The vertical jump has been a test standard for athletes for decades. The ability to propel the
body into the air with force is a good measure of lower body power. Many sports require the
ability to jump. All sports require a solid base and the ability to move the body through space,
often with force.
The vertical jump requires a concentrated effort choreographed using many muscles in sequence
and together. Many people think that the calves and quadriceps are all that are needed for a
good vertical jump. This unfortunately leads to less than optimal performances and in extreme
cases leads to muscle imbalances. A balance of all of the muscles is essential for a super high
Let’s start with the muscles of the lower body. The calf muscles give the last few inches in the
vertical jump. The hamstrings and hips provide the power to start the jump and force that last
bit of leg extension. The quadriceps forcibly extend the knee driving the body up. The
adductor muscles in the inner thigh area force the leg in and keep the motion in line. The
abductors on the outer hip area and the hip flexors work to counter the force of the other
muscles to maintain a straight jump.
The muscles of the core and upper body are also important to stabilize the body, provide the
extra power and to "pull" the body up. The abdominals and lower back stabilize the body and
provide that blast of power needed at take-off. The chest, back and shoulders allow for
forceful extension of the arms, pulling the body up. The biceps, triceps and muscles of the
forearms stabilize the arms.
A balanced weight training program that includes exercises for all of the muscles of the body is
the first step in improving the vertical jump. Full squats, power cleans, clean and jerk, and deep
leg presses are great compound exercises that will work the muscles needed for the jump.
Isolation exercises for the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves will also help. Weight training
should be the core of any program to improve jumping ability, but there are other key
components to a good program.
Plyometric exercises should be included in your program. Jumping off a box or bench, about
18-24 inches high, and trying to land as softly as possible is a great exercise. Doing the same
movement but trying to jump straight back up in the air after landing will increase hip and thigh
strength. Jumping up onto the box and immediately jumping off, trying to drive the feet through
the box, will also work the receptors in the tendons as well as the muscles.
Sprinting is another great exercise for leg strength and overall conditioning. Varying the length is
important. Short power sprints of twenty to thirty yards will build explosiveness. Longer sprints
up to 400 yards will develop strength and endurance in the muscles. Adding some distance
running is great for overall conditioning and does have a cross-over effect.
Jump. That’s right, the last tip is to jump. The best way to improve jumping ability is to practice
the motion. Jumping with only bodyweight resistance for repetitions will help build endurance
and provide some increase in height. To supercharge the jump resistance must be added. This
can take the form of weight vests, ankle weights or hand weights. The benefit to using hand
weights is that the upper body muscles have to work against resistance as well. As with any
resistance training, maintain good form and do not add resistance until you can complete the
exercise in good form with the previous weight. Make sure to stretch after training because
flexibility can add those last few inches needed.