Training Tricks to Boost Your Vertical

Use these four tips to jump higher. Credit: Fab Fernandez / Getty Images

A tall vertical leap is one of the best predictors of athleticism and raw power. That's why smart coaches test the vertical jumping ability of nearly all athletes, regardless of what sport. It's no secret that the combination of heavy lifting and explosive movements add inches to your ups, so here are four less common tips to help you rise above the crowd.

Before you begin, test your vertical. Grab a piece of chalk, stand against a wall, and extend your arm. Mark your reach. Next, jump as high as you can and make another mark. Measure the distance between chalk marks to figure out your vertical jump. Repeat the test monthly to track your progress.

Tip 1: Increase Strength With Resistance Bands
Challenging the eccentric (negative) part of a lift is an overlooked strategy to boost your jump (and your strength). Unlike dumbbells or barbells, a resistance band provides constant tension throughout an exercise. As you stretch the band, you boost the intensity of the move and challenge your muscles more. As the band shortens, you work overtime to absorb force and decelerate under control.

Do This: Resistance Band Squat to Shoulder Press
With your feet shoulder-width apart, step both feet onto the bottom of the resistance band loop. Stand tall, and with the band in both hands, stretch the other end to your chin, holding just outside your shoulders like you're ready to do a front squat or thruster. Brace your core and quickly lower your body into a half-squat by driving your hips back and bending your knees. Stand up and then forcefully extend your hips to push the band straight overhead. Pause, and then return to the start.

Tip 2: Use Cluster Sets
Improve power with short bursts at maximum effort. That means fewer repetitions at a higher intensity. Instead of doing three sets of five, for example, do five sets of three with a 10- to 30-second rest between each rep. This rest-pause technique uses a short break between reps to help replenish some of your cells' energy stores, so you can do more work at nearly the same intensity.

Do This: Standing Vertical Jump
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stand tall and reach your arms up overhead. As fast as possible, dip your knees, drive your hips back into a quarter-squat, and throw your arms down slightly behind your hips. Jump forcefully, thrusting your arms overhead with palms inward to boost momentum. Land on the balls of your feet first, followed by your heels.

Tip 3: Squat Down Faster
Because a stretched muscle contracts faster, you can jump higher simply by speeding up your descent. As you quickly drop into a quarter-squat position, energy generated from the downward motion is transferred to an explosive upward lift, thereby increasing your jump.

Do this: Low Rebounding Box Jump
Stand in front of a sturdy knee-high box. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Drive your hips back and bend your knees into a quarter-squat position. Jump up onto the box, thrusting your arms overhead with palms inward to boost momentum. Land softly, pause, and immediately hop backwards off the box to begin the next jump. Make sure to land on the balls of your feet first, and then your heels.

Tip 4: Stretch Your Hip Flexors
It takes strong and powerful hip extensors (think glutes) to jump high. The opposing hip flexors, located at the top of your thighs, apply the brakes at the peak of a jump, as a safety precaution, so you don't tear a muscle. Trouble is, this protective mechanism may hinder your maximum jump. But stretching the tight muscles on the front of your hips may temporarily boost your vertical jump, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. How? By fooling your nervous system into turning off your hip flexors (reducing reciprocal inhibition), thereby allowing your glutes to contract more explosively.

Do This: Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on your left knee, with the top of your left foot on the floor and your right knee bent to 90 degrees. Reach overhead with your left hand and bend your torso slightly to the right. Hold for 30 seconds and perform three times on each side.