The 5 Keys to Jumping Higher

You want to jump higher? You need to get stronger.

There likely isn't an athlete out there who doesn't want a higher vertical jump. Even if your sport doesn't involve frequent jumps, a big vert is an indicator that you're a powerful athlete. Plus, it's a great way to impress friends.

But you don't need fancy training methods to increase your vertical jump. Focus on the following five key points and watch your vertical jump skyrocket.

Get Stronger

It's not sexy, but the single biggest contributor to a high vertical jump is strength. Strength, which can also be called force, is the most important piece of the power equation:

  • Power = (Force x Velocity)

All things being equal, the athlete who can create more force in the same amount of time will jump higher.

The key for developing this strength is to focus on heavy compound lower-body exercises—squat, Deadlift, Lunge, etc.

  • Squat – 2-4 sets of 1-8 reps
  • Deadlift – 2-4 sets of 1-5 reps
  • Lunge – 2-4 sets of 5-8 reps/leg

Perform these strength exercises on separate days, when possible.

2. Get Explosive

The second half of the power equation is speed (velocity). While strength is incredibly important, it means nothing if it cannot be produced quickly.

A typical jump only gives an athlete around 0.5 seconds to produce force. Any force created beyond this period does not contribute to the leap. For this reason, athletes must learn to generate as much force as possible within this time frame.

Plyometrics and high-velocity strength exercises are the best way to develop this rate of force.

  • Chain Squat – 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps with medium load, moved as fast as possible on the way up
  • Hurdle Hop – 3-5 sets of 3-5 jumps
  • Over Head Medicine Ball Throw – 3-5 sets of 5-8 throws

3. Get Lean

As an athlete pushes off the ground, he or she must overcome his/her own body weight. The lighter the athlete, the less force is necessary to do this. Imagine trying to jump as high as you can and then immediately repeating this same test wearing a 20-pound vest. It's obvious that the second jump will be much smaller. Now, imagine how much higher you could jump if you were 20 pounds lighter.

Any athlete who wants to maximize the height of their vertical jump should look to reduce their non-functional body weight (body fat) as much as possible. Though it's generally not recommended for youth athletes to go on a calorie-restricted diet, they should look to make healthy food choices. A good starting point for this is 40% of calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 30% from fats.

Here is a chart from the National Strength and Conditioning Association that estimates the caloric needs for athletes:

Activity Level

Male

Female

Light

17 calories/pound

16 calories/pound

Moderate

19 calories/pound

17 calories/pound

Heavy

23 calories/pound

20 calories/pound

 

4. Improve Technique

Improving technique has two benefits:

  1. Increases the height of the jump
  2. Reduces the chance of injury

The loading phase of a vertical jump should look very similar to a Romanian dDeadlift—the only difference is the arm position. In this position, the weight is on the toes. The knees and ankles are slightly bent, the chest is leaned forward and the arms are extended just past the hips. In this position, the athlete can generate the most amount of vertical power.

Though improving jumping technique may add a couple inches to an athlete's vertical jump, good landing technique is even more crucial. The landing is when almost every jumping-related injury occurs, not the jump itself. For this reason, athletes should spend a significant amount of time learning to land in a balanced position that distributes the impact of the jump equally across all joints of the lower body. This position should look almost identical to the take-off position.

Jump Technique Progression:

  1. Box Step Off – 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps
  2. Step Off Hold to Vertical Jump – 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps
  3. Depth Jump – 2-3 sets of 2-3 reps
  4. As you are learning these techniques, it is a good idea to practice in front of a mirror to ensure proper body position.

5. Recover

Recovery is often overlooked, but incredibly important for jump training. It's easy to fall into "the more, the better" mindset, but this can lead to overuse injuries in the lower body and actually a decrease in jumping performance.

Starting out, athletes should always err on the conservative side and only perform 10-20 maximal effort jumps in a training session. Because of the explosive nature of a vertical jump, the body can only perform a handful before performance starts to drop. Training beyond this point will not improve jumping height and will only lead to injury. At the completion of a training session, it is generally recommended to rest 48 hours before completing another intense training session.

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Topics: SQUAT | LUNGE | DEADLIFT | DEPTH JUMP | BOX JUMP | RDL | VERTICAL JUMP | CHAINS