How to Increase Your Vertical Jump
By far, the most common thing basketball players are looking for when they are looking to “workout” is to improve their vertical jump and to dunk! Usually their most common solution is to search the internet for “Best Exercise for Vertical Jump” and just do what they find. While that one exercise will often help, improving your vertical should be done more carefully and progressively following a comprehensive plan.
Training to Increase Your Vertical Jump
Don’t just do “jump training”. Follow a sound strength and conditioning program that incorporates elements of jump training into it. To improve your vertical jump follow this advice and incorporate these 7 elements into your training:
- Play Basketball! Jump! Dunk!
- Jumps and Plyos
- Jump Technique
- Max Effort Jumps
- Heavy Implement Power
- Advanced Techniques
We’ll discuss each one in further detail below
Play Basketball! Jump! Dunk!
What’s the best way to increase your vertical and to get that first dunk? Is it doing depth jumps? Vertimax? “Slingshot” Jumps? Olympic Lifts? While these are all good exercises that could be inserted at some point into a sound training program, they are really NOT what you need to start with. The best way to start trying to increase your vertical jump and get that first dunk is to actually play more basketball and practice dunks/dunk attempts!
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You already have some level of strength in that body of yours. Start using it and training to get the most vertical jump out of the strength you have. The environment of jumping with your friends after practice, and intuitively working on sport-specific jump techniques really can’t be replicated by any other method.
Apply the principle of progressive training to this:
- If you can’t get near a 10 foot rim yet, start with an adjustable rim at a lower setting. Gradually increase the height as you master your current level.
- If you can’t get near a 10 foot rim but don’t have access to an adjustable rim then just try and touch the highest point possible on the mesh or the backboard on all your layups. Gradually increase your target.
- If you can reach a 10 foot rim but can’t dunk a regulation size basketball start with a small ball like a ping pong ball. Get that and move to a tennis ball, a softball, a volleyball, a size 5 basketball, size 6 and finally regulation / size 7
These simple principles were what many of the top dunkers in the world did to get started on their journey!
OK, so now you are working with what you got, it’s also time to develop more strength. Mathematically Power (Vertical Jump) = Force * Velocity. You increase the force you can apply by developing strength. You do that in the weight room by following a sound strength training program. One that balances your body (push/pull, squat/hinge), and develops unilateral lower body strength. Don’t just follow a body-builder or power-builder plan. While you will surely get stronger, this won’t be the most efficient and safe way to do it. For more guidance on what exercise categories to use, what exercises to start with, and how to structure your workouts please see our other blog and IG posts. Some specific posts to get you started:
Jumps and Plyos
Definitely include some jump training in your overall training program. Make sure to start with jumps that work on sticking the landing. Then progress to gradually more and more reactive or elastic jumps. You should be working on bilateral AND unilateral jumps in various planes of motion. Don’t just stick to basketball-specific or two foot jumps.
A good starting point are Eccentric (stick the landing) Hurdle Jumps and Hurdle Hops (unilateral). I’ll provide more details on other jumps as well as progressions in future posts.
These may not look like much but they are fundamental jumps to work on and master before moving onto more advanced jumps and plyos. They allow you to work on landing which is critical to reducing injury potential – which allows you to stay in the game and actually work on your jumping more and allows you to better control landings on multiple effort jumps and TRUE plyos. The hurdle hop is unilateral and starts to introduce you to the most important aspect of lower body strength and jump training for athletes which is working on 1 leg – all injuries really occur on 1 leg, and all sports, including basketball are truly unilateral in nature.
For some of the greatest jumpers and athletes I believe that intuitively, they figure out the “right” technique and the optimal technique for their own bodies. But, we often see athletes that struggle with technique – you know a really slow approach, or fast but then slowing down before the jump, collapsing too much before jumping, etc. These are the athletes that could benefit from some technique work off the court, with a coach so that they can better use what they have. While the most important and complex technique occurs during the full approach jump off 2 feet or 1 feet, you can break-down and progress your technique work by working on technique through the following jump variations:
- Standing Vertical Jump
- Step-In Vertical Jump
- Penultimate Step Vertical Jumps
- Full Approach Vertical Jumps off 2 feet
- Full Approach Vertical jumps off 1 foot
For all the jumps after standing be sure to work on BOTH Left-Right, and Right-Left plant sequences. On the court, in games you will probably naturally bias your preferred/best jumping leg but use the weight room training sessions to balance your body and develop skill on both sides – it will reduce your injury potential and improve your on-court abilities.
Max Effort Jumps
Once you master the technique it’s important to do some max-effort jumps. This means without a basketball as usually holding a basketball will decrease your vertical a bit. We want to get some reps jumping at our max possible. Use the same type of jumps listed above in the jump technique section. In fact in PPT, for athletes that have “mastered’ the technique we’ll just use the same drill to work on both technique and max effort jumps at the same time. Use something to measure jump height – a jump mat, a vertec, an app, or even tape on the wall and a measuring tape!
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Heavy Implement Power
Now we get into some of the more advanced methods. Heavy Implement Power really just means moving weight quickly and explosively. The most well-known variation of this are Olympic lifts such as the clean. The clean is a great exercise, and we use variations of it at PPT with advanced athletes. That said, it is a very technical lift that takes time to learn and should be modified for athletes (hoopers don’t need to do the full official Olympic lift from the floor). If you are not ready for that there are options that are easier to learn and safer to perform for less experienced lifters. These include things like: Kettlebell Swing variations, DB Jump Squat Variations, Trap Bar Jump Variations and more.
Advanced Techniques – for athletes that search the internet for “best vertical jump exercise”, unfortunately this is often where you start. But this is really the last stuff you should add for your training, and usually only for limited time – i.e. the last few weeks of off-season training. These include true plyometrics and advanced jump exercises like: depth jumps, Vertimax, and Contrast Training – pairing a strength exercise with a similar movement pattern jump in such a way that the muscles and nervous system are activated by the strength exercise and a higher intent jump can be achieved.