Updated: Aug 8, 2021
We all want to glide in the air and dunk a basketball like our favorite players. But it just seems no matter how hard we try it still feels like we can barely leave the ground.
Why is this?
Maybe it's genetic, or maybe we have been going about our training the wrong way all this time.
In this article, I will be going over everything you need to do to increase your vertical jump.
From the muscles you need to work on, to how you jump, to even the workouts you must do.
Understanding What Makes Someone Jump Higher
The vertical Jump can come down to a basic few things, your power output, weight to strength ratio, and your mobility.
First factor to increase vertical is your weight to power ratio.
This basically means the amount of power your body can generate relative to its body mass.
Another factor is your strength to bodyweight ratio.
Meaning how much you can lift relative to your body mass.
And flexibility and mobility. This is a big factor because to jump high your muscles need to have the ability to be put in the right position.
Click Here for a great article explaining what makes someone a jumper higher.
1. Increase Power Output
Power output is very important to your vertical and can come down to the amount of fast twitch muscle fibers you have.
If you do not already know fast-twitch muscle fibers are responsible for fast and explosive movements such as sprinting, jumping, and even quick arm movements.
Hence the name fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Whereas slow-twitch muscle fibers are responsible for prolonged movements such as jogging or walking.
Hence the name slow-twitch muscle fibers.
This is one of the main factors in why someone can jump high.
If you can leave the ground quicker and get stronger more explosive fast-twitch muscle fibers you will in turn become more explosive as a basketball player.
Below is a great video explaining the prime difference between the two and how they relate to your vertical jump.
How To Work On How Your Fiber Types
There are two main ways you can work on your fast-twitch muscle fibers and get more explosive. One is doing explosive movements like plyometrics and the other is lifting heavy with very low reps.
Pro Tip: One key factor in both of these styles of workouts is doing low rep and high intensity.
The reason for this is because by the very nature of fast-twitch muscle fibers can really only be strengthened and stimulated by very intense and explosive exercises.
That is why they allow you to run faster and jump higher.
Plyometrics if you do not already know is a type of exercise that focuses on running and jumping, while also trying to exude as much maximum force as possible.
Below are some of the best exercises to increase your vertical with plyometrics.
The box jump is a type of exercise where you jump up and land on a platform.
With box jumps it is a good idea to start where you feel comfortable and increase the boxes height the better and more comfortable you get with it.
Some players also like to add weight with box jumps, either with medicine balls or with a weighted vest.
Bounds are any exercise where you extend and stride your leg as much as possible.
They are usually done with one leg and can be an especially great exercise for one-foot jumpers.
Another great variation of this is doing it laterally.
The reason I recommend lateral bounds is because lateral bounds can really work on improving your ability to quickly get off the floor while also giving you that more explosive pop out of your jump. But forward bounds can work as well.
While it might seem extremely simple sprints are one of the best exercises to really work on your fast twitch muscle fibers.
What is so great about sprints is that they can be done in many different ways and styles.
For example, if you do not have access to enough space for a sprint, you can do wall sprints. This is basically the same as sprinting but you stay put and angle your back in a sprinting position while using your arm as balance.
Remember even with sprints to make sure it's short enough to where you're only working on your short burst muscle fiber types.
This is a reason why almost all the top sprinters in the world have extremely high verticals. Sprinting speed and jumping are not always mutually exclusive in fact most of the time they are closely linked.
Pro Tip: A good way to track your progress to see your improvement, is by timing yourself week to week in your sprints and seeing if you can beat your time.
Another simple but effective exercise for jumping.
Max jumps are great for two things.
They can help you improve your jumping technique and this exercise can help your body get used to the wear and tear jumping can put on your body.
You can make this fun too, max jumps can be done when your trying to dunk a basketball, or even touch the rim.
Just make sure you pace yourself and get your body used to plyometrics.
Depth jumps are an exercise where you start on top of a box and then drop down on the floor. Once you reach the floor you then quickly explode up and jump as high as you can.
The jump squat is just like a normal squat, except the main difference is that you need to jump and get off the ground on the way up.
Now jump squats can be a little tricky when talking about improving your explosiveness.
The main problem with them is that it can be too easy for most people if they do not use some kind of resistance.
So try and use a medicine ball or some kind of weight like a dumbell and quickly explode up.
Pro Tip: There have been studies showing that doing a quarter squat might be better for the vertical jump because it puts your muscles in the same position you would use to jump which allows for better muscle transfer in your workout to your vertical jump.
Pops-ups are when you start on your knees and try and jump up and land on your feet.
This can be a very hard exercise for beginners but know it does get easier with time.
You can add multiple variations with this drill.
For example, when you jump from your knees to your toes you can then jump up in the air after that, or even go directly into a bound.
High-Intensity Weight Training
Now, this is the second most effective way to improve your power input for your vertical jump.
When talking about High-Intensity Weight Training for vertical, you can use any lower body exercise you want, but the most important thing is to make sure you do the lift fast and make sure it is a heavy enough weight where you cannot do more than five reps.
For example, let say you are doing a typical back squat, and your max for the squat is 300 pounds.
To really push yourself and fire your fast-twitch muscle you might want to do that exercise at a 3x5 clip and lift at 80 or even 90 % or your max weight. Which in this case would be around 260-280 pounds.
While you're doing that exercise you also want to do it as quickly as possible. That means going down quickly but also controlled and safely and then exploding back up.
Pro Tip: While it is important to lift heavy and explosive, there are times where slower workouts can be beneficial and help improve your vertical.
In the video below NBA trainers discuss how to train fiber types and what you need to do to change them and become more explosive.
How Important is strength for your vertical?
There is a lot of misconception when talking about strength for your vertical. Some people might say it does not matter at all and some will say it matters the most.
The truth is strength does matter a lot but only to a certain degree.
What I mean by this is that while strength matters it only matters to the proportion to which you weigh.
For example, it is better to be an athlete who can squat 300 pounds and weigh 150 pounds than being an athlete who is 300 pounds but can squat 400 pounds.
So the main factor is your weight to strength ratio, you want to be an athlete with a good amount of muscle but not too much to where it is hard for your body to take off from the ground, and if you have too much muscle and mass this can happen.
That is why bodybuilders are not always the most explosive and fastest people. In fact, some of the highest jumpers have smaller lighter frames.
Of course, there are exceptions to this like Zion Willaimson or even Charles Barkley but that is because of their freak genetics and supercharged power input, in fact, if they were just a little lighter they would definitely be able to jump higher.
But that is all up to you and how you play your game.
What you should do
Before you even think about doing plyometrics make sure you are a player who has a good strength to weight ratio.
If your main problem is muscle mass then doing plyometrics should not be where you start in your vertical jump journey.
You should focus on building the proper muscle you will need to get the most out of your vertical jump.
Pro Tip: Strength does not always mean how much you can lift in fact if you are just starting then a good test to see where you are at is doing exercises like single-leg squats and seeing how far you can go down.
Think about it if you struggle with doing certain lower body exercises without weights then you should not be moving toward heavy weight lifting.
Best Lower Body Strength Workouts
Now the squat can be used in many different ways for increasing your vertical jump. Some like to do the back squat or front squat, some even like to do different ranges of motions with there squat, and some forget weights entriely.
The truth of the matter is that you need to do the exercise that works best for you and you can be the most consistant with.
The only thing you have to keep in mind for explosive training especially with the squat is to lift both heavy and fast both on the ecentric and decentric movements of your lifts.
Deadlifts are desgned to stregthen and improve your posterior chain. They can be done in many different ways, but overall, they are an excellent way to improve your lower back and hamstring muscles.
There have even been studies that show improving your deadlift had a 7% rise in vertical jump performance.
Which may not seem like a lot but it can really be the difference between easily dunking and getting rim stuffed every time.
Cleans are one of the most explosive exercises an athlete can do. I will warn you that with this exersise it does take a long time to get the proper form and be good at it.
But when you do no doubt a good power clean is going to be really beneficial in the long run.
Lunges are a great exersise for streghtneing your quads and glutes.
To perfrom a lunge you usually need to put one foot in front of your body and almost go into a one leg squat posistion.
For these I do not always reccomend to go heavy as usually with lunges your going to use these to work on your general overall strength in your legs.
You can use a medicine ball, dumbell, or even a barbell bar on your lunges to add some resistance.
While the calfs have gotten overhyped over the years on there effectivenees in increasing vertical there still is some data and studies showing it can help and increase your vertical.
One great exersise all players should do to increase your calfs is jump rope.
Jump rope will not only help improve your foot work and quickness, but it also puts a lot of resistance and pressure on your calfs.
Pro Tip: I always reccomend with jump rope to do your jump rope off one leg evenly on both sides.
This allows for more intensity and quick movements.
Now when talking about training your abs for athletes, you want to do exersises that practice stabilizing your core.
Stabalizing your core allows you put your body parts in the right posistion to get the most out of your leaping ability.
Below are a few exersises that do that well.
- Upper Body
Just your arm swing alone can help increase your vertical by up to 10%.
That is why it is important as athletes to not just train your legs but train your body as a whole.
Because while your leaping ability might seem like its primarily legs, the truth of the matter is that your vertical jump is a hole body movement and your training should reflect that.
You can do this with things like.....
- medecine ball throws
-tricep push ups
3. Body composition
The simple truth of the matter is that being over weight is not good for your vertical jump.
One of the simplest and more overlooked problems in your leaping ability is your body composistion.
The simple truth of it is that the less you weigh the easier it is to propell of the ground.
That is why it is important to be at a good body fat percentage in basketball.
While I do admit there are some outliers to this rule, I have no doubt in my mind if they sheded the fat and kept the muscle they would be a even better jumper.
How To Change Body Composistion.
This depends a lot on where you are at but a good body fat percentage for all athletes is around is around 8-18 perecent.
But this can change a lot on your position in which you play.
A good way to set this goal is by looking at a FFMI calculator
If you do not already know a FFMI calculates the ammount of muscle mass you have relative to your height and what your genetic potential might be.
For example if you score about a 25 that is basically telling you that your are at your gentic potential for how much muscle you can putt on.
This is important because this can tell you what weight you will have to be to be that certain body fat perecnetage which makes your goals for your ideal body composition much easier.
Create Your Plan
After you find out exactly your goals and what you need to do the rest kinda falls into place and the proccess can be very simple.
For example if your a player with a high body percentage but a lot of muscle then it is time to cut out some weight and be in a calorice defecit..
Or on the other end if you are a player who lacks muscle then it is time to be in a calorie surpluss and really focus on working out in the weight room.
A lot of players seem to get mobility mixed up with flexibilty.
While flexibiloty is great the truth of the matter is that there is almost no corilation between athletic performance and flexibility.
Mobility is where you train to give your muscle a full range of motion while flexibilty is designed to lengthen your muscles.
Why it is important?
You could have great power input and a ton of fast twitch muscle fibers but without mobility your body would never be in the right place and motion to do a vertical jump effectivley.
Pro Tip: A great area of emphasis with mobility should be in the hips area as that is an area that controls a lot of the primarly ranges and functions required for a vertical jump.
Below is a great video explaining the impact mobilty has on ahtletic performace.
Here is another great video shwoing you a quick mobility workout.
5. Workout Plan
With any type of training, you need to have a plan when it comes to your vertical jump.
This could be anything from an online program, an athletic trainer, or even your created individual workout plan.
WIth so many plans and workouts I thought it would be a good idea to make a simple checklists of things you might need in your program and training.
Checklist your plan should have
-mobility and injury prevention
- body recomposition
Pro Tip: If you are thinking about doing a vertical Jump Program Nathanael Morton is a youtuber who tests and tries other peoples vertical jump courses and gives you a review and his recommendation on it.
6. Jump Mechanics
You can have all the athleticism and power output you want but if you do not have the proper jumping technique then you will never be able to jump at your highest potential.
Improving your jumping mechanics and techniques is one of the quickest and best ways to add inches to your vertical in a very short amount of time.
There are a couple of important things to understand when talking about your jumping technique.
One is understanding how you will be jumping. The reason this is important is that there are a lot of primary differences between jumping with two legs and jumping with one leg.
One leg jumping
One leg jumping is probably the best and most effective way to jump in basketball. It allows you to continue your momentum into a layup or dunk attempt without stopping.
To be great at one leg jumping you need to come at your jump with speed and take off a little farther from the hoop than you would on a two.
You see with one foot jumping you are mainly getting your power from the speed coming into the jump.
Think of it like this instead of jumping up at the hoop jump towards the hoop like your trying to get the distance.
Pro TIp: One of the best exercises to improve your one-foot jumping ability is doing one-leg bounds. They really help you practice getting power off one leg and train your muscles to explode into your jump.
Two Foot Jumping
Two-foot jumping is a type of jumping style where you use both legs to power up into your jump.
Two-foot jumping is best when you are going to be creating contact going into your jump. So if you are a big man then this jumping style will be important for you.
How To Two Foot Jump
To do a two-foot jump effectively you need to take one long step before you go into your jump.
This is called the penumltamin step and is a step that allows you to get the most momentum and power for your jump.
Another tip you need to realize for the penultimate step is to make sure you power up through your heels. Almost like a calf raise.
Pro Tip: Since a two-foot jump is much slower than a typical one-foot jump you might have to initiate contact a lot on your jumps since your defense will have more time to get there.
Changing your vertical jump is not a .process that happens quickly.
I see so many players try this program and that training method and wonder why they're not getting good results with their vertical.
You have to stick with whatever program you are doing and do it constantly.
One of the best ways I have found to stay motivated and consistent with my training is by marking down my progress.
I notice that by marking down your progress you can paint a better picture of the improvements you have made, which in turn makes you more motivated to go forward.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How often should I train my vertical jump?
Answer: For most athletes, I would say a full-body routine 3 times a week.
But that is just the weight room part of your training. Skills, and other plyometrics involved in addition to the weight room, you might be training more like 5 - 6 times a week.
Question: How quickly can I improve my vertical Jump?
Answer: This can really depend on the athlete.
For example, if you are someone with a very poor vertical and body composition you may expect much quicker results than another athlete with a 40 plus inch vertical because there is much more room to improve.
But I would say a good goal to shoot for is around 1-2 inches per month improve.
Question: Can you get the same results on your vertical without a weight room by just using your body weight?
Answer: Yes in fact if you are younger or just starting out in your training journey I would even advise you to just stick to your body weight and basic plyometrics before you start adding resistance to your training routine.
While most of us were not born with the ability to easily dunk a basketball as you can see there is still a lot we can do to get the most out of our jumping potential.
I hope this article gave you the nessasary information and advise to help improve your vertical and leaping ability.
Thank you for reading and as always keep hooping my friends.