The vertical jump is an important part of many sports, including basketball, volleyball, track & field, football, and many more. For this reason, it is important to learn how to improve vertical jump as it will provide several advantages in the different sports.
Step 1 Determine your strength profile
One of the first things you need to do is figure out your current strength profile so you can customize your training to provide best results. You do this by doing two kinds of tests: Relative strength test and reactive strength test.
- Relative Strength Test: This refers to your leg strength, which, for vertical jump, is best measured by your maximum full back squat. If you can squat more than 1.5 times your bodyweight, then your strength levels are good. If it's less than that, then you need to build up a decent strength foundation and there is no real need to do the next test. If you don't know how to squat, then you should learn how to do it and get your strength up. If, for some reason, you can't squat, then the leg press could possibly be an acceptable replacement, but then you need to leg press 2.5 to 3 times your bodyweight.
- Reactive Strength Test: Reactive strength is also known as plyometric strength. It's the ability to change quickly from an eccentric to a concentric contraction. The easiest and most simple way to test your reactive strength levels is by comparing your running vertical jump (RVJ) to your standing vertical jump (SVJ). If your RVJ is pretty much the same as your SVJ, then you need to do some plyometric exercises. If your RVJ is many inches higher than your SVJ, you could benefit from strength training. If your RVJ is just a couple of inches higher or very similar to your SVJ, then a well-rounded program would be best.
Step 2 Depending on Your Profile, Implement the Right Exercises
If you need to work on your strength, then there are 2 important exercises that you need to be doing: Back Squats and Deadlifts.
If you need to work on your reactive strength, then it is important to implement plyometric exercises in your training. Some effective ones include depth jumps, altitude drops, box jumps, and reactive lifts (e.g. reactive squat).
Step 3 Implement ROFD Training
Rate of Force Development (ROFD) is an important part of training to improve vertical jump. It is basically the speed at which force can be produced (Power = Strength x Speed). This kind of training should be implemented in all parts and phases of your vertical jump training, and is best done by including some Olympic lifts or their variations within your workouts. The variations most recommended are the Power Clean and the Power Snatch.
Step 4 Jumping Technique
Jumping technique, especially in the RVJ, makes a difference. For a lot of people, this is not an issue, but many others can benefit from small tweaks to their vertical jump form. Working on this will quickly improve your vertical by a few inches, and these are lasting gains.
- While plyometric exercises are very popular for increase the vertical jump, it is highly recommended to have a decent strength base before implementing them in your workouts to minimize the risks of injury.
- Your weight plays a role in how high you can jump. So if you are overweight and have a body fat percentage in the 20% or higher range, then you can benefit from losing fat. This is a surefire way to increase your vertical jump.
- Allow yourself to recover between workouts. Leave 1 day of rest between your strength or plyometric workouts.
- Make sure your form is perfect or close to perfect on any exercise you do. Not learning correct form can and will lead to injuries. Refer to the Starting Strength Wiki for lifting techniques.
- Never do plyometric exercises after your strength workouts. You should do them before, or on separate days. You should be well rested to avoid injuries.
- Try to limit high impact plyometric exercises such as depth jumps or altitude jumps to 1 per workout and 1 per phase to avoid injuries.