Ask any basketball player what they want to improve and often you will hear “my vertical.” To improve your vertical jump, you must be able to apply more force into the ground in a shorter amount of time. Doing that increases your power output (Power = Force x Velocity). Many people think that your overall strength makes you jump higher, but you can only get serious “ups” after you build up your strength and you learn to use that force quickly. Additionally, an athlete has a better chance of tapping into his potential force production quickly when he can demonstrate efficiency of movement. The tips and workout below will send you on your way to high flying success on the court. Give it a try!
1. Boost your strength
Maximal strength isn’t the only thing you need for better vertical, but it helps. If Athlete A can use a high percentage of his strength quickly but can only squat 135 lbs., he isn’t going to out-jump Athlete B, who can access less strength in a given time, but can squat 315 lbs. Follow a sound program that develops your strength in basic lifts such as the squat and deadlift.
2. Store your force and release it
The second part of the power output equation is velocity. You may be able to squats hundreds of pounds, but the movement may take anywhere from 0.4 to 0.7 seconds (the average time to develop peak force). Meanwhile, the vertical jump test takes about 0.2 seconds to complete. In order to develop the ability to apply force quickly, you have to efficiently absorb force via proper landing. A great way to improve your ability to call upon force quickly is to utilize various landing and jumping training.
3. Get technically sound
Jumping is an incredible example in the capabilities of human movement. The body must fire muscles in a coordinated effort to elevate you from the ground to the rim. When a great amount of force is called upon in a split second, efficiency is everything. Becoming technically sound can have instant transfer, adding inches to your vertical right away. Use the drill below to help groove the proper jump technique. NEXT: The Big Four Workouts to get all the skills above >>
The 4 best exercises for a bigger vertical
1. PVC/Broomstick Squat Jump
3-5 sets x 5 reps 1-2 minutes of recovery
Stance: 1. Start with the feet hip-width 2. Hips slightly back (hip hinge) and back is arched 3. Knees slightly bent and rotated outward 4. Place the stick behind the lower back with elbows behind and forearms under stick 5. Palms up.
Take off: 1. The movement will begin from a static athletic position (no counter-movement) 2. Perform the jump by getting triple extension from the ankle, knee, and hip 3. Keep the palms up and stick tight to lower back.
Landing: 1. Once you land, push the hips back 2. Slightly bend and rotate the knees outward 3. Land with a soft foot 4. Quickly (under control) perform another explosive jump 5. Once all the reps are done, stick the last jump and in the athletic position hold for 2 seconds before resting
2. Depth Jump
3-5 sets x 3 reps (12-18 inch box or weight bench) 2-3 minutes of recovery
Stance: 1. Start nice and tall on top of a plyo-box (12-18 inches) or bench 2. From there, lead with one leg and step off the plyo-box or bench
Landing 1: 1. Land with a soft foot (stay on the balls of your feet with heels slightly off the ground) 2. Hips back (hip hinge), knee’s slightly bent and out, and arms back (athletic position)
Take off: 1. As fast as you can (under control) jump by getting triple extension from the ankle, knee, and hip 2. At the same time throw your arm upwards (forcefully)
Landing 2: 1. Land with a soft flat foot in the athletic position on the floor
3. Barbell Squat
5-8 sets x 5 reps (progressively work up to a heavy set of 5) 2-5 minutes of recovery
Set-up: 1. Create a shelf by pulling shoulder blades together (retracted) 2. Drive the elbows under the bar (think about bending the bar down) 3. Drive the head into the bar and tuck the chin (make a double chin) 4. Arch the lower back and push the hips back 5. Create an outward pressure by rotating the knees out (external rotation) 6. Keep the outward pressure on the lateral heel 7. Three points of contact on the foot, below big toe, below pinky toe, and heel 8. Brace the torso (squeeze abs and lower rib cage) and fill the belly with air
Downward Phase: 1. Start the movement by pushing hips back (hip hinge) and knees out (spreading the floor) 2. Keep the elbows under the bar (bending and pulling the bar down) 3. Drive the head back into the bar and keep the chin tucked (neutral head position)
Upward Phase: 1. Start the movement with pushing the hips up out of the bottom position 2. Keep the elbows under the bar (bending and pulling the bar down) 3. Continue to push the knees out (spreading the floor) and drive through the heels
4. Barbell Squat Jump (Reactive)
3-5 sets x 2 reps @ 20% of the last set performed for the squat 2-3 minutes of recovery
Stance: 1. Start with the feet hip width 2. Hips slightly back (hip hinge) and back is arched 3. Knee’s slightly bent and rotated outward 4. The barbell will be positioned like a traditional squat.
Take off: 1. The movement will begin from a static athletic position (no counter-movement) 2. Perform the jump by getting triple extension from the ankle, knee, and hip 3. Actively pull down on the bar (bend the bar) with the lats and keep the elbows directly under the bar throughout the entire movement
Landing: 1. Upon landing push the hips back 2. Slightly bend and rotate the knees outward 3. Land with a soft foot 4. Quickly (under control) perform another explosive jump 5. Once all the reps are completed stick the last jump and in the athletic position hold for 2 seconds before racking the barbell
Greg Robins, C.P.T., and Jamie Smith C.S.C.S. are trainers with Total Performance Sports in Everett, MA.