How to Jump Higher

There's a lot of information on this site and in the Jump Science posts on facebook and instagram. When I write, I try to give people actionable information. I hope that after reading it, people know what to do. It's easy to write in a more subjective and philosophical way, use a lot of phrases that sound smart, and maintain a sort of political correctness by not making any strong statements one way or another. This can produce writing that sounds great but leaves the reader still wondering what to do. I try to avoid that and give a clear picture of how to use the presented information. That being said, I still get very general questions like, "What can I do to improve my vert?" So I want to provide a quick summary of how to improve jumping ability.

The 4 most important things to do...

  • ACCUMULATE A HISTORY OF JUMPING. It would be nice to practice jumping almost every day and do hundreds of jumps per week. Young kids can generally do this no problem, and it's great for their athleticism. After puberty, jumping a lot almost every day is likely to lead to patellar tendon problems eventually. A smart approach is to aim for a more conservative amount like 50-100 approach jumps per week. Athletes who already have a long history of jump practice may not need a lot of jumps any more.
  • USE ELASTIC VOLUME. You don’t want to be an athlete who primarily lifts weights and then does some jumping on the side. You want to primarily do explosive, elastic activity and use strength training as a tool on the side. Playing a speed sport, faster running, and plyometrics that are fast off the ground can be used to accumulate elastic volume.
  • GET ADEQUATELY FLEXIBLE. The flexibility of a gymnast or ballet dancer is not necessary for a jumper, but there are some standards that all athletes should reach. Flexibility can be improved by strength training with full range of motion and a daily stretching routine.
  • INCREASE GENERAL STRENGTH. A double body weight DEEP back squat is a good long term goal for a lot of people, however that may be unrealistic for really tall athletes, and shorter athletes may want to aim even higher. More specifically, you want to increase strength in a way that also improves power. To do this, keep jumping and other athletic activity a priority, strength train as a complement to that, and use a lots of high quality faster reps in strength training rather than number chasing.
Your genetics, your jumping and other athletic background, your flexibility, and how much you can squat are about 95% responsible for your jumping ability. But that doesn't mean just jumping and squatting is a complete training program. There are other things to include, which serve the purpose of reducing injury risk or trying to eke out some of those remaining 5 percentage points.
  • Deadlift and hip hinges for hamstring and hip extension strength.
  • Strength exercises for structural integrity in otherwise neglected muscles (ex. lunges for adductors and rectus femoris, heel raises for the calf muscles).
  • Some multidirectional activity for movement variety (ex. basketball).
  • Plyometrics.
Check out Jump Science University for more info on these various aspects of training. Here are some links to get you started.

If you want a training schedule to follow, check out the Jump Science programs.

If instead of jumping, you want to improve some other explosive athletic ability, the process actually remains largely the same. Let's say speed is the goal. Replace the jumping practice with sprinting practice, pay special attention to hamstring injury prevention, and balancing strength and speed becomes more challenging. Otherwise things stay largely the same. If the upper body is heavily involved such as in throwing, add some pushing and pulling strength into the formula, and use exercises to build up the resilience of the elbow and shoulder. Other pieces remain the same. Practicing the sport, elasticity, adequate flexibility, and strength remain the key components.