Every athlete out there, and even a few recreational lifters and weekend warriors, would love to increase their vertical. Honestly, the vertical jump is nearly reaching the level of importance that has been earned by the well-known bench press.
While the bench press is commonly considered to be the benchmark of overall upper body strength, the vertical jump encompasses both lower body power and strength. The vertical jump is a very quick and explosive movement. Indeed, all forms of jumping are quick and explosive. Strength does not factor into jumping as much as power does.
Optimal power output involves moving against a high resistance at the fastest possible rate. All types of jumping require this particular feat. The body serves as the resistance. The faster one can spring off the ground and into the air against the force of the body, the higher one will reach. With that being said, jumping is commonly known in the sports world as plyometrics. While typical plyometrics include various jumping schemes, any activity that primarily associates power with exercise success falls may be classified as a plyometric. This training is primarily associated with strength and speed development in athletes. However, these exercises are beneficial for anyone interested in living a long and healthy life. Various studies have shown that body strength is not the most important factor in length of life. Rather, power is a much better indicator. These studies have shown that those with better power output will likely live longer lives.
Although plyometric training is a fairly complicated task as it pertains to any organized athletic endeavor, it may easily be dumbed down for those who are simply interested in either living a longer life, or just increasing their jumping skills for the heck of it. As with any other skill, balance is the most important factor in success. Jumping must be addressed in each plane and at a variety of speeds and difficulties in order to ensure stable progression. The following exercises are essential to this progression.
1) Vertical Jump. For a higher vertical jump, it is obviously important to perform the vertical jump! Many people get too caught up in various assistance exercises, such as the two listed below, and forget to train the real focus. The vertical jump is not an endurance exercise. It is purely based on power and strength output. Because of this, vertical jump training should be performed in single sets of single reps with a decent amount of rest between sets. This will ensure that each and every rep is performed at a high intensity under low levels of fatigue.
2) Box Jump. This is a great power assistance exercise. Similar to the vertical jump, the box jump involves jumping to a large height at a high intensity. But there is one big difference – instead of jumping straight up into empty air, this exercise focuses on jumping onto a box. This box will be set at a height that is difficult to reach, but a height that is definitely reachable. Start on both feet about one foot away from the box. Slightly squat down and explode up onto the box. Remember to use the arms to propel upward onto the box. Performed two to three sets of three to five reps. This is a high intensity exercise that demands adequate rest times.
3) Squat. While vertical jumping is generally seen as the ultimate test of lower body power, squat is known as the greatest test of lower body strength. The squat recruits muscles throughout the entire body. Most of the focus, however, is placed on the hips, lower back, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. These muscles are all important contributors in the power output necessary for a respectable vertical jump. Squat is a very taxing exercise, though. It should by performed only once a week at a very high intensity in order to build a solid base of strength in the lower body. Stick in the three to six rep range for best results in the strength department.
Carefully combine all of these ideas together and become the one and only ruler of the vertical jump!