5 Tips to improve your Vertical Jump

Every athlete I have ever worked with wants to get faster, quicker, improve their speed. Before I discuss the 5 things you must do to improve your vertical jump I want to briefly explain how we test power output at Zenith Strength and the rationale behind the tests.

We test the vertical jump using the JUST JUMP mat to see how much force the athlete can produce. Based on the results we determine if the athlete needs to improve relative strength, upper body strength or the stretch shortening reflex.

We have the athlete perform 3 different types of jumps.

  1. A squat jump with the hands behind the head
  2. A counter movement jump using the arms to swing up as the athlete jumps.
  3. The counter movement jump with a step.

If that athlete has a low squat jump we will focus on improving the athlete’s relative strength with dead-lifting or squatting variations, which will improve ground force production.

If the athlete has a low counter movement jump we will add heavy chin up and pull-ups to improve upper body strength and help with the counter swing movement, in addition to lower body work.

And finally a low counter movement jump with a step means we have to focus on improving the stretch reflex through repeated jumps, broad jumps or depth jumps to a box.

Here are five tips that help improve your vertical jump in no particular order. Keep in mind that these are general recommendations. You should be implementing the strength training, plyometric work and mobility work, in your program.

  1. Increase your relative lower body strength.
  2. Improve your hip/posterior chain strength.
  3. Perform body weight jump variations
  4. Improve your hip flexion mobility
  5. Increase your relative upper body pulling strength.

In order to enhance your vertical jump you need to increase the amount of force you produce. The best way to do this is to improve your relative lower body strength.
We use the trap bar deadlift since it is easy to teach and feels natural for the athletes.

We also use squatting variations such as box squats which improves starting strength, since you are pausing on the box and then driving up using your hips.

Training to increase hip/posterior chain strength is essential as hip strength is necessary for a powerful jump. We use glute/ham raises to strengthen the hamstrings and glutes.  We also use hip thrusts and weighted bridges which I learned about from Bret Contreras. The common misconception is that you need to strengthen the quads and calves to jump higher. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. You will see much greater gains in vertical jump and sprint performance by strengthening the hip complex.

Here’s what a barbell hip thrust looks like.

The video below is an example of some of the plyometric training we perform. We use box jumps and resisted jump training with the vertimax.

In order to integrate your hips and sit back during the loading phase of the jump you must have adequate hip flexor mobility. In fact Joe Defranco, one of the most respected strength coaches in the field insists that stretching out the hip flexors prior to testing your vertical can add some height. He teaches this technique to football players to use at the NFL combine for the jump testing portion.

Here’s a good hip flexor stretch:

And finally improving relative upper body pulling strength using chin ups and pull-ups will help with the counter movement arm swing portion of the jump. In addition there is also a high correlation between sprinting speed and relative upper body strength with pull-ups.

Add these training ideas into your program and watch your vertical jump improve dramatically.

Train Hard!

Shyam

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