Improving your vertical leap is easily one of the most powerful ways of transforming you from an average athlete into an exceptional athlete.
Overall, athletes who can jump higher than the competition tend to perform better on the court or on the field.
And, the good news is that with advancements in modern training, increasing your vertical is more straightforward than it has even been.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that getting a higher vertical is an easy task. You still have to do the training required.
However, by building a solid foundation for athletic ability, and using the right jump training program, you can definitely increase your jump height by at least 9-10″.
If you’re looking for a complete jump training program that will provide you with a detailed workout list and training schedule, I recommend going with Vert Shock, as it is the most well-organized jump training program currently available.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to put together your own program, you can use the list of exercises and methods below to help you improve your vertical.
I. The Basics
While starting off with a thorough jump-training program will help you improve your vertical leap, the truth is that you should first ensure that you have a solid foundation of athleticism before you go to a jump-specific program.
What that means is that, if you are out of shape, or you have a weak/underdeveloped lower body and core, you need to focus on those first before you start a jump-specific training program.
Below I will go over four basic methods of improving your vertical leap that all beginners should do before they undertake a jump-specific program.
1. Lose Weight
The heavier you are, the lower your vertical leap is going to be. If you are overweight, it is going to be harder to improve your vertical.
Therefore, before you start any jump-specific training program, you should focus on getting down to an ideal weight.
Also, since a lot of jump-specific programs require a lot of jump-oriented exercises (duh), which means that you will be making a lot of impact with the ground, the heavier you are, the harder those types of exercises will be on your joints.
So, losing weight before taking on a jump training program is also a good idea, as it will help you lower your risk for injury.
To lose weight, adhering to a healthy diet and incorporating cardio workouts, HIIT workouts, and fundamental strength-training workouts into your regimen will help you get down to an ideal weight.
2. Squats, Deadlifts, and Power Cleans
If you have underdeveloped lower body strength, you can significantly increase your jump height by strengthening your legs.
And, there is perhaps no better way to strengthen your lower body than to incorporate squats, deadlifts, and power cleans into your routine.
So, if you are looking to increase your jump height, but your squat, deadlift, and power clean are weak, your first step should be to improve them. Not only will improving these three lifts help your jump higher, but it will make you a much better athlete all-around as well.
3. STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE
Just as strengthening your lower body can help you jump higher, so, too, can strengthening your core.
Your core plays a large role in your body’s ability to jump and so the stronger it is, the higher you will be able to jump.
If you add squats, deadlifts, and power cleans into your regimen, those will go a long way to help in strengthening your core. However, you can also add in exercises like leg raises, reverse crunches, planks, etc.
II. Jump-Specific Exercises
If you already have a solid athletic foundation from which to work with, you can move on to either incorporating some jump-specific exercises into your regimen, or you can take up a jump-specific training program if your main goal is to maximize your jump height.
As I mentioned above, I recommend Vert Shock if your main goal is to improve your vertical leap. It offers a complete and well-organized program that is easy to follow. And, there are hundreds of testimonials that back-up its effectiveness.
With that being said, if you’re looking for some individual exercises to use in your own customized jump-training program, you can incorporate some of the following…
4. Depth Jumps
Depth jumps are performed by standing on a box, dropping off of it, and then as soon as you hit the ground, jumping up as high as you possibly can.
Depth jumps will build explosiveness, help you improve your vertical leap, and strengthen your lower body.
5. Knee-to-Feet Jumps
Knee-to-feet jumps are performed by starting out on your knees sitting back on your heels. You then swing your arms upward (to create momentum) and leap up from your knees to your feet, landing in a squat position.
Knee-to-feet jumps are another way to improve your explosiveness and, thus, your vertical leap. Athletes at Truman State University were asked to add Knee-to-Feet jumps to their regular sport-specific training. After 6-weeks, the athletes were evaluated and, on average, the group showed improvements in their vertical leap.
6. Squat Jumps
Squat jumps (or jump squats) are performed by squatting down and jumping up as high as you possibly can.
You can add weight to squat jumps as well, but this will increase the stress on your joints when you land and so it is important to only add weight if your lower body strength is advanced. And, you should also start off with light weight and add more weight in small increments.
7. Vertical Jumps
Vertical jumps are performed by simply jumping as high as you possibly can. These are just simple, straight forward, vertical jumps
The reasoning is simple here… if you want to be able to jump higher, practice jumping as high as you can.
8. 4-Corners Drill
The 4-Corners drill is performed by jumping back and forth between quadrants laid out on the ground.
There are many different variations of the 4-Corners drill (including doing it on one leg, and switching up the pattern of quadrants you jump into), but the main purpose of the drill is to develop quickness and speedy footwork. And, while you will get quicker doing this drill, it will also help you improve your vertical.
III. Unique Jump Training Methods & Exercises
If you’re looking for some alternative methods that will help you improve your vertical, this section is dedicated to exercises and strategies that aren’t commonly used in jump training programs.
This section consists of single exercises that can be incorporated into your regimen, to completely separate philosophies on how to improve your vertical (especially if you’re trying to dunk.)
9. Backward Medicine Ball Toss
To perform a backward medicine ball toss, you simply grab a medicine ball by the sides and toss it over your head as far as you can behind you.
The reason why the backward medicine ball toss is such a good exercise to incorporate into your jump training program is that it uses a very similar motion and group of muscles as is used when you jump. Ultimately, it will help you develop power and explosiveness.
10. Dumbbell/Kettlebell Swings
Dumbbell/kettlebell swings are performed by swinging a kettlebell up in front of you and back down between your legs.
Dumbbell/kettlebell swings offer a similar result to a backward medicine ball toss as they help build explosiveness and power and utilize a very similar motion.
11. Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarian split squats are performed by elevating one of your feet behind you on a bench or a box, and squatting down until your rear knee touches the ground. You can perform these with or without weights depending on your current lower body strength.
Bulgarian split squats will help you build single-leg strength and core strength, as well as help you develop better balance… all of which will help you jump higher.
12. Dunk Progression
This method does get mentioned from time-to-time, but I figured I’d throw it in here for those of you who may not have heard of it.
Essentially, the idea with Dunk Progression is that you start off dunking on a height that you can’t quite dunk on… If that sounds weird, it’s because you are probably thinking… “if I can’t quite dunk a basketball at a certain height, how am I going to start off dunking at that height?”
Well, the key is that you aren’t going to start off dunking a basketball. You’re going to start off dunking a golf ball. And, once you can easily dunk at that height with a golf ball, then you switch to a tennis ball, and then to a softball, and then to a mini basketball, all the way up until you can dunk at that height with a regular basketball.
It may not be as scientific as a full-on jump training program, but the theory behind it is sound… small gains add up over time.
13. Dunk With A Medicine Ball
Another variation of the Small-To-Large Dunk Progression is incorporating a medicine ball into the regimen. So, rather than starting at a height you can’t quite dunk a basketball at, you go down to a height you can comfortably dunk a basketball at, but instead of using a basketball, you dunk a medicine ball.
And, the idea here would be that, if you start out with a 6-pound medicine ball, you use that until you can dunk with it comfortably. Once you can dunk with it comfortably, you can move up to an 8-pound medicine ball.
You could continue up in medicine ball size until you get to 12-pounds or so, and then you can move up the rim height and start back at 6 pounds.
This one will take some playing with in order to find the optimal height and weight to start with.
14. Loosen Up Knots in Your Legs
To loosen up knots in your legs, get a foam roller (the deep tissue kind are the best) and put it under your legs and roll the part of your body you are focusing on over it. To target different parts of your legs (and body), you simply readjust your body so that you can “roll-out” all of your muscles.
Loosening up knots in your legs (and throughout your body) with a foam roller can release trigger points in your muscles, which will help you recover faster, reduce inflammation and scar tissue, and will improve your flexibility… all of which will help you jump higher.
Improve Your Vertical & Dominate
Whether you go with a proven jump training program like Vert Shock, or you incorporate some of the exercises and methods mentioned above, if you are a serious athlete, you need to be working on ways to improve your vertical leap.
The higher you are able to jump, the bigger the advantage you will have over the competition.