How to Increase Your Vertical Leap

By Kim Nunley

Being able to jump high is important for most sports. It allows basketball players to go higher for rebounds and gives volleyball players an edge when blocking and spiking. How high you can jump depends on the strength, power and flexibility in your hips and legs. Therefore, a comprehensive vertical-leap workout program consists of weight training, plyometrics and flexibility work. Measure your vertical leap before training so that you can monitor your progress and tweak your workout program if necessary.

Weight Training

The power in your hip and leg muscles depends on how quickly they can contract and how much force they can produce. Weight training helps you build the force production needed for vertical leaps. Schedule two weight-training workouts into your weekly schedule. Give your muscles two days off between sessions for recovery. For example, a Monday and Thursday schedule would be appropriate. Begin your workout with a 10-minute dynamic warm-up and then do three to five sets of six to 12 reps of each exercise. Incorporate exercises like power cleans, hang pulls and squats, which mimic jumping movement patterns. Lunges put you in a staggered stance, which is unlike how your feet are positioned when jumping. However, they still work the necessary muscles and force your legs to work independently, thereby helping prevent one leg from becoming too dominant.

Plyometric Work

Plyometrics are an integral component of vertical jump training. They're explosive exercises that help to train your muscles to produce a large amount of force very quickly. Because of their high intensity and since your muscles need two days of rest between sessions, only do plyometrics two days per week, such as on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Start each session with a 10 to 15-minute dynamic warm-up. Select three jump-specific plyometric exercises and complete three to five sets of three to six reps of each exercise. Plyometric exercises that are designed to improve your vertical leap involve jumping movements themselves. Select from squat jumps, counter-movement jumps, box jumps and depth jumps, which all build power in the legs and hips. Squat jumps involve lowering into a squat and then jumping as high as possible, and counter-movement jumps challenge you to repeatedly jump immediately upon landing. A plyo box is needed for box jumps and depth jumps. For box jumps, begin on the floor and jump up onto the box positioned in front of you. For depth jumps, start on the box, then drop down to the floor and immediately explode into a vertical jump.

Flexibility

The flexibility in your hips makes an impact on how much power your muscles are able to produce. To jump high, your hips have to be able to powerfully extend. If your hip flexors are too tight, they’ll limit your hip extension. After you’re finished with your weight-training and plyometric workouts, take a few minutes to stretch out your hip flexors. Get into a deep lunge position with your back knee on the floor. Grab your back foot and pull it toward your glutes as you lean back. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and do the stretch three times on each leg.

Measuring and Monitoring Progress

Regularly measuring your vertical leap can serve as training motivation and allow you to monitor your progress. A relatively accurate way to measure your vertical leap is to use a Vertec testing device, which is a pole with rotating horizontal vanes set at half-inch increments at the top. First, measure your standing height. Stand by the Vertec and raise your hand overhead, making make note of which vane the top of your fingertips can reach. Next, perform a maximum-height jump and touch the highest vane you can at the height of your jump. By measuring the difference between the vanes, you get your total vertical jump measurement. If you don’t have access to a Vertec, you can stand beside a wall and perform the test with a piece of chalk in hand. Fully extend your arm overhead and mark the wall to get your standing-height measurement. Next, perform a maximum-height jump while reaching up to mark the wall at the height of your jump. Measuring the distance between the two marks will give you your vertical leap measurement.

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