Why All Athletes Need to Train for a High Vertical Jump

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I train athletes every day from numerous sports, including hockey, basketball, mixed martial arts and tennis. So, what's the common training denominator? All these athletes want to improve their vertical jump.

You may be wondering why a mixed martial artist or tennis player needs an impressive vertical jump. They don't need to improve their jump for sheer height; they need to improve their vert, because it's the basis for a host of other strength qualities.

Improve how high you can jump and you'll Squat more weight, sprint faster and have quicker reaction time.

Below, I answer some common questions on how to increase your vertical jump height.

Question: I have a quick reaction time and can get off the ground fast. Why can't I get height on my jump?

Answer: This is a common issue. I've seen first-round NBA Draft picks cost themselves inches since they don't know how to jump properly.

There could be two issues going on here. First is in the actual vertical jump test, like you've seen at a football combine. In all honesty, you're probably setting yourself up wrong.

You need to look at your end goal. Stare at the spot that you want to reach and aim for it. And when you jump, don't just smack it. I've watched athlete after athlete smack the pegs instead of tapping them. When you try to smack the goal, you limit your shoulder flexion. That can cost you inches in the jump test, which can be huge.

Second, let's say you're quick and can get up fast, but you don't get high enough. If you're talking about your jump height while playing a sport, then you're weak in two critical areas. The two main muscle groups involved in your vertical leap are the hamstrings and glutes. (Don't let anyone tell you your quads get you high—they don't.) I'll address how to get the hamstrings and glutes stronger in the next question.

Question: What are your favorite ways to increase the strength of the hamstrings and glutes?

Answer: This is a tricky question. Trainers who are fond of Olympic weight lifting will tell you that you have to Clean and Jerk, while powerlifters will tell you to do Squats.

Here's the real deal: Most people never reach their maximum jump height because they never get their glutes to work properly. Ever wonder why we see so many hamstring strains in professional sports these days?

Since most athletes have weak glutes, their hamstrings naturally take on a bigger burden. Our glutes are the strongest hip extensor in our body, and we need to train them as such. My favorite way is through the Deadlift. Following a progressive program will yield big gains in strength.

However, if you don't want to Deadlift, try these exercises:

Dumbbell Split-Squats – 3x10
Dumbbell Step-Ups – 3x10
Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlift – 3x6
Sprinting – 10x40 Yards

Have any other performance and movement questions? Post them on Facebook and I'll address them in future articles.

Photo:  webeengone.com

Jimmy Smith, CSCS, is the founder and president of Jimmy Smith Training, a training and nutrition consulting business in Stamford, Conn. His clientele includes NHLers, pro golfers, soccer players and mixed martial artists. He holds a master's degree in human movement as well as numerous certifications in strength and conditioning. Smith has contributed to ABC News and several national publications, such as Men's Health, Maximum Fitness, MMA WorldWide and Tapout. For more information and to sign up for his free newsletter, visit jimmysmithtraining.com or follow him on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock