it an effective way to strengthen your leg muscles.
Jumping rope also carries some additional advantages as a means to improve your vertical, and the most obvious is the fact that you constantly jump. You will not jump anywhere near your maximum vertical height, but the constant jumping will improve your endurance and train your body to fight the pull of gravity.
Jumping rope is an activity you can perform at any time in your workout, though it functions best as a warm-up. Jump for anywhere from two to three minutes, rest, and then do it again for another three minutes. Jumping rope for at least 10 minutes every workout will go a long way toward improving your leaping ability.
If you look up videos on how to improve vertical leaping, you might think that the Squat is the only weapon you will ever need. It is an incredible tool for improving leg, buttocks and core strength.
RELATED: Squat 101: A How-To Guide
The huge amount of information on how to handle Squats can be incredibly confusing, but here are some key pieces of information. A study shows that deep Squats, where the top of your thigh is below your knee, are better at improving your leg muscles and jumping ability than shallower Squats. Furthermore, you can improve your Squats by holding weights while descending.
But above all else, the important thing is to leap out of your Squat with as much explosive force as you can and then land safely. Keep your hips and chest behind you and land in a way that your body can absorb the impact.
3. Plyometric Training
Plyometric training is a form of exercise that has grown more popular over the years, with athletes like J.J. Watt performing them in front of a studio audience. Plyometric exercises emphasize constant jumping as a way to improve not just vertical leaping ability, but also fast-twitch muscles and legs in general.
One popular plyometric exercise is the Box Jump, where an athlete jumps onto a box using a motion similar to a Jump Squat. This method has been popularized by various NBA players, who consistently demonstrate the most impressive Box Jumps of any athlete. The Toronto Raptors have made this a main exercise in their training this year.
When practicing the Box Jump, the important things are to ensure that your feet—from toes to heel—land on the box and that you descend safely, just like a Squat.
This training requires substantial leg strength and is not recommended for beginner athletes. But jumping exercises such as the Box Jump and other plyometric exercises are another example of how training for vertical leaping can improve your entire body and not just how high you can fly.
Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best. You can jump rope, squat and perform all the plyometric exercises you want. But sometimes, the best way to train is just to jump. A quick exercise of jumping against a wall 10 times in each workout can do a lot of good.
To begin with, there's the fact that constant jumping can help you keep track of the progress you've made. Practically every basketball athlete works on his vertical jumping so that he can dunk on a 10-foot rim. But even the best vertical training exercises will likely only improve your leaping ability by a few inches to maybe a foot if you are lucky. By jumping and measuring the jump, you can keep track of your improvements, encouraging yourself to keep working. And by jumping regularly, you will get used to that motion.
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