How to Improve Your Vertical Jump

Athletes are obsessed with how high they can jump. It seems everyone wants to be able to dunk a basketball or jump over a pack of players. And when it comes to sports performance, the ability to jump higher than your opponent can be a huge advantage!

Some athletes are blessed with the genetics to jump high, whereas others seem to have their feet nailed to the ground. But no matter your genes, you can still jump higher!

So, in no particular order, here are my top tips of what you must do to maximise your vertical jump.

1. You Must Jump
Most people I’ve talked to who say, “I wish I could dunk”, never actually practice jumping. The skill of jumping high requires that you actually practice jumping high! And whilst at first, you may not feel as though you’re jumping very high, training the ability to recruit muscle required to do the jumping is vital.

2. Use Heavy and Light Loads to Develop Power
Looking at the force-velocity curve (figure 1), if we can shift it up and to the right, you’re going to jump higher. We need to train movements explosively both with, and without added loads. To train the high load power, think of Olympic weightlifting movements and their derivatives – I’m a big fan of exercises such as jump squats and jump shrugs.
For low load power, performing exercises with very little to no added weight will serve our purpose here – use exercises such as box jumps and keg tosses.

F-V Curve
Figure 1: The Force-Velocity Curve
Picture Credit:

3. Train with Plyometrics
Utilising plyometric training is important to develop the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). Plyometrics are typically characterised by performing repeated jumps with a ground contact time of less than 0.2 seconds.
The SSC is important in the development of elastic qualities of the muscle, tendon, and other connective tissues. Being able to utilise elastic energy is important, because that elasticity will give you the ‘spring’ necessary to jump high. If you want to test out what I mean, try performing a jump after a slight dip and pause for 3-5 seconds, then compare that to doing a quick dip and jump and tell me which one is higher. The pause will remove a lot of the elastic energy that’s been stored in the tendons, therefore requiring you to purely use explosive muscle power to jump high.

4. Get Stronger Relative to Your Bodyweight
Strength is the underpinning factor for all athletic attributes. If you want to be explosive, you need to be strong. However, getting strong whilst adding weight to your frame is not what we want, more size means more mass to move, which is only going to decrease your ability to jump. Look to maximise your strength gains without adding lots of muscle size.
If you do manage to put on some unwanted size, then you need to see my next point!

Read: How Strong Do Athletes Need to Be?

5. Get Leaner
We all need to carry a certain level of body fat for optimal health, but carrying extra fat mass is just going to weigh you down and reduce jumping ability. Eat to get leaner and train with a focus on strength and power, you’ll see that jump height skyrocket quite quickly!

6. Improve Your Mobility
If you cannot fully extend through the hips, you’re leaking energy. Being tense and immobile through joints not only increases your risk of injury, but also decreases your efficiency and ability to perform.
So, make sure you’re working on loosening your hip flexors, lower back, hamstrings, glutes, quads, groins, and calves with a foam roller or lacrosse/tennis/golf ball. Then stretch out those shortened muscles to help improve your range of movement.

7. Don’t train to fatigue
When training to maximise your vertical jump, the goal is to improve power output, and power is the product of force and velocity. Once you start to fatigue in training, power output goes down. Why? Because the build-up of waste products in the muscle slows down the processes which cause energy to be released, and in turn reduces the ability to produce force and velocity, which will then reduce power.

So, there you have it, my top tips to improve your ability to jump high. Follow these tips consistently in your training and you’ll be well on your way to dunking that basketball!


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