For most people, a vertical jump is something they might have to do to reach a tin of soup on the top shelf of their food cupboard. Beyond that, they will have no concept whatsoever of how the vertical jump plays a major role in may sporting activities, and that there are many aspects to it in terms of techniques and the physiology involved in the jump.
In this article, we are going to take an in-depth look at the vertical jump, including its use in sport, the technique of vertical jumping, and most important of all, take you through several ways of how you can improve your vertical jump.
Sports Where Vertical Jumping is Essential
We mentioned in the introduction that most people are unaware of how the vertical jump contributes to many sports. For them, jumping is something they can do, but rarely have to. If you participate in sports and physical exercise then you should know how big a part vertical jumping plays in many sports, and the ability to it better than others can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Many ball sports require the ability to jump well, with two of the primary ones being soccer and American football. In soccer, being able to jump higher than an opponent means you have a better chance of heading the ball above them, which can mean either scoring a goal or preventing one if you are a defender. Goalkeepers, in particular, heavily rely on the ability to jump as high as they can when trying to catch a cross ball from the attacking team.
American football might seem a sport that relies mostly on throwing, running and catching, but a player who can jump higher than others has a huge advantage. Think of all the first downs and touchdowns you have seen which happened due to the fact that the receiving player managed to jump high enough to catch a high throw from their quarterback.
Of course, the ball sport which we most associate the ability to vertical jump making a massive difference to a player’s contribution, is basketball. This is a sport where height is an advantage, but even more so is the ability to jump higher than the person next to you.
Catching long throws, leaping and dunking the ball in the basket, retrieving rebounds from the backboard, and intercepting high passes from opponents, are just some of the game plays where players’ vertical jumping abilities make the difference between success and failure
Adjust Your Attitude Before Improving Your Body
Before we look at the physical aspects of vertical jumping, we first want to touch on the mental ones, and specifically your belief system. Many of you reading this will have had their vertical jump measured, and there may be a figure in your head of this being your absolute maximum. But is it?
The thing about improving anything to do with sports and physical activity and achieving something that you haven’t previously is that you first must believe that you can so. In other words, no matter how many exercises, routines, and workouts you do to try and improve, if in your mind you think you have already reached your limit, then the chances of moving forward in any way are severely compromised.
A classic example of this is the four-minute mile. For years, so-called experts, and athletes alike thought that the chance of anyone being able to run a mile in less than four minutes was virtually impossible. That was until Roger Bannister did exactly that on May 6th, 1954 at Oxford University. Now that the myth had been dispelled within 46 days some else ran a sub-4-minute mile, and within a year three runners did it in the same race.
The point here is that there wasn’t some wonder potion that athletes starting drinking in 1954 that enabled their bodies to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. What changed is that instead of believing it couldn’t be done, they started to believe that it could.
More than that, these individuals believed that they personally could do it, and they proved themselves right when they did. Nowadays a mile run in less than 4 minutes is commonplace with literally thousands having achieved it, and one of the factors being that they believe they could in the first place.
So, when it comes to improving your vertical jump, the question you must ask yourself is ‘Have I put a limit on how high I can jump?’ In other words, have you reached a vertical jumping height, and said to yourself that that is high as you can go?
If so, you need to change the narrative in your head and tell yourself that you can jump higher. More than that, you must believe that you can jump higher, because if your mind doesn’t believe you can jump higher, neither will your body.
The Physiology Behind the Vertical Jump
Before we give you some specific routines and exercises for improving your vertical jump, it will help you understand how they can improve it by looking at the physical aspects of jumping and those which you can affect and those which you can’t.
The first is genetics, which as you probably know is down to who your parents are, so there is not a lot you do about that. Unfortunately, this means that if your genetics are not really geared towards jumping high, then you are going to have to put a lot of work into improving the other factors which can improve it.
One factor that influences the height you can jump is the velocity which you are able to generate through your center of gravity. Obviously, the more velocity you can create, the higher the chance of you reaching a greater height. This principle applies in other jumping disciplines such as the long jump, whereby an athlete tries to be running as fast as they can at the take-off point.
Another factor will be the mass of the person jumping. Obviously, someone who is carrying more weight needs more energy to lift their body to a certain height than someone who weighs less. There are other factors at play here in terms of muscle mass but generally the lighter you are the easier it is for you to jump higher.
Finally, there are the core physical aspects which are your muscles and joints. Healthy joints provide the flexibility required for you to bend your knees for example, and to swing your arms for leverage. Strong and powerful muscles give you that impulse and acceleration that being able to jump high requires.
While many of these will rely on your workouts and exercise routine, we must not forget that how nutritious the food you eat is will play a big role as well. No amount of exercise can undo the harm caused by a diet that is full of unhealthy foods such as burgers and fries. If you would like more information on nutrition that can help your vertical jump, then check out ‘The Jump Manual’ which has an entire section on this subject, as well as a ton of routines to help you improve your jumps.
Routines and Exercise to Improve Your Vertical Jump
So, your mind believes you can jump higher, and you are eating a healthy and nutritious diet, which is great, but what now? Well, to take your jumps to the next level, literally, you need to follow a program of exercises that will condition your body to jump higher. Below we have outlined several which are relatively easy but more importantly they can produce results.
The amount of force which your legs can produce is directly related to the power and strength of your muscles so here are three exercises designed to work on these.
Simply stand on a flat surface and raise your heels so that your standing on the balls of your feet. Hold for two or three seconds and then lower your heels. Repeat five times.
For this, you will need either a set of weights or you could set up homemade weights using a strong broom handle and two buckets of sand. Hold the weight across your shoulders, behind your neck and then slowly lower yourself to the squat position. Do these two or three times, rest, and repeat this rep up to ten times.
Single Leg Squats
A variation on the previous exercise but with this, you are working on one leg at a time. The leg which you are not working on should be rested on a chair or bench behind you while you squat and exercise the other leg.
For this exercise, you will need dumbbells or kettlebells. It allows you to work several muscle areas including your shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings. Stand with your legs apart and then holding a weight in each hand, swing them forward to your eye level and then backward, through your legs as far as you can go. As you go backward bend your knee, and ensure you keep your back straight.
Plyometric exercises have become an essential part of the training routine for athletes who rely upon their ability to jump well to be successful at their chosen sport. Not surprisingly plyometric exercises involve a lot of jumping and here are some you should try.
It stands to reason that if you going to improve your vertical jump, that you practice it. basically, you jump from a standing position and try to reach as high a height as you can.
Yes, you jump like a frog! From a squatting position, you jump forward, but rather than trying to jump high, you are looking to jump the furthest distance you can. Focus on how you are propelling yourself forward using your arms. Each rep should include 5 to 10 jumps.
You are going to need a platform, box or bench. Make sure whichever you use is secure and won’t move when you jump on it. You might want to start with something low to begin with, and then progress to higher platforms. Try 6 inches, then 12 inches and so on. Basically, what you do is a jump from a standing start onto the platform, and then jump back down to the position you started in.
Here you get into the same position as you would for a vertical jump. Using as much power as you can, jump in the air, and try to bring your knees up as close to your chest as possible.
Flexibility and Stretching
While power and jumping ability are important, a body that is flexible gives you a much better chance of jumping higher. The important aspect of these exercises is that you do not stretch while standing still but try to flex while on the move or during a jump.
There are four muscle groups you should focus on for flexibility and stretching exercise. These are your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quads.
With your arms by your sides, take a large step forward and then lunge so that your front leg is bent at the knee, and your rear leg is behind you. Try to keep your body aligned rather than twisting. Repeat this between 5 and 10 times.
Stand on your right leg, and then swing your left leg at its full extent forward as though kicking a soccer ball, and then swing as far back as you can. Then switch leg so that you are now standing on your left leg and are swinging your right leg. Repeat up to 10 repetitions.
By now, you will hopefully have concluded that improving your vertical jump is a combination of physical exercise routines, the correct mindset, and also ensuring that you fuel your body correctly by eating a balanced and nutritious diet. If you want more information on all of these then ‘The Jump Manual‘ is a great place to start. It has an exercise video library, workouts, nutritional guidance, and lots more advice to help improve your vertical jump.