Best Ways to Increase Your Vertical Jump

Best Ways to Increase Your Vertical Jump

Increasing the vertical jump is top priority for a lot of athletes, and most of the advice on the internet is garbage. The most common things you\’ll see are loads of jump exercises (plyometrics) put together in volumes that are way too high, and exercises that are sequenced without any rhyme or rhythm. In this list, I will elucidate more scientific and rationale ways of increasing that vertical.

Lose Fat

I want you to do a little experiment. Do a maximal vertical jump, and measure it. Now, with one hand hold on to a 10-pound dumbbell and repeat the vertical jump test. How much lower were you? Losing fat is one of the simplest things you can do to increase your vertical jump. If you are above about 10-12% body fat (and a male) or 16-18% and a female, then you\’re carrying too much dead weight. Lose that fat, and your vertical will immediately go up a couple inches.

Get Stronger

Wait a minute. You\’re working on power, not strength. Why am I telling you to get stronger? That is because strength is a prerequisite for power. What is the formula for power? Power = strength x speed. Increase your strength, and your power goes up.

Still don\’t believe me? Let\’s do a little thought experiment.

Imagine trainee A can bench press 200 pounds. Now imagine trainee B can bench press 150 pounds. If both of them were to do a competition who could bench press 100 pounds faster, who do you think would win? That\’s a no-brainer (at least, I hope). Same principle applies to the vertical jump.

How do you know whether you should work on strength? If you\’ve been doing primarily plyometrics for the last 2+ months, it is time to work on your strength. Additionally, if your maximal squat is less than 1.5 times your bodyweight (for both men and women), you definitely need to work on your strength.

Do your Plyometrics

Plyometrics are extremely misused in sports training. They are used as a cardiovascular training tool, but that\’s a very dangerous mis-application of a potentially powerful training tool. For one thing, plyometrics are meant to target the nervous system. The nervous system takes much longer to recover than the muscular system. If you think you are recovered, wait another 1-3 days. Plyometrics should not be done more frequently than 2-3 times per week (depending on the types of plyometrics).

And by the way, if you\’ve been following the more common programs on the internet, you\’re doing way too much. Most people think that more is better, but this isn\’t the case. There are optimal amounts. More than optimal is not good, and less than optimal is not good. A beginner should not do more than 100 foot contacts per workout. An intermediate should not do more than 150 foot contacts per workout. And an advanced trainee should not do more than 200 foot contacts per workout. You should also rest a lot between subsequent sets of plyometrics, and it should be 2-5 minutes of rest.

Plyometrics are meant to be used as power training, not as cardio. Doing high-velocity exercises in a fatigued state does 2 bad things:

  1. It significantly elevates the risk of injury
  2. It not longer trains power. When you are no longer fresh, you are teaching your body to produce lower power outputs. Not exactly what you want.


Stretching is another topic that is surrounded by a lot of myths. Stretching by itself will not make you jump higher. You need to stretch the right muscles at the right time.

Stretch the tight, jumping related muscles. Don\’t stretch the flexible jumping related muscles. Assessment of flexibility would take an article (or a book) in itself (and many have been written), so unfortunately, I can\’t get into it here. But if you know that you lack flexibility in a particular muscle, stretch it as frequently as possible, until it no longer lacks flexibility. Then stop stretching it.

Too much flexibility is as bad as too little, and also takes away from your vertical jump. Remember the concept of \”optimal.\” You are going for optimal flexibility. Not maximal.

Balance Out Your Muscles

Are your quadriceps (front of the thigh) a lot stronger than your hamstrings (back of the thigh) and glutes (butt)? This is extremely common. If you don\’t know whether you have this or not, you probably do. If you\’re a female reading this, it\’s even more likely that you do.

Without going too deeply into neurophysiology, if there is an imbalance around a joint (in this case, the knees and hips), the central nervous system decreases the amount of force that can be produced by the muscles most responsible for propelling you. This is a protective mechanism that is involuntary.

What do you do about this? Do more exercises for your hamstrings and glutes than for your quads. For every set of quad exercises that you do, you should be doing 2-3 sets of glute and hamstring, ONLY until the imbalance in strength is gone, in which case, the ratio will be one-to-one. The imbalance in strength will disappear when your glutes and hamstrings are either as strong or stronger than your quadriceps.

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