The highest vertical jump I ever personally recorded for myself was 37 inches, and I am incredibly proud of this feat.
A lot of people know this about me already, but if you don’t, it is important for you to understand that I was not born a great athlete.
In high school, I was known for being the 6’ 9” kid who could barely dunk!
Fast forward to college basketball, and I was known for being one of the most athletic centers in the country!
Then, in 2015, while I was playing for the Detroit Pistons in the NBA summer league, I recorded a 37” vertical jump!
Since I attended the Winchendon School for prep/boarding school, I have slowly transformed myself from a soda and chips-loving teenager to an athletic professional basketball player with a nearly decade-long career (that is still going!).
I am fully aware that being 6’ 10” has helped me become a professional athlete, but without the right type of training and work ethic, my height would amount to about nothing.
I know there are a few first-hand witnesses to the fact that in my senior year of high school, I literally missed multiple dunk attempts in games due to the fact that I could barely jump over a yellow phone book (thank my high school basketball coach for that phrase).
Since then, however, I have worked my way to a personal best of a 37-inch standing vertical leap and have proved myself capable of playing at the highest level of professional basketball.
Check out this video from a game in the 2018-2019 season when I had 7 blocks!
How Can You Increase Your Vertical Jump?
My ability to significantly improve my vertical jump was largely due to training intensity, yet training intelligently was equally crucial.
To significantly enhance your vertical jump, the principle key lies in one shared attribute across all athletic functions, whether it’s speed, power, or the vertical jump: variation.
Regardless of the vertical jump workout program you’re adhering to, the consistent incorporation of novel and unique exercises will aid your body in overcoming plateaus.
Variation can manifest in several diverse forms as well.
Implementing a distinct range of motion, resistance, or balance, can each independently challenge you, pushing your body to function more efficiently.
For the quickest possible improvement in your vertical jump, consider the following tips:
While plyometric exercises weren’t the only tool I used, they undeniably contributed to my progress.
Exercises like box jumps, broad jumps, and jump squats, all forms of plyometrics, offer substantial benefits relating to explosive compound movements.
Such movements are usually performed with body weight or minimal loads, and the primary objective of engaging in this form of training is to condition your body for maximum force production within a minimal time.
Typically, reps are kept low while intensity and effort are prioritized.
Efforts should be made to execute each movement as explosively as possible, which aids in maximizing vertical jump enhancements.
Incorporating targeted and intense plyometric training at specific intervals in your workout routine and training cycle can significantly benefit your running and jumping abilities.
Our muscular system comprises both fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers, with the former being the strongest and largest fibers in our body.
Fast-twitch muscle fibers are conditioned through heavy lifting, explosive movements, and anaerobic activities.
Slow-twitch muscle fibers, on the other hand, are built for endurance. For most athletes, the fast-twitch muscle fibers are crucial!
Plyometric training exercises like broad jumps and box jumps help enhance efficiency and strength by developing fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Proper plyometric training can elevate an average athlete to great heights, just as ineffective training can limit a great athlete from achieving their full potential.
Some trainers and coaches tend to avoid plyometric training, considering the movements too challenging to teach and potentially dangerous. However, without plyometric training, your body may not reach its maximum explosive potential.
While I’m not one to include an excessive variety of plyometric exercises in a single workout, targeted plyometric training definitely plays a crucial role in my workout routines.
Practicing broad jumps and box jumps will help you learn proper jumping and landing technique, making these movements more natural and safe when you are competing in physical sports.
Furthermore, you want to make sure you can have adequate recovery time after a period of prolonged plyometric exercise training.
Based on research published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, both four-week and seven-week plyometric training programs yield comparable results in terms of enhancing vertical jump height, vertical jump power, and anaerobic power, provided they’re succeeded by a four-week rest period.
Nonetheless, without the implementation of this recovery time, the four-week regimen may not be as beneficial as the seven-week program.
Plyometric exercises are a necessity for many athletes, but need to be programmed intelligently.
Although it is not my favorite form of vertical jump training, it is still crucial.
If your strength and conditioning coach has you routinely just jumping over objects or trying to perform maximal height box jumps, you are risking injury for very little reward.
My strategy with plyometric exercises is to always perform them in correlation with strength exercises, to maximize the production of fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Why do we do plyometric exercises like box jumps or broad jumps?
Primarily, plyometric exercises such as broad jumps and box jumps enable you to leverage the stretch-shortening cycle of your legs, thereby enhancing the use of elastic energy.
With that in mind, here are the three best plyometric exercises for increasing your vertical jump:
Box jumps are a jumping exercise where an athlete projects from the ground and lands on an elevated box.
Although it may seem elementary, there is more to box jumps than you see from a distance.
The execution of box jumps involves numerous factors that can contribute to either excellent or poor results, including the risk of injury.
- Do you walk, run, or jump from a static position onto the box?
- Are you propelling off one or two feet, and is the jump initiated from a countermovement or a static stance?
- How high is the box?
- What is your motivation for performing box jumps?
Effectively answering these questions will significantly influence the results you get from this plyometric exercise.
Here is a video showcasing me performing some basic box jumps during my recovery from an ankle injury in 2015:
In general, there are a variety of benefits of doing box jumps.
Box jumps help boost your strength and muscle tone, building both your upper and lower body strength.
By compelling you to jump as high as possible, every muscle in your legs, along with your arms, is engaged to propel your body upwards.
Box jumps rank among the most effective ways to burn calories.
During a jump, your body can burn approximately 800 to 1,000 calories per hour, compared to the 200 to 300 calories burnt per hour walking.
High-intensity jumping, including broad jumps and box jumps, prompts significant changes in mitochondria (where fuel is converted into energy), causing your body to burn fat before carbohydrates – a considerable advantage for weight loss.
Although it’s unlikely you’ll jump at high intensity for an entire hour, the concept is clear!
You can utilize a sufficiently high bench or any other securely fixed structure for box jumps. There’s no need for specific equipment, making the exercise quite adaptable.
Box jumps aid in enhancing your vertical jump, endurance, speed, and coordination, all of which contribute to improving performance in any sports activity.
For efficient use of box jumps and maximum results, consider these points:
Begin in an athletic stance, ensuring your feet are shoulder-width apart. Maintain a comfortable distance from the box.
Once ready, quickly drop into a squat position and extend your hips. Swing your arms and push your feet through the floor to propel yourself onto the box.
Aim for a quiet and soft landing to minimize impact on your tendons, ligaments, joints, and bones.
Ensure sufficient distance from the box to prevent hitting it during the arm swing.
Begin with low boxes before gradually progressing to higher ones. Maintaining proper form is key!
Box jumps can be incorporated at almost any point in a workout, but they’re particularly effective when your legs are freshest, enabling explosive performance.
For a more challenging variation, there are advanced versions. For instance, here’s a single-leg box jump variation I employed during my ankle rehabilitation back in 2015:
The primary advantage of the broad jump lies in its ability to enhance explosive strength and the speed of your jumps.
Also known as standing long jumps, this exercise is invaluable for any athlete needing to quickly lift their feet off the ground, either vertically or horizontally.
By incorporating broad jumps into your exercise regimen, you establish a functional approach to improve overall performance.
To enhance your broad jump performance, perfecting the movement is crucial.
This can be achieved through repetitive practice, exerting full force on each repetition.
Another way to improve your broad jump involves adding resistance to your movements.
Using bungees to create resistance is a viable option, provided you maintain proper technique.
Broad jumps can also be performed uphill for added resistance.
I often perform broad jumps uphill on grassy slopes, as this method also helps reduce landing force.
Performing broad jumps this way necessitates greater force, introducing a unique stimulus to the exercise!
Perhaps the most significant benefit of broad jumps is the improvement of fast-twitch muscle fiber reaction it produces.
Similar to other plyometric exercises, broad jumps require your leg and core muscles to contract quickly, helping generate maximum force with each leap.
Including one or two plyometric exercises per week can notably boost your explosive strength, which in turn will positively influence your sprinting and jumping performance.
For a challenging and advanced variation of the traditional broad jump, check out this video:
Another straightforward plyometric exercise to consider is the jump squat!
While many variations exist, the basic jump squat remains just as effective.
I view this exercise as a precursor to the box jump and broad jump, given that the jump squat involves a simple vertical leap.
This exercise is an exceptional plyometric activity and doesn’t require any equipment.
Once you’ve mastered the basic jump squat, you might consider more challenging variations.
Take a look at the jump squat variations below that incorporate kettlebells.
These three exercises effectively challenge the body in distinctive ways, each carrying immense benefits for enhancing your vertical jump.
These exercises are centered around one primary movement, the Burpee/Jump Squat, illustrating how subtle variations can lead to significantly different training impacts.
The first exercise is essentially a “Tri-set,” with resistances changing for each set of five.
For the first kettlebell, I use the medium weight of my three, weighing 14kgs.
The second weight I utilize necessitates a much broader range of motion since it’s a dumbbell (not a kettlebell), and it is the lightest of the three, at 20lbs.
The final weight is the heaviest overall with the least range of motion. This kettlebell is taller than the first, further reducing the range of motion, but it’s nearly 10lbs heavier!
Note that it’s unnecessary to go excessively heavy with any of these exercises. As demonstrated earlier, the jump squat generally correlates better with power outputs at lower resistances.
Avoid the temptation to work with excessive weight and risk an injury.
The alternating range of motion and resistances directly target the enhancement of leg power, which translates to substantial benefits for your vertical jump!
The second exercise keeps the same weight throughout the set but includes a hurdle step between each burpee/jump squat.
Training this particular step proves invaluable for both vertical jump and speed training as it enhances the functional capacity of the hip flexor.
Incorporating this dynamic movement stimulates the hip flexor and its associated muscles, as well as all components of the gluteus.
This approach to the KettleBell Burpee/Jump Squat allows your glutes and hips to function more fluidly than in other variations, which carries significant benefits due to this!
The final exercise becomes more challenging due to an added endurance factor and distinct muscle stimulation.
By “yoke” carrying the kettlebells back and forth, your gluteus muscles are significantly activated, and your legs are stimulated with each step.
Walking to and fro with the weights in a racked position like this is immensely metabolically stimulating, as a substantial number of muscles are engaged.
This ties in superbly with vertical jump improvements as your muscle endurance is put to the test throughout the set and you’re still required to perform a loaded jump every 20 yards!
Always keep the weight at a manageable level, and do not do any exercises where your form cannot be nearly perfect.
Plyometric training in water is incredibly beneficial, and all you need is a pool deeper than your waist.
Land plyometrics can be tough on joints and taxing on your Central Nervous System, restricting your training to once or twice a week.
Aquatic plyometrics, however, are gentler on the joints and can be more effective, as a study published in The Journal of Sport Rehabilitation suggests.
This training method has been shown to improve sprint speed, vertical jump, and strength in young athletes.
Several exercises, such as tuck jumps, vertical jumps, single leg bounds, and lateral bounds, can be performed in a pool with minimal space and high effectiveness.
Aquatic plyometrics also promote less muscular fatigue and can be done more frequently than land plyometrics, as stated by a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
In addition to the above, aquatic plyometrics offer several benefits:
- Enhanced Joint Function: Water training allows your muscles and joints to lengthen efficiently, leading to proper movement patterns and reduced strain.
- Improved Peak Power: This training method reduces the time between eccentric and concentric contractions, boosting muscle speed and power.
- Stability: The water aids in stabilizing the knee, hip, and ankle joints.
- Injury Prevention: Studies show a decrease in acute knee injuries and improved vertical jump performance with aquatic plyometric training.
- Reduced Impact: The water’s density and buoyancy counteract gravity, lowering the overall impact on your body.
Aquatic training can also significantly burn calories without stressing bones or joints, making it a fantastic choice for athletes recovering from injuries.
Moreover, it stimulates blood flow, improving overall body health.
I adopted aquatic plyometric training at 19, and it incredibly boosted my vertical leap by about 8 inches in a summer of intense use.
As my abilities grew, so did my methods.
I genuinely believe any athlete can benefit from incorporating aquatic plyometrics into their training program.
Strength training is crucial in enhancing your vertical jump because strength forms the foundation upon which power and explosiveness are built.
According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a combination of squat and plyometric exercises led to more significant improvements in vertical jump performance than using either exercise type alone.
The participants who incorporated both exercises increased their vertical jump by an average of 10.67 centimeters.
In contrast, those who did only squats or plyometrics increased their jump by 3.30 and 3.81 centimeters, respectively.
This study suggests that both strength and power exercises are critical in maximizing hip and thigh power production, which are essential components of vertical jumping ability.
When it comes to designing a strength training program specifically for vertical jump improvements, it’s crucial to consider a few key factors:
- Compound Exercises: Choose compound exercises that work multiple muscles and joints at once. These mimic the mechanics of a vertical jump better than isolated exercises. Examples include squats, lunges, and deadlifts.
- Balanced Training: Avoid focusing solely on your leg muscles. Core strength and upper body power also contribute to a high vertical jump. Include exercises that strengthen your core and upper body in your program.
- Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to continuously challenge your muscles and stimulate growth and strength increases. This can be achieved by adding more weight, increasing the number of sets or repetitions, or decreasing rest time between sets.
- Recovery: Don’t neglect recovery. Your muscles need time to repair and grow stronger. Ensure you’re getting adequate rest, nutrition, and are implementing mobility exercises to maintain flexibility and prevent injuries.
The posterior chain – a group of muscles comprising the glutes, hamstrings, calves, and lower back – is crucial for athletes, especially when it comes to jumping higher.
These muscles are primarily responsible for propelling your body upward and forward during a jump.
Therefore, including posterior chain exercises like deadlifts, good mornings, glute bridges, hamstring curls, and calf raises in your training program can help build a powerful posterior chain, significantly enhancing your vertical jump performance.
As always, focusing on proper form is crucial to avoid injury and ensure optimal muscle activation during these exercises.
In practical terms, an effective workout session designed to improve vertical jump could begin with a warm-up, followed by strength exercises such as back squats, then transitioning into power exercises like jump squats, and concluding with a proper cool-down and stretching.
The key to a successful strength training program for vertical jump improvement lies in a balanced approach that incorporates a variety of exercises and focuses on both strength and power development.
Always prioritize proper form and technique over the weight being lifted to prevent injury and maximize effectiveness.
Olympic lifts, including the clean and jerk and power snatch, can provide significant improvements to your vertical jump.
However, these exercises require careful execution as improper form can lead to injuries.
If you’re unfamiliar with these movements, it’s advisable to start with light weights and perfect your technique before adding more weight.
The effectiveness of Olympic lifts in enhancing the vertical jump is confirmed by a study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
It found that a combined training program incorporating traditional weightlifting exercises, Olympic-style lifts, and plyometric drills led to significantly greater improvements in vertical jump performance and leg strength.
Unstable Surface Training
Incorporating training on unstable surfaces like grass can be beneficial for several reasons.
First, the softer surface is more forgiving on your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.
Secondly, the natural instability of such surfaces can aid in developing stronger and more naturally adaptive joints.
As your body naturally adjusts to the uneven ground, you could see faster strength gains in your joints compared to training exclusively on flat, stable surfaces.
After an ankle injury, for instance, training on grass can expedite recovery and stability.
Weaknesses in your lower body, whether they are in your ankles, knees, hips, or lower back, can hinder your running speed and vertical jump height.
Give a full workout on real grass a try and witness the potential benefits for yourself.
In addition to natural surfaces like grass, using unstable training devices such as BOSU balls and Airex pads can bring similar benefits.
BOSU Ball: The BOSU ball (Both Sides Up or Both Sides Utilized) is a versatile fitness device that can be used for balance training, strength training, and cardiovascular workouts.
It consists of an inflated rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform.
Training on a BOSU ball can improve proprioception and stability, both of which are critical for vertical jumps.
A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found that incorporating BOSU ball exercises in a training routine enhanced dynamic balance and core endurance, which can indirectly influence your jumping performance.
Airex Pad: Airex pads are foam mats known for their instability. Exercises performed on these pads can help improve balance, joint stability, and muscle coordination.
This can indirectly enhance your vertical jump performance as all these attributes contribute to a stronger, more efficient jumping mechanism.
While no specific studies directly connect Airex pad training to improved vertical jump height, one study published in Sports Medicine suggests that balance training (which can be conducted on an Airex pad) can help improve knee joint stability.
This stability can have a positive impact on performance in jumping and landing tasks.
When incorporating unstable surfaces or devices into your training regimen, it’s important to start slow and gradually increase intensity as your stability and strength improve.
The unique challenge they provide can help activate and strengthen the stabilizing muscles in your lower body, which can lead to improvements in your vertical jump.
However, always prioritize safety and correct technique when using these tools to prevent potential injuries.
Uphill Angle Training
Integrating uphill angle training into your routine can significantly enhance your sprinting, hopping, and bounding abilities, while also being kinder on your joints.
Despite its multiple benefits, uphill training is a secret weapon seldom deployed.
This approach is simultaneously easier on your joints and more challenging for your muscles—a double whammy that can help you reach your fitness goals more efficiently.
The reason? Training at an uphill angle diminishes the impact on your joints while compelling your muscles to work harder due to the incline.
Thus, you can effectively improve strength and endurance without causing excessive strain on your knees and hips.
This equates to more efficient workouts that leave your body fresher for subsequent training sessions.
To understand the comparative benefits, perform a set of 5-10 two-foot long jumps on a flat surface, then repeat the exercise on a slight incline.
You’re likely to understand the difference in stress on your joints almost immediately.
While flat ground running certainly has its place in a balanced workout routine, integrating uphill angle training can provide additional benefits that are too advantageous to ignore.
Always remember, maintaining a balanced workout regime is crucial, but don’t underestimate the gains you can make by occasionally taking your training uphill!
How to Increase Your Vertical Jump at Home
When it comes to improving your vertical jump, gym membership and extensive equipment are not absolute necessities.
In fact, you can make significant strides from the comfort of your own home using bodyweight exercises.
You can improve your vertical jump at home with exercises including:
- Body Squats
- Jump Squats
- And more!
The key to home-based training is maintaining focus and ensuring that your workouts are short but intense.
Lower body circuits requiring only your bodyweight can be particularly effective for enhancing jumping capabilities.
Alongside these exercises, it’s essential to prioritize core strength and body fat reduction.
A strong core is vital for a powerful jump, and you can easily integrate exercises such as planks and sit-ups into your home routine to strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles.
Here’s an example of how to do a vertical jump workout at home:
- Begin with a proper dynamic warm-up to get your muscles and joints ready. This could involve jump roping, agility ladder work, or dynamic stretching.
- Mark off a distance of approximately 80-100 yards, identifying the exact midpoint. Soccer or football fields can be perfect for this due to their marked center lines.
- Next, perform 20 sprints to the midpoint, followed by 10-20 jumping jacks. Consistency is key here, with the aim of gradually increasing the number of jumping jacks with each subsequent workout.
- After the sprint and jumping jacks, walk to the other end line, turn around, and repeat this sequence 10-20 times.
- You want to maintain maximal speed, so stop when you start feeling your sprints slowing down. When your legs begin to fatigue, it’s time to call it a day.
Not only will this workout enhance your speed and vertical jump, but it also introduces the often-underrated jumping jack exercise.
Jumping jacks engage nearly the entire body, with a notable impact on the gluteus minimus, a frequently neglected muscle.
Strengthening the gluteus minimus can help alleviate stress on your lower body joints and lower back, supporting a stronger, more stable jump.
Overall, with focus, intensity, and consistency, you can effectively increase your vertical jump right from home.
Final Thoughts – Tips for Increasing Your Vertical Jump
While not everyone is naturally gifted in athletics, it doesn’t mean one’s athletic potential is set in stone.
The key to improvement lies not just in relentless training but, more importantly, in training intelligently.
Intelligent training is about maximizing the efficiency of each workout, every day.
This includes knowing your limits and recognizing the difference between pushing yourself and risking injury.
Remember: you should only engage in strenuous workouts or exercises if you feel fully comfortable and ready.
Attempting to push through discomfort or pain isn’t productive; it’s potentially harmful.
It’s crucial to understand that an injured athlete is significantly less effective than an athlete gradually improving over time.
In fact, rushing progress can lead to setbacks that slow down your overall progress.
Training smart means being patient with yourself, acknowledging your current abilities, and setting realistic goals.
It involves maintaining a balanced regimen that combines hard work with rest and recovery.
By implementing these strategies, you are setting yourself up for sustainable improvement.
Train hard, but more importantly, train smart.
Embrace the journey of athletic improvement as a marathon, not a sprint.
With time, patience, and consistent effort, you can be confident that you will see the results you desire.