Long before Zion Williamson was a freshman phenom at Duke University, he obtained the vaunted status of social media sensation and prep school celebrity thanks in large part to his cornucopia of breathtaking slam dunks.
And two decades before Zion Williamson became the most talked about dunker in the land, Vincent Lamar Carter, an alumnus of Duke archrival UNC, was the one who was rendering jaws agape with his preternatural jumping ability.
The common thread between both Williamson and Carter, besides their Tobacco Row basketball ties, is the sheer power and athleticism of their vertical leaps. Both hardwood stars exhibit explosive elevation which they exercise to electrify the elated spectators.
So, do you want to know how to jump higher?
An impressive vertical jump is a sight to behold but is also not a feat beyond your reach.
While I cannot promise you that you will ever possess the same above-the-rim creativity and body control that have made Vince Carter and Zion Williamson slam dunk champions, I can help you put together a game plan that will give a considerable boost to your bounce.
You may not win any dunk contests, but if you follow my advice, you will increase your vertical jump.
And as Zion Williamson’s 2.2 million Instagram followers can testify: Verticality equals visibility.
Being a great leaper requires strength, flexibility, speed, and agility. The following five exercises will help you to improve in all these areas of athleticism:
5 Exercises to Increase Vertical Jump
In order for an athlete to reach peak performance, they must prepare their muscles to be pliable and primed to compete.
This requires having a regular routine of stretching that will keep your muscles loose, malleable, and less susceptible to injury.
Muscle knots or “trigger points” can appear in various parts of your body and they can restrict the length of your muscle tissue. Due to this obstruction, the muscle tissue is vulnerable to becoming weak and short.
A foam roller can be used to provide relief to a cluster of knotty muscles as can be seen in the video above
Apply the foam roller deliberately over the affected areas to alleviate spasms. Press the roller along your outer thigh to elongate the muscle fibers. Also, make sure to massage and stretch out calves, quads, IT band, and other lower extremities.
Here are a few quick drills you can do with a foam roller:
If you’re like most people, you have tight hip flexors because of the way our hips naturally bend and due to all the stationary and sedentary activity in which we partake in.
Because of this, you aren’t able to get the full hip extension when you jump, which inhibits the prospects of your vertical prowess.
The remedy is simple.
You need to strengthen your hip flexors by stretching them out for half a minute, twice on each side. Afterward, attempt to jump.
If you compare your pre-stretch leap to your post-stretch leap, you should notice a substantial improvement.
A flexible hip flexor allows for more power storage and explosiveness in your core area of muscles.
Plyometrics are exercises that emphasize explosiveness and are designed to increase speed, quickness, and power.
Most exercises include various stages leaping and bounding in which the muscles exert maximal effort and force in short bursts or intervals of time. The goal is to move from the eccentric to the concentric phase of a movement rapidly while using proper biomechanics and technique, as can be seen in the video below
In a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, research scientist Goran Markovich states that, “The overall results of this study suggest that the [plyometric training] significantly improves vertical jump height.”
That improvement is measured in a five percent to 10 percent increase (or two to six centimeters) depending on the vertical jump training made.
Plyometric training could well be recommended for healthy individuals aiming to improve not only their vertical jumping ability but also other athletic performance.”
At the outset of plyometric training, your body has a tendency to create more slow-twitch muscle fibers in response to the new training stimulus. However, plyometrics gradually increase the number of fast-twitch muscle fibers in a certain muscle group.
Be patient because the effects won’t be instantaneous.
Once you decide to decrease the volume of your vertical jump training or decelerate after a couple of weeks, your results will be more noticeable as more and more fibers will have transformed into fast-twitch.
In concert with this scientific support, plyometric exercises are often used to train athletes or highly fit individuals.
Because the sheer force required is high and the intense pressure they can exert on the lower-extremity joints (especially the knees), plyometrics are not recommended for novice exercisers without proper supervision or coaching.
All plyometric exercises require strong ligaments and tendons and therefore should be accompanied by a proven strength routine.
Athletes of all levels of workout experience can work their way up through a progression of plyometric exercises.
Here is a list of various drills you can try relative to your experience:
Squats are crucial lower body exercises that help to form the foundation and power of explosive verticality. Different variations of squats can either focus on building the quad muscles, thigh muscles, or hamstrings. When executed properly, squats also help increase mobility and balance while also burning fat and calories.
However, if the proper form and techniques are not implemented, squats can become a major hazard to your back and to your knees.
Too many sports injuries are the results of weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues, which squats help to strengthen. They also help prevent injury by improving your flexibility (squats improve the range of motion in your ankles and hips) and balance.
The three squat variations that help the jumping athletes — think basketball players, volleyball players, and track and field stars — most are the back squats, box squats, and front squats.
A) Back Squats
B) Box Squats
C) Front Squats
Box squats are a great exercise that teaches athletes to explode upwards once they reach the box. This gives them the power they need when preparing to launch themselves when jumping.
4. Bulgarian Split Squat
Due to the high potential for injury by novice and experienced weight trainers alike when performing traditional back squat exercises with a dumbbell, many exercise professionals have begun to espouse the Bulgarian split squat, also known as a Rear foot elevated split squat, as an alternative strength-building workout.
Mike Boyle, a strength and conditioning expert, says, “The back gets injured the most when squatting, so we train our legs for size and strength by bypassing the back.”
The Bulgarian split squat as can be seen in the video above is a subclass squat exercise that incorporates more challenging joint movement.
The body position during the Bulgarian version shifts your weight forward, increasing the range of motion and the degree of difficulty for balancing.
During this exercise, you will naturally shift more of your weight forward to the front leg. The quadriceps in your front leg serve as the primary movers, while your glutes and inner thigh muscles provide an assist.
The hamstrings and calf muscles act as stabilizers.
Also, a 2014 article in the International Journal of Exercise Science concluded that the Bulgarian split squat produced similar muscle activity and production as the back squat while putting the participants at far less risk of injury.
The bottom line is if you’re looking to increase your lower body strength as a means to improving your vertical jump but you to limit your risk of injury, the rear foot elevated split squat, aka the Bulgarian squat, is a worthy addition to your workout routine.
The same muscles that are sculpted and defined when molding a great leaper are the same ones developed by an elite sprinter.
Utilized properly, the short bursts of fierce sprints build muscle and performance, springing into action multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
A well-developed sprinting routine has the dual benefit of building cardiovascular endurance while also refining your fast-twitch muscle fibers, optimizing your explosiveness.
This routine should include ladder sprinting, which is running intervals of increasing distance (between 50 to 100 yards) and then retracing your steps and working your way back down.
You should also incorporate hill sprints. The change in terrain and the increased inclines will provide a welcomed shock and stimuli to your lower body to help ward off any signs of muscle building plateau.
Finally, inject some form of downhill sprint training like in the video above into your program.
On the surface, downhill running may seem pretty simplistic. However, proper mechanics are crucial to downhill running so that you can avoid the common mistakes of braking on your heels and overstriding.
Jason Karp, a San Diego-based exercise, physiologist extols downhill running as one of the best methods of building muscles.
Downhill running includes eccentric muscle contractions, during which muscle fibers lengthen under tension, which can help increase muscle power and make you faster since eccentric contractions are our strongest type of contraction.”
The increased power, speed, and agility gained from these sprinting exercises over time will also be instrumental in your journey to maximize your vertical jump.
Want To Jump Higher Like an NBA Superstar?
When it comes to great leapers, a select few like Zion Williamson and Vince Carter, are born with God-given ability to soar above the masses.
But the vast majority of great jumpers weren’t designated so at birth; rather, they honed their craft through hard work, proper technique, and lots of repetition.
Just as a great writer or an elite actor must work continuously to perfect the art and science of their respective disciplines, ever aspiring to refine
their abilities, those who would aspire to obtain elite verticality must consistently practice exercises designed to sharpen their athleticism.
If your aim is to increase vertical jump, take advantage of the five above exercises above and over time, you’ll surely rise to the occasion.
If you’re looking for expert training, we recommend PJF Performance’s Vertical Jump online training program. Paul Fabritz works with reigning NBA MVP James Harden and has made is his program available to anyone.
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2. U. Wisloff, C. Castagna, J. Helgerud, R. Jones, J. Hoff, Strong correlation of maximal squat strength with sprint performance and vertical jump height in elite soccer players, retrieved from https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/38/3/285.abstract
3. Mackenzie Lobby, 5 Sprint Workouts that Burn Fat and Make You Faster, retrieved from https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a19515870/quick-sprint-workouts/
4. Bradley Deforest, Gregory Cantrell, Brian Schillng, Muscle Activity in Single vs. Double-Leg Squats, retrieved from https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1607&context=ijes
5. The Science of Eating, Benefits of Squats, retrieved from http://thescienceofeating.com/2015/01/07/benefits-of-squats/
6. Speirs DE, Bennett MA, Finn CV, Turner AP., Unilateral vs. Bilateral Squat Training for Strength, Sprints, and Agility in Academy Rugby Players, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26200193
7. Men's Journal, 7 Ways to Improve Your Vertical Leap, retrieved from https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/4-tips-increasing-your-vertical-jump