by Travis Bell - Superior Athletics

Training the vertical jump is one of the most common requests I get from athletes when they first come into my gym. Usually it’s from basketball players and volleyball players but occasionally I’ll still get some college football players who have watched the combines and feel they have to have a 40” vertical to be able to be competitive in the next level.

Increasing your vertical jump has been pretty well marketed through special shoes, special training programs, different training implements and a plethora of other tools and programs that people “must have” to help them jump higher.

1. Squat

But really, does it have to be that difficult? Lets look at the basics. When an athlete goes into a jump, what’s the first thing they do? They squat down. Then they squat up, pushing off the ground using their posterior chain (NOT their calves) creating enough force and momentum so that their body is lifted off the ground and for a very short period of time says a big “screw you” to gravity.

For a long time it was just assumed that a person’s vertical was mostly genetic. Athletes like LeBron James were just born to jump higher than the rest of us. To a small extent that is still true today. However, the majority of athletes have the genetic ability to jump higher than they think they can.

It all goes back to creating the necessary amount of force to lift your body off the ground in a quick motion. At Superior Athletics we incorporate box squats into our training rotation. These put the athlete in a much similar position as when they are jumping and forces them to reverse that motion with added weight on their back. Dynamic Effort squats are used in an effort to train the stretch reflex, or the motion that the body goes through when it reverses the downward force into an upward force. DE squats also train the fast twitch fibers.

Maximum Effort squats are used to help the athlete develop more power/strength. The stronger the hamstrings, glutes, hips and lower back are, the more power the athlete will be able to produce coming off the floor. Various squats are used. We will often use different combinations of bands, box heights, chains and different bars. We keep track of PR’s of each setup and choose each specific setup (box height, band tension and bar used) based upon the athletes specific weaknesses. Lifters with more hamstring and glute weaknesses will squat to a lower box while lifters with a hip weaknesses will squat ultra wide on a parallel box.

2. Posterior Chain Accessory Work

Accessory work is imperative. While squatting will cover just about all your bases, athletes can easily target specific muscles with some key accessory movements.

The first being glute ham raises. I’ve done a lot of hamstring work in the past and nothing wrecks your hamstrings like the GHR. Once your athletes get the hang of the movement, you can challenge them even further by adding in some band tension and even having them hold onto 10 and 25lb plates while doing them.

Another excellent movement is the Reverse Hyper TM made by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. The spinal erectors are specifically targeted with the Reverse Hyper in a very specific way. Some athletes have seen marked improvements even when the only change was adding in the Reverse Hyper. Often we will use it for 4 sets of 15 reps on DE day and 4-5 sets of 10 reps on ME day.

3. Box Jump

And then there is box jumps. The must have staple of every program that helps increase your vertical jump. Many athletes have used boxes for jumping before but haven’t seen much improvement in their vertical jump, which is often because they just do free standing jumps over and over again and never change.

When using box jumps, it’s really important to make sure you are changing it up and using a large variety box jumps so that your body does not become stagnant in your program. Remember, many things work, but nothing works forever.

We will rotate between seated box jumps (jumping on a box from a seated position) seated box jumps while holding dumbbells, seated box jumps while wear a weight vest, standing box jumps (both with dumbbells and weight vest) and kneeling box jumps (jumping onto a box from a kneeling position). Each time we do box jumps, we use two different types of box jumps. We rotate between using heavier weights and lower boxes, to lighter weight and higher boxes.

Box jumps are mainly used to help with explosiveness in the posterior chain, but for those desiring to increase their vertical jump, it can prove to be a bit task specific. Similar to how using different squat and bench variations helps increase bench and squat numbers, training different box jump variations will help increase vertical jump height.


Box Jumps at Superior Athletics Training Facility

So don’t say you can’t jump! Increase your power and explosiveness and you may be surprised how high you can leap.

This exclusive article (and others) can be found in the latest Wannabebig Serious About Muscle Newsletter - April 21st, 2010

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