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.
Actually, I still don’t consider myself to be even a “good” athlete. Personally, I know my body has a second level inside of it which I am patiently waiting to unveil.
It’s a process. A very long process.
However, I can say with full confidence that I am extremely proud of the changes I have made to my body over the course of the last 8 years.
Since I left my small town of Sherrill, New York for the first time and attended the Winchendon School for prep/boarding school, I have slowly transformed myself from a soda and chips loving teenager to a professional basketball player.
I am fully aware that being 6’ 10” definitely helps me in this situation, but without the right type of training and work ethic this still 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 you Al Knapp for this reference).
Since then, however, I have worked my way to recording a personal best of a 37 inch standing vertical leap (at the Detroit Pistons free-agent mini-camp in June of 2015), and have proved myself capable of playing at the highest level of professional basketball.
Training intensely is part of the reason I was able to make these changes, but just as important has been training intelligently.
If you want to build an insane vertical jump, at the end of the day, the key to building speed, power, the vertical jump or any other athletic function is one very similar quality: variation.
Regardless of the training program you are following, consistently adding new and unique exercises will help your body to continue pushing through plateaus!
Variation can come in many different forms as well!
Adding in a unique Range of Motion, resistance, or amount balance can all equally challenge you and force your body to work even better!
If you want to increase your vertical jump as quickly as possible, check out these tips!
Plyometric Exercises for Increasing Your Vertical Jump
Plyometric exercises are certainly not the only tool which I used to get there, but they absolutely helped!
Box jumps, broad jumps, and jump squats are three types of plyometric exercises that provide you with benefits relating to explosive compound movements.
Both movements are commonly done with bodyweight or with very light loads, and the aim of engaging in plyometric training such as this is to train your body for maximum force production, within the shortest period.
Usually, reps are kept low, while the intensity and effort is high.
You should try to carry out each movement as explosively as you possibly can to train for maximum vertical jump improvements.
Plyometric Training & Muscle Fibers
Contrary to most athletes, I do not recommend plyometric training very often. The reason for this is that since I am a basketball player, I am jumping with maximal force extremely often.
Plyometric training is great for learning jumping technique and force production, but I generally use my time to focus more on the other areas of vertical jump training.
However, adding in optimized and intense plyometric training at certain points in your workout routine can absolutely have great benefit on your overall ability to run and jump!
Our muscular system is composed of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers; with the fast-twitch fibers happening to be the strongest and largest fibers in our body.
This type of muscle fiber is trained through heavy lifting, explosive movements, and anaerobic activities.
The slow-twitch muscle fibers are built for endurance. For almost all athletes, fast-twitch muscle fibers are more important!
How to Use Plyometric Exercises to Improve Your Vertical Jump
Plyometric training such as broad jumps and box jumps help to increase efficiency and strength, by focusing on the development of fast twitch muscle fibers.
Effective plyometric training can accelerate an average athlete in to a great athlete, just as similarly as useless plyometric training can hold a great athlete from becoming an elite athlete!
Some trainers and coaches tend to shy away from plyometric training because they consider the movements too difficult to teach, and dangerous; but your body may not become as explosive as it can be, without plyometric training.
I am certainly not one to load an excessive amount of different plyometric exercises in to one workout, but targeted plyometric training absolutely has a place in my workouts!
Best Plyometric Exercises for Increasing Your Vertical Leap
In my opinion, these 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 jump than you see from a distance.
In practicing box jumps, there are several factors that can lead to either great results, or poor results with the possibility of injuries.
- Do you walk, run, or jump from a stationary position to the box?
- Are you projecting from one or two feet, and is the initiation from a counter movement or a static position?
- What is the height of the box?
- What is your reason for engaging in box jumps?
Being able to effectively answer these questions will greatly determine the level of success that you get from this plyometric exercise.
Check out this video of me performing some basic box jumps while recovering from an ankle injury in 2015:
Why Do We Need to Use Box Jumps?
Why do we engage in plyometric exercises such as box jumps, or broad jumps?
Primarily, plyometric exercises such as broad jumps and box jumps help you to exploit the stretch-shortening cycle of your legs, in order to improve the use of elasticity energy. There are several benefits of engaging in box jumps:
- Box jumps helps to increase your strength and muscle tone, and it also helps to build both your upper and lower body strength. By forcing you to jump as high as you can, you are forced to utilize every muscle in your legs, and your arms in order to propel your body up.
- Engaging in box jumps is one of the most effective ways to burn calories. While you jump, your body burns about 800 to 1,000 calories an hour; when compared to 200 to 300 calories that you burn per hour while walking. Since high-intensity jumping which includes broad jumps and box jumps stimulates remarkable changes in mitochondria (this is where fuel is being converted into energy), your body will burn fat before carbohydrates, which is a great advantage for people who desire to lose weight. Obviously, you won’t be jumping at a high intensity for an hour straight; but I think you get the picture!
- You can simply locate a bench that is high enough, or any other firmly rooted structure to jump on to! Box jumps do not need to be done with one specific type of equipment, and are quite adaptable.
- Box jumps helps to improve your vertical jump, endurance, speed and coordination, which will enhance your performance with any sports activity that you try.
Tips on Effective Use of Box Jumps
To effectively use box jumps and get maximum results, the following points are useful to understand:
- Start by taking an athletic position, as you should ensure that your feet are shoulder-width apart. Maintain a comfortable distance away from the box.
- As soon as you are ready for the jump, drop quickly into a squat position, and then extend your hips. Swing your arms, then push your feet through the floor to propel yourself onto the box.
- Try to land quietly and softly, to reduce the amount of impact that you are putting on your tendons, ligaments, joints and bones.
- To prevent the risk of hitting the box during the arm swing, you should ensure that the distance you are standing away from the box should be wide enough.
- Practice on low boxes before increasing the height of the box at all. Form is key, and work slowly towards higher boxes!
- Box jumps can be performed at almost any point in the workout, but are particularly effective when your legs are more “fresh,” since you want to be performing this movement as explosively as possible!
If you would like to challenge yourself more, there are many advanced versions. Check out this single leg box jump variation I was doing to rehab my ankle back in 2015:
One of the main advantages of a broad jump is that it helps to improve your explosive strength, and your ability to jump quickly. Also, known as standing long jumps, this is a very useful exercise for any athlete who needs to quickly get off their feet vertically, or horizontally!
As an athlete, by introducing broad jump to your exercise program you are establishing a functional way of improving your overall performance.
To improve your broad jump, you should work to perfect the movement. This can be achieved through repetition with full exertion, on every rep.
You can also improve your broad jump by adding resistance to your movement. You can use bungees to add resistance, if you are conscious of your technique.
Another way to add resistance to broad jumps is to jump slightly uphill. Often, I will do broad jumps up the side of a grass hill, since this also helps reduce your landing force. Broad jumping in this manner will force you to push with even greater force, adding a unique stimulus to the movement!
Benefits of Broad Jumps
Probably the greatest benefit of broad jumps is that it improves the reaction of fast-twitch muscle fibers, all over your body.
Just like other plyometric exercises, it requires your leg and core muscles to contract quickly, which will help you to generate maximal force for every leap. By engaging in one or two plyometric exercises in a week, it will no doubt have a significant effect on your explosive strength; which will also positively affect your sprinting and jumping performance.
If you want to check out a challenging/advanced version of the traditional broad jump, check out this video:
One more simple plyometric exercise that you can do is the jump squat!
There are many variations, but the basic jump squat is just as effective as any other. I consider this move a precursor to the box jump and broad jump, since you are simply jumping straight up and down with the jump squat.
This is an excellent plyometric exercise, and requires no equipment at all to be done!
Once you have mastered the basic jump squat, you can also try out some more difficult variations! Check out these jump squat variations that involve kettlebells!
All three of these exercises do a fantastic job of challenging the body in unique ways, along with carrying immense benefits for building the Vertical Jump!
Kettlebell-Burpee/Jump Squat Tri-Set
All three of these exercises are based around 1 primary movement (the Burpee/Jump Squat), so that you can easily see how the slight variation in each can cause an extremely different training effect! This first exercise is essentially a “Tri-set” with the resistances being changed for each set of 5!
The first kettlebell I use is the middle weight of my 3, at 14kgs.
The second weight I use requires a far greater range of motion since it is a dumbbell (not a kettlebell), and it is the lightest weight of all three at 20lbs.
The last weight is the heaviest overall, and with the least range of motion. This kettlebell stands even taller than the first so that the range of motion is shortened even more, but it is heavier by almost 10lbs!
Note! There is never a need to go excessively heavy on any of these exercises! As shown before, the jump squat (in general) correlates far better for power outputs at lower resistances!
Don’t ever feel the need to work with too much weight, and risk an injury!
The alternating range of motion, as well as resistances, directly focuses on increasing leg power and carries huge vertical jump benefits!
Hurdle Step + Kettlebell-Burpee/Jump Squat
The second exercise maintains the same weight through the entire set, but is performed with a hurdle step in between each burpee/jump squat.
Training this specific step is invaluable for both vertical jump and speed training, as it works to increase the functional ability of the hip flexor.
Adding in this dynamic activates the hip flexor and its surrounding muscles, as well as all parts of the gluteus.
This method of performing the KettleBell Burpee/Jump Squat enables your glutes and your hips to work more freely than in any other variation, holding huge benefits due to this!
Kettlebell-Burpee Jump/Farmer’s Carry
The last exercise increases in difficulty due to an increased endurance factor, as well as unique muscle stimulation.
By “yoke” carrying the kettlebells back and forth, your gluteus muscles become highly engaged and your legs are stimulated with every step.
Walking back and forth with the weights in a racked position such as this is incredibly metabolically stimulating, as an incredible amount of muscles are worked.
This correlates extremely well to vertical jump gains as your muscle endurance is tested through the set, and is still required to perform a loaded jump every 20 yards!
Mix in these three exercises as unique finishers, or do them for multiple sets per day! Always keep the weight at a manageable level, and do not do any exercises where your form cannot be nearly perfect!
Preventing Injuries When Doing Plyometric Exercises
There is a possibility that while engaging in any plyometric exercise such as broad jumps or box jumps, that you may experience strain on your lower body when landing from the jump. Although you exert a large amount of strain on your lower body when you land from any jump, if you focus on a soft landing for every box jump that you do, you will greatly reduce the strain on your anterior cruciate ligament, knee and hip joints.
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.
Additional Information About Plyometric Exercises
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.
We all know that swimming is an incredible exercise, but there are many other types of aquatic training that can be used by athletes of all levels. Aquatic training is one of the least used tools that an athlete can have in their training arsenal, even though it has some incredible benefits!
Often aquatic training is left to the elderly, as it is seen as an aerobic activity that should just be done by those who cannot move so well anymore.
Taking advantage of the many different types of aquatic training can be beneficial for burning calories, increasing athletic performance, and recovering from injuries!
Along with being one of the main points in my vertical jump training program, I can personally attribute a large amount of my success as an athlete to my discovery of the benefits of aquatic plyometrics!
In my own experience, I have built, maintained, and recovered my body all using aquatic plyometrics.
Throughout my basketball career (in college and as a professional), I have undergone two-foot surgeries, tore ligaments on both sides and broke my left ankle, suffered a Pars fracture in my back, and dealt with chronic tendinitis in both knees. However, even with these injuries and a laundry list of others, I have managed to continue to improve my overall athleticism and vertical jump.
The reason? Aquatic Plyometrics.
What Are Aquatic Plyometrics?
Aquatic plyometrics have been the Single-Most useful training component I have ever tried in treating Jumper’s Knee, and it has helped me maintain the youth in my legs even though I’ve dealt with numerous lower-body injuries.
For those of you without any experience at all, aquatic plyometrics is simply performing plyometric exercises in water; it isn’t much more complicated than that at all! However, the benefits are far more interesting!
When applied on land, plyometrics can cause intense muscle soreness, along with severe amounts of stress and impact on your tendons, joints, and cartilage.
Both land and aquatic plyometrics can have substantial benefits for any athlete assuming that they are appropriately utilized, and are even more beneficial for athletes who have already been training for a significant number of years and still looking for an extra edge!
The primary benefit of aquatic plyometrics is that you can enjoy the benefits of plyometric training, without nearly any of the potentially dangerous stress.
Plyometrics itself is a training style which involves fast and explosive movements, with the aim of increasing the overall power output and sports performance of a given athlete.
Aquatic plyometrics specifically target your legs and your core, and each exercise provides a different benefit and works a different muscle.
You can perform aquatic plyometrics more frequently than on land, since there is not an overwhelming strain on your Central Nervous System (CNS), as in land-plyometrics. Examples of aquatic plyometric exercises include:
- Squat Jumps
- Tuck Jump
- Leaping Lunges
- Single Leg Hops
- High Knees
Comparison of Aquatic Plyometrics and Regular Plyometrics
As I said before, traditional land plyometrics are useful, but they are dangerous as well. Issues which make classical land-plyometric training unsuitable for many athletes include:
- Plyometrics training can easily lead to acute muscle soreness due to their high impact, holding back the rest of your workout.
- Plyometrics are not very suitable for athletes that are undergoing rehabilitation of a significant injury, as they could further place stress on the area affected.
- Plyometric exercises themselves are dangerous, as a misstep can easily lead to injury.
For healthy athletes, plyometrics are a useful tool. However, you don’t want to overuse them. Plyometric exercises should be limited to once or twice per week, especially while you are “in-season.”
Benefits of Aquatic Plyometrics
Plyometric training is especially useful to be done in the water! To do this, you only need a pool that is a little bit more deep than your waist line. It can be performed in deeper water, but it is not necessary.
Plyometric training is generally tough on your joints, and can only be done once or twice per week due to this.
Consistent plyometric training on land will drain your Central Nervous System, as well as fatigue your body.
Aquatic plyometrics, however, have been proven to be less impactful on your joints; along with being even more effective than land plyometrics!
Studies have proven that both running, and doing plyometrics in water have positive effects on sprint speed and vertical jump!
Tuck jumps, vertical jumps, single leg bounds, and lateral bounds can all be performed in even small amounts of space in a pool, with great effectiveness!
Furthermore, aquatic plyometrics have been proven to promote less muscular fatigue than land plyometrics, and can be trained much more often! This is yet another benefit of aquatic training!
Aquatic plyometrics is an excellent form of training for any athlete looking to increase their vertical jump, or sprinting speed!
Several plyometric exercises can be done in water, offering athletes the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of plyometrics with the common issues associated with it. Some of the other benefits of aquatic plyometric training include:
- Improvement in joint function. Training in water naturally allows your muscles and joints to lengthen more efficiently, allowing for proper movement patterns and reduced strain.
- Improvement of peak power, as during eccentric contractions, your muscles can achieve maximum potential. Aquatic plyometric training reduces the time between eccentric and concentric contractions, enhancing your muscle speed and power.
- The joints of your knee, hip and ankle will all become naturally more stable, as the water helps these joints to work better.
- There is research showing a reduced case of acute knee injuries and evidence from several studies using jump based plyometrics which indicates a significant improvement in vertical jump performance.
- When training with aquatic plyometrics, the water density and buoyancy counteract gravity, resulting in a reduction of overall impact on your body.
Aquatic Plyometrics Calories Burned
One of the most preeminent benefits of aquatic training is that you can burn large amounts of calories, without any stress on your bones or joints. Especially for those athletes who are recovering from injury, aquatic training is an excellent way to work the body without risking the rehabilitation process.
Simply running, walking, or performing any low-intensity aerobic exercise will burn substantial calories in water, although it will not feel as if you are working very hard!
By exercising in water, you burn even more calories than on land! Water makes your body work harder, even though you do not know it. The intensity of the exercise does not come down on your joints or tendons at all, allowing you to burn more calories as well as train for a more extended amount of time!
Stimulating Blood Flow
Another unique benefit of aquatic plyometrics is that it stimulates blood flow, which can improve the health of your body in numerous ways. Laird Hamilton, a radical fitness expert, disclosed that water is 800 times as dense as air and that it creates enough pressure on your body to increase your blood flow substantially.
Aquatic plyometrics provides you with an excellent opportunity to enjoy the benefits of plyometrics training, without experiencing the dangerous side-effects of plyometrics.
I started my own version of aquatic plyometric training when I was about 19 years old, and without exaggerating at all, it increased my vertical leap by about 8 inches in one summer of intense use!
I started with simply jogging in the water, and performing high knees/butt kicks.
As I advanced as an athlete, so did my methods.
I am 100% confident any athlete can benefit from incorporating aquatic plyometrics into their training program!
Additional Thoughts – How to Increase Your Vertical Jump Using Aquatic Plyometrics
If you are looking to improve your vertical jump, you need to be doing aquatic training.
Aquatic training is incredibly effective because it does not require a large amount of space at all.
You can easily perform aquatic training in your background if you have an above ground pool, allowing you to have an effective workout right at home!
There are many different forms of aquatic training, and aquatic plyometrics is especially effective for those athletes who are looking to perform better in sports that require explosive power and movement speed!
Understanding the benefits of various types of aquatic training can be key for limiting excess “pounding” on the joints, while also training to maximum capacity!
Aquatic training is more than suitable as a viable replacement for many types of land training.
Additional Tips for Increasing Your Vertical Jump
Plyometric exercises are the foundation of any vertical jump program, but check out these additional tips which can make an enormous difference as well!
Training on Unstable Surfaces
Try to do as much training as possible on grass surfaces; your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back will thank you.
Not only is grass a softer surface for landing on, but it is also slightly unstable. You might be thinking, well why is unstable ground good to train on?
Easy, all of your joints will naturally fight the instability of the ground, and increase strength faster and more naturally than in any other way.
I have noticed this especially this summer after my ankle injury, training on grass increases your stability quick!
Whether you consciously feel it or not, weakness in your ankles, knees, hips or lower back is stopping you from maximizing your ability to run fast and jump high.
Agility ladder drills, straight sprinting, hopping and bounding can all be easily done on grass-naturally eliminating a lot of this unseen weakness in your lower body. Try to do a full workout on real grass one time and I am sure that you will see!
Run and Jump at an Uphill Angle to Save Your Joints
Do a large amount of your sprinting, hopping, or bounding at a slightly uphill angle-your joints will thank you.
Few people know this, and less practice it, but training at an uphill angle is actually easier on your joints and more difficult on your muscles-at the same time!
You basically get to double dip when you do this, because you need to do less work to accomplish your goals, and your body will be more fresh for the next workout. Try doing a set of 5-10 two-foot long jumps on a flat surface and then at a small angle, then tell me which put less stress on your knees and hips.
I don’t think it will take you more than one set to realize the difference!
I don’t dismiss flat ground running at all because you absolutely need a balance, but just understand that the benefits to training at an uphill angle often are definitely there!
Try This Vertical Jump Workout:
Try this workout, please! Part 1 is warming up properly, and I will even write this part multiple times if you need me too.
Get a solid sweat going with jump roping, agility ladder work, dynamic stretching, or whatever you want to do so that your muscles and joints are nice and loose.
After this, mark off a distance that is about 80-100 yards long, and find the exact middle of this area.
I personally use a soccer field or football field for this, since its clearly easy to find the center line.
Next, you will run 20 sprints to this center point, followed by 10-20 jumping jacks.
Keep the number of jumping jacks consistent which each set, and increase them each time you come back and do this workout again. Proceed to walk to the other “end-line,” turn around, and repeat 10-20 times. Start with 10 sets of this with 10 jumping jacks in-between, and build it forward until you can run 20, 50 yard sprints with 30 jumping jacks.
The key is that you want to stop when you begin to feel your sprints slowing down, maximal speed is a necessity!
When your legs start to tire out, stop.
This workout works, and it will make you faster and jump higher from the first time you do it.
Jumping jacks are an extremely underrated exercise as they work nearly your entire body, most notably to me the gluteus minimus.
You will understand this more after you try this training technique the first time, but jumping jacks activate and strengthen the often neglected gluteus minimums, directly taking stress off of all of your lower body joints and your lower back.
This workout will burn a substantial amount of calories while being performed, and far more up to 48 hours afterwards!
As you can see through the graph of my Atlas Wearables watch, my heart rate rose to over 180 beats per minute, and I burned 230 legitimate calories in 20 minutes of work!
To do so, I performed 20 sprints at about 40 yards each (half of a youth soccer field), with 10 jumping jacks following each sprint.
I am certainly not in my best shape ever, but I know I will be feeling great tomorrow after this workout!
Working at this will help you cut down on unnecessary body fat, strengthen every single necessary part of your body that will help you run faster and jump higher, and increase both your anaerobic and aerobic conditioning.
I am telling you, just try it!
Concluding Thoughts – Increasing Your Vertical Jump
Not everyone is born a great athlete, but this doesn’t mean that you will always be that way. Train hard, but more importantly-train intelligently!
Maximize your efficiency in every workout, every day, and you WILL see results. It is a fact! Do not. I repeat, DO NOT, attempt a strenuous workout or exercises that you do not feel 100% comfortable with.
This is a part of training intelligently. An injured athlete is a lot more useless than an athlete who is slowly getting better (believe me…).
Utilize these tips and I am sure that you will see results!
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