What Is The Best Vertical Jump Training Exercise?

You’ve seen this posted in tons of forums and websites:

The #1 vertical jump exercise!

Then the article is followed up by telling you the #1 exercise you should be doing to increase your vertical. There are a couple problems with this.
  1. Most of these articles are written by marketers, who know very little about vertical jump training, but then the buzz about their “#1vertical jump exercise” is propagated around the internet and reaches “doctrinal” status.
  2. This takes NO account for individuality in a vertical jump program.
For example the #1 exercise for one athlete may be an exercise that is almost completely useless to another athlete. It all depends on the lacking athletic attribute that will most needs improvement to yield the greatest gain.

Let’s make a couple categories so you can locate yourself here.

Before we start, let me say this: Your focus should never be on just one exercise or finding the secret exercise but on a comprehensive program that is going to get your the maximum amount of return for you hard work! Ok, with that out of the way let get to some specifics.  If you are…

Strong, but lacks speed and reactivity.

Strong but slowerDescription: This is the athlete that can squat 2X their body weight, they have been increasing in strength but NOT seen an increase in their vertical jump.  Obviously, the required strength IS available to over come the resistance of gravity and body weight, BUT the athlete is simply not able to use that strength in the short period of time that it takes to execute a vertical jump. This athlete also has a similar standing and approach vertical indicating that their approach jumping form, and their plyometrics (reactive ability) is under developed. Lacking Athletic Attributes – Jumping efficiency (jumping form and movement efficiency), plyometric ability (reactive strength), speed strength. What is the best vertical jump exercise for this type of athlete? First let me say that I would recommend a variety of exercise in order to address all the lacking athletic attributes.  but for the sake of this article… Weighted and non weighted box jumps: Why? This athlete clearly has strength that is lying dormant.  They have reach a very high level of relative strength (body weight to strength) but their movement efficiency and ability to use that strength quickly, as well as their reactive strength is simply not there. A box jump is going to address movement efficiency as the repeated jumping movement increases “familiarity” with the jumping movement.  Focus must be on maximum height per jump.  No more than 4 – 6 reps per set. Adding 10 – 40 pounds during the jump is going to add an additional element of speed strength, and help activate more muscle fibers during the jump.  This is a high level exercise and should only be emphasized for about 1/4 of the rep performed.   You want to “sprinkle” these throughout the training to create a “contrast” training environment and help the body to use more muscle fiber even where the additional resistance is not present. Lastly, a secondary focus on reducing ground contact time is going to increase the elastic qualities of the tendons and increase the athletes ability to return the energy from an approach jump. Additional Effective Jumping Exercises: Focus in resistance training should be on ballistic movements and explosive lifts, because a sufficient amount of maximum strength has been achieved. Hang Clean, Power Clean, Jump Squats, medicine ball throws should be the central part of a lifting program for this phase: I would also suggest daily practicing of the targeted movement/ jump.  1 leg, 2 leg, standing (depending on the sport) approaches at game speed.  The body needs to be extremely familiar with the movement in order to use more power.  Own that movement!

Fast and Quick Athlete, with lower strength levels, and much higher running jump then standing.

skinny fast vertical jumperDescription: You’ve seen athletes like this.  They aren’t very strong, skinny legs, and standing vertical is not impressive.  However, give them an approach and they seem to bounce off the ground. I’ve seen athletes that could 360 from a run, but couldn’t even dunk from a stand still. These athletes are deriving nearly all their power from well developed jumping efficiency, and high levels of plyometric/reactive ability. Athletes of this type are usually gym rats, who can’t lift if there is a hoop around to distract them. Lacking Athletic Attributes – Strength in all it’s flavors is lacking.  Low maximum strength or limit strength, means that explosive and starting strength are very low as well.  The only way to muster power is with a nice approach. These dunkers can often dunk if they get a free lane but will rarely dunk in a crowd. What is the best vertical jump exercise for this type of athlete? First let me say that I would recommend a variety of exercise in order to address all the lacking athletic attributes.  but for the sake of this article… Properly performed barbell back squat. Why? An well performed back squat is going to develop strength in the posterior chain and in the quadriceps.  Done with a high percentage of max squat (70% or greater) will yield the greatest strength gains.  Keep reps under 4 per set to move with higher speed and greater loads. Master the form, this is extremely important not only for safety, but also for correct gtargeting of the posterior chain, glutes etc..  Here is a post to help with form:

Vertical Jump Exercise: Squat

This type of athlete is usually quite active and jumping frequently during the week.  This will help to transfer the new strength gains into vertical jump gains. An athlete might be troubled when the day following their weight training they notice a slight drop in performance.  This is normal as the muscles have been broken down, and are being recovered and rebuilt.  This is the natural cycle of a strength gain. Additional Effective Jumping Exercises: 1 leg squats, leg press, jump squats, dead lift, hang clean, power clean, calf raise… These are all great exercises for increasing strength and developing  explosive strength. Many athletes and trainers HATE the leg press.  Leg press is an excellent way to develop increased quad strength especially when coupled with the squat.  Squat first, and leg press later.  All over forums you will hear that the leg press is worthless, it is not.  Coupled with the right training, it is  an excellent way to add inches to your vertical. I have worked with athletes who could not bear a spinal load who have 10 inched + from the leg press alone. In my opinion the leg press is no longer a debatable issue, it IS an effective compliment to a training regimen for targeting the quadriceps. Last category…  now I’m cheating here:

This is for the complete beginner, with low levels of quickness, plyometrics ability, and strength.

If you find yourself in this last category you need to be doing both of these exercises.  With a couple of notes…

  1. Do not add resistance on your plyometrics, you lack the strength to absorb such a load and it could result in injury.
  2. You can still do box jumps, EVEN if you do not squat 1.5 your body weight.  This number is arbitrary.
  3. As with any plyometrics cease the exercise if you feel undue strain on your joints or muscles.  Plyometrics, at any level is high intensity and it is best to use caution.
  4. Spend 2 – 4 weeks getting familiar with the exercises, gradually increase load, and intensity.

Some folks say  you should never do plyometrics unless you have 1.5 body weight squat.  This is a ridiculous number.  Anyone playing their sport is performing plyometrics during the game.  This would mean that anyone with a 1.5 body weight squat couldn’t play their sport!

If this is new to you keep your reps in the 8 – 10 range, with a focus on form, not load or intensity.  Only after you have mastered your form are you ready to add a greater load and perform at higher intensity.

 

Conclusion

I hope that this helped shed some light on the “Number one vertical jump exercise” dilemma.  It is most important to know where your weakness and focus on that weakness, while also building a comprehensive program.

While it is fun to talk about the #1 most effective vertical jump exercise, nothing can substitute a well rounded effective program.

For more information on my vertical jump program The Jump Manual Click Here

 

 

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If you have any questions PLEASE COMMENT AND I WILL RESPOND.

 

 

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VIDEO: 9 Things I Did To Jump Over 40 Inches

Article by Jacob Hiller

Jacob Hiller's best selling book "The Jump Manual" has been used and taught in over 30 countries and in 4 different languages and featured on ESPN and Fadeaway. Coach Hiller has worked with professional and Olympic level athletes and is currently touring the globe.

Jacob has written 268 awesome articles for us.

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