THE ONLY WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR VERTICAL JUMP
Without a doubt, all athletes out there, no matter the sport, want to improve their vertical jump and explosiveness.
You have heard and read so many different tips and magic regimens to help you improve this skill. From different exercises to secret formulas that concentrate on specific fibers in your body and have been developing over a decade.
This is not a magic formula, nor a secret that you are not aware of.
Being able to jump high is a result of a very simple concept.
You have to have strong elastic fibers in your legs that are responsible for the explosiveness.
Let’s see the two main factors that help an athlete jump higher.
Component one: Strength
Component two: Quickness
In order to jump higher, you need to optimize both factors.
The strength will give you the ‘’power’’ to win against your body weight. The quickness will help you win but in a fast way.
So basically, being explosive, thus being able to leap high is the ability to use your strength the fastest way you can.
If you think about a powerlifter performing a very heavy squat, what movement comes in your mind?
A slow painful movement that requires static strength to be completed.
Powerlifters can squat insane amounts of weights, but they can do it in a carefully, controlled slow way, taking care of their posture and form. No powerlifter can return to the initial position after the squat in a fast way.
That is explosiveness.
If you improve your quickness and agility and you focus of your strength where it’s needed, it is guaranteed that you will jump higher, no matter how ‘’unathletic’’ or not ‘’gifted’’ you think you are.
What is the vertical jump and which muscles are involved?
It is a plyometric movement that is fast, powerful and explosive. The vertical jump is incorporated in any type of workout.
- The movement starts with a hip extension. It is the standing up movement after you have been sitting in a chair. This extension is the first step of the movement before you get into the jumping phase. The muscles involved are of course the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, the gluteus maximus, the long head of the biceps femoris and the adductor Magnus. You can look those muscles up separately in a simple search for the anatomy of the upper leg and gluteal region.
- Subsequently, we have the knee extension movement, which is the straightening movement of the knee. This movement happens almost at the same time with the hip extension and that is why quickness is a very important aspect. The main muscles involved in knee extension are the quadriceps femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis. All of these muscles work hand in hand to perform this movement.
- We then perform ankle plantarflexion which is the last movement you perform using your lower part of your legs before leaving the ground. The muscles involved are the gastrocnemius and soleus as well as the large calf muscles.
- Lastly, the jump movement can be performed either by moving your arms or not. If you are moving your arms during your vertical jump then the muscles involved are of course the abduction and flexion of the shoulder. These are the deltoids, supraspinatus, and pectoralis major.
Let’s move into the first step of what you can do and where you should focus on starting your journey towards improving your vertical jump.
Be aware that it is not a very short journey as we mentioned that what you need to do is become stronger.
And getting stronger means getting stronger gradually but steadily. And if done consistently then you will not be disappointed.
Start by improving your jump little by little than trying to achieve the end goal right away.
Simply because you will be disappointed, and then probably quit trying.
You cannot reach your end goal by increasing let’s say by 20 inches right away. Focus on the first 5 inches and then another 5 inches and keep going.
It also depends on what kind of jump you want to achieve.
Do you want to jump high to dunk or just be able to conquer that box jump goal you have set in your mind?
No matter what the goal and purpose are, you need to start by doing high intensity and low reps exercises.
How to achieve strength, the first part of the equation.
Let’s start with squats. Nobody can argue that squats strengthen your legs and those muscle fibers that are fired up when you perform a jump.
Squats, however, work differently in everybody. Due to the different body structures we all have, the length and mechanics of our extremities, as well as the flexibility which is different in everyone, the squat can be useless or of low importance to you. It might be the key to improve your strength.
This is something that you need to know based on your body structure.
Nevertheless, squats must be in the center of your exercise routine as they incorporate most muscles that exist on our lower body.
The squatting exercise if done correctly is one of the best ways to gain strength and power. Quads, hamstrings, and glutes are the main muscles involved in this movement and they all have a major impact on improving the vertical jump.
Start by setting up the squat rack and get hold of it as wide as you feel more comfortable and secure. Step under it and place the bar between your traps. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to provide more support. The bar should be resting on the soft part of your traps and not on the higher part of your neck where the spine starts.
Then get the bar out of the rack, move carefully two or three steps back and set your feet as wide as your shoulders. Your toes should face slightly outward. Keep your whole core tight, squeeze your glutes and pin the heels on the ground. Take a deep breath and pull your ribs down so your torso creates a solid column.
Bend your hips back and spread your knees apart while going down. You can go as low as you feel comfortable but keeping your head spine and pelvis in one straight line.
Make sure you keep your heels on the floor and keep the bar weight over your midfoot. Not solely on your heels or on toes. If you feel that your heels are lifting off the floor it simply means that the weight is unbalanced falling forward.
2. REARFOOT ELEVATED SPLIT SQUAT
Τhis exercise is one of the most effective ones when it comes to building glute and quad strength. As a result, it is one of the most crucial exercises to enhance your jumping performance. Even if you are used to jumping with both feet, the Bulgarian Split squat will help you strengthen one leg at a time and compensate for your weaker leg when you are performing the movement.
This exercise is perfect for people that suffer from back pains as you maintain a more upright posture during the squat. You also get less pressure down the lumbar spine which ultimately is the cause of back injuries and pain.
3. DEPTH JUMP
This exercise teaches you how to fire your muscles as fast as possible after landing from a higher level.
When you are standing on a box that is approximately 30 inches high (or lower if you are new to this) you step off that box using one leg at a time following with the other leg and drop yourself to the floor.
This movement does not incorporate jumping off the box but more like stepping/ dropping yourself off it. Your body should be straight and arms at your sides.
Once you step off the box and land on the floor on both feet you jump immediately as high as you can. You have to try and concentrate and spend as little time on the floor as possible and as soon as you land you jump as high in the air as you can. This time should be less than a second. Do this as many times as you can and do not rush.
You need to teach yourself to be explosive and this will be improved day by day.
What happens with the death jump is that the muscles of your legs are stretched suddenly when you land, producing a very strong shortening of the fibers that are fired up in explosive movements.
4. POWER HIGH PULL
This movement is a variation of the Olympic lifting and it is very effective in building strength. The sudden forceful movement has a great positive impact on your vertical jump as it focuses on strengthening the muscle fibers that give you the explosiveness you need.
You start the exercise by loading a barbell on the floor. Your arms should be shoulder width before you grab the bar.
Bend your knees and lower your hips as you would deadlift being very careful of your back so it will not be rounded.
You then grasp the bar with a firm grip and start the movement of bringing up the bar having your core tight.
Inhale and with an explosive movement extend your hips and knees and pull the bar straight in front of you as high as your shoulders. For a split second, you should be on your toes.
Breathe out and let the bar fall down to the floor.
This is an explosive lift and the main reason for incorporating it in your routine is that it is safe for your lower back, strengthens your core and targets those muscle fibers that are responsible for explosiveness.
As we already mentioned, jumping high is the result of a two-part equation. Strength and Quickness.
Let’s see what you can do to become faster.
The speed of your movements is something you can definitely train. Training for explosiveness is equally important as training for strength. One does not work without the other.
In order for a juAlways wanted to dunk like a badass?mp to be effective, the athlete must stay in the ground for at least 0.5 seconds before he/she explodes up in the air. Any other number above this mark will not generate enough force.
The best way you can improve this is by performing high-velocity strength exercises.
Best Exercises for Speed
1. CHAIN SQUATS
You have probably seen people performing the classic back squat movement but with the addition of chains.
What is the purpose you might wonder? Is it just the addition of extra weight? Obviously not. If it was just the addition of extra weight, then you would probably add a couple more plates on your barbell.
The purpose of the chains hanging on the sides of the barbell and touching the ground has a very specific purpose.
They build speed strength and power. And there Is no other tool for this purpose.
The chains add resistance, they reduce the deceleration phase when you reach lockout, and as you lower the bar the chains de-load making the weight lighter.
The same way as you go up the chains reloads adding more weight.
Once you start performing squats with chains more frequently you will notice that your speed will increase and you will start to explode the bar up way faster.
Next time you do squats just perform 3 sets with half the maximum weight you normally do.
Then add approximately 10 kilos of chain on both sides and do three more sets.
You will be impressed with what will happen.
The movement right up will feel much lighter with the chains that without them.
2. HURDLE HOP
This is another plyometric exercise where you have to jump over 5 to 15 hurdles and lift your knees towards your chest in the air.
This exercise will also train your muscle fibers that are responsible for your explosiveness thus your vertical jump.
The faster and more agile you become, the better your vertical jump will be.
Start less than half a body length away from the first hurdle and keep your core tight and straight with your head up high.
The hurdles will be approximately knee or waist height.
Bend your knees, keep your core tight, try not to bend forward with your upper body and without squatting too far look up and hop towards the first hurdle.
Land on the balls of your feet and go for the next hurdle immediately. Do not stop between them and try not to touch your heels on the ground.
If you touch the hurdles while jumping, then this means they are too high for you.
3. OVERHEAD MEDICINE BALL THROW
This is another great exercise to improve your overall performance including speed, strength, and flexibility.
Performing overhead med ball throw will increase your power in lower body muscles, it will increase your strength in your back and core muscles and improve your coordination of muscle activation.
It will also increase your explosiveness and help with the power high pull that we mentioned in the strength building exercises.
In order to perform it, you should keep a natural posture holding the ball at chest height and with your arms extended.
Go into a semi-squat position and bring the ball between your legs.
Jump as explosively as you can out of the squat position throwing the medicine ball over your head to a training partner or against the wall.
All these exercises are proven to help to increase your speed and improve your vertical jump.
You need to put thinking in every single one and teach your body to use your strength in an explosive way.
It is the same way as training a specific muscle and you are putting all the thinking and concentrate on this particular muscle when you are doing an exercise.
The same way you will have to put some thinking into using your strength FAST.
The fast-twitch muscle fibers are not in an irreversible state.
You can turn slow-twitch muscle fibers into fast-twitch by performing strength and speed exercises and order your muscles to move faster.
THE RUSSIAN SHOCK TRAINING CONCEPT
It was back in the ’50s and 60’s when Russian athletes were using the shock training method. It was introduced by Dr. Verkhoshansky.
The main simple idea was that when you jump off an object and you land, your muscles experience a shock.
This shock feeling is sending stronger than normal impulse through the muscles.
As you consistently increase that impulse over time you jump higher, and faster.
The main idea is to teach your nervous system to react in a stronger way when you jump and make you quicker overall.
Plyometric exercises are more like an adjusted Russian shock method, that include many variations of the same exercises with the same goal.
To teach you to use shock training correctly. This is the only way to target your elastic fibers and become stronger and quicker.