Diet and Nutrition

Increase your Vertical Jump – An Interview with Kelly Baggett

Have you ever looked up into the sky and watched a bird soar gracefully through the air and thought what it would be like to fly? Other than sprouting wings, the next closest thing would be the ability to get good air-time in a vertical jump.

For many years this feat was only reserved for elite athletes who awed their audiences with hang times that left their opponents with stiff necks from watching. This ability is respected and admired by many, and is a great way to show off one’s physical prowess.

Being strong is one thing, but being able to display the different types of strength one possesses is another. Here is an athletic skill which displays the ability to generate an impressive amount of explosiveness and power.

Kelly Baggett is a performance consultant to athletes who has written the ‘bible’ on how to jump higher. If you don’t believe me when I say that this book explains everything you need to know about the topic, then read on, and learn how Kelly has approached it in a way that no-one else has..

Wannabebig: Who the heck are you and what do you do?

 Kelly: I have worked as a trainer for the past 11 years and have held a part in two training facilities specializing in sports performance training, gymnastics, martial arts, and general fitness. I have a website Higher Faster Sports and now mainly work as a performance consultant designing programs and providing guidance for athletes and people who participate in various sports and activities throughout the world. My clients include athletes in football, basketball, boxing, volleyball, powerlifting, and bodybuilding, as well as plenty of people who just desire to look better.

Wannabebig: Why did you write this book?

Kelly: Mainly because I felt I had a duty to do it for all the other athletes out there who were once like I was. I looked around and saw a lot of athletes searching for answers and instead of being presented with legitimate solutions in their quest to get higher, they were being presented with a lot of inferior products and programs. The vertical jump improvement market was one filled with false hype, gimmicks, and gadgets. For whatever the reason, although it’s fairly common knowledge in advanced scientific sports training circles, information that people could use to actually get results was not being presented to the general public.

I took a look at probably 15 different programs being marketed and not a single one of them appeared to be put together with any understanding of the science behind how to create a more explosive athlete. The ‘vertical jump’ is the topic of hundreds of scientific studies and years of research by sports scientists the world over, but this knowledge was not common.

Wannabebig: For those reading this, I’m sure they’re wondering what makes you such an authority on this subject?

Kelly: In addition to my 10 + years of coaching experience and research, I also improved my own vertical jump from 23 to over 42 inches. The same information and programs that I use to help others is the same information I first tested and used to help myself, so I feel I have a pretty good handle on how things fit together and what works and what doesn’t.

Kelly Baggett dunking at 5’9 – white man can jump.

Wannabebig: What’s the most common mistake people make when they try to increase their vertical jumping power?

Kelly: They usually overtrain in certain areas and undertrain in others. The average person who wants to improve their vertical jump is an athlete who already spends countless hours per week playing their sport of choice. The average vertical jump program is one that is extremely high in submaximal plyometric work. 

Submaximal plyometric work is already something they’re being forcefed through their sport. What they’re not getting enough of is basic strength work.

In addition, people try to do to many things at once. They want to become better-conditioned, stronger, and more explosive all at the same time. So they’re out playing full-court basketball for 3 hours 5 times a week and running extra intervals on top of that. Then they’re in the gym 3 times per week lifting weights and doing plyometrics on top of that. Gains aren’t likely to occur in those instances simply because there’s not enough adaptive energy. It’s like these people who try to bulk up and lose fat at the same time. I usually try to have guys get rid of as much junk volume as possible when they’re training for vertical jump improvements. There is a time and place for everything but you can’t specialize on everything all the time.

Wannabebig: Some good points there, Kelly. So what concepts do people need to understand when it comes to increasing vertical jumping power?

Kelly: The vertical jump is simply a measure of relative power (or power per pound of bodyweight). Power is a combination of force and speed with force being the more important quality, and more trainable quality of the two. A space shuttle with a 2-horsepower motor isn’t gonna go anywhere and neither is a funny car with a tractor motor, or a souped up funny car with a 500 lb weight weighing it down! So first you take a look at your force, your speed, and how they relate to your bodyweight and bodyfat percentage. I have tests that measure all of these things. We then plug the athlete into a program designed to suit their needs.

Wannabebig: What do you feel is the most important principle in your program?

Kelly: Probably the principle that’s applicable to most people, is that I really drive home the need to be strong and to be able to put out a lot of force. Strength is the backbone upon which all the other qualities of strength reside (explosive strength, reactive strength, strength endurance etc.). To prove my point I like to use lots of real world examples. I could talk about this all day, but here are a few:

The average NBA prospect has an average one-step vertical jump of 28-30 inches. In contrast, I have a list from last years NFL combine and the average linebacker, at an average weight of 250 lbs, has a standing vertical jump of 36+ inches! What do you think the biggest difference is between the linebacker and the NBA prospect? Probably the fact that the linebacker is as powerful as a stick of dynamite and at the backbone of that power lies the strength of an ox – that strength is something the NBA prospect simply doesn’t have because he’s never focused on it.

  • The most explosive athletes are strong.
  • The average high jumper at 6’4 165 lbs, even with legs as skinny and as long as a waterhose, will still squat in the upper 300′s.
  • The average national-class olympic lifter has a vertical in the high 30′s and some 300 lb heavyweights even have VJs over 40 inches.
  • A sprinter will VJ 40+ and squat 2.5 to 3 times their bodyweight easily.
  • The average national class shotputter at 260 lbs + can broad jump 10 feet or more.
  • Kobe Bryant routinely does squats with over 400 lbs + chain.

The list goes on and on. Some people can jump without being strong due to their natural structural and muscle fiber characteristics, yet the only way the average athlete is going to get that kind of explosiveness is to boost their backbone of horsepower.

Now, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. A person could mess around and train for two years using some gimmick like rubber bands, shoes, or god knows what else, and maybe improve their relative power by 10%. Or they could get back to the basics, go to the gym and train six months and improve their capacity to apply force by 30%. It should be obvious which one gives them the biggest return on their investment. :)

Wannabebig: I think you’ve hammered home the emphasis on building a strong foundation. What sets your program apart from all the others? Why not just perform plyometrics, squat and practice jumping?

Kelly: What really sets my program apart from others is the individuality. No two athletes are exactly alike, and a cookie-cutter setup only works if you happen to get lucky, so I try to make everything customizable to the individual. Let me give you a few examples.

A. We might have an individual at 6’0″ -130 lbs who has lightning-fast reflexes and quickness yet can only squat 115 lbs. This is the equivalent of a space shuttle trying to make it out of orbit with a 2 hp motor.

B. We might have an individual who’s 5’6″ – 180 lbs and is a state powerlifting champion. He’s strong, lean, muscular, and looks impressive – yet he’s only able to use his great force at slow speeds – In other words, he looks like a funny car but moves around like a tractor. He could pull you out of the ditch if you got stuck but in a race you’d blow him away.

C. We might have an individual who is 5’9″ – 190 lbs. He has good speed and reflexes and strength, yet also has a 20-lb spare-tire hanging around his waist.

Each of those 3 people are going to need, and respond best to, a different type of training.

Another thing I feel sets my program apart is that instead of only using my personal experiences, thoughts, and ideas, I have referenced over 50 scientific studies to support my guidelines, claims, and training prescriptions. I enjoy putting scientific talk into everyday language and people seem to enjoy and benefit from it.

Wannabebig: Does your program take into account the various levels of training experience each person has?

Kelly: Yes, I break the programs up into three areas of focus. These are strength, speed, and combination. Each area of focus will have a novice, intermediate and advanced series of workouts with the average workout being 12-16 weeks long.

Wannabebig: With all this talk about getting stronger to jump higher, would it be safe to assume that there is a transfer of strength into other movements as a result of training specifically to increase vertical jumping power?

Kelly: As far as weight room movements go, of course, the training that a person does to increase their vertical often includes lots of weight room movements, so in that sense I can take an average novice athlete and put 10 inches on his vertical, and a lot of times his squat will have increased 50 lbs or more because of the training that went into that. In addition, vertical jump training will often transfer directly into running speed over short distances even without any focus on it whatsoever. Take someone and increase his vertical by 6 inches and his speed will almost always improve as well.

Wannabebig: Outside of training and moving into other areas that might be of help, are there any supplements you recommend while following your program?

Kelly: I wouldn’t deem them necessary but they can be helpful. Anybody can benefit from a basic multivitamin, extra vitamin C, magnesium, fish oils, and glucosamine. Vitamin C and magnesium greatly seem to help the ability to tolerate training stress. Fish oil just does a host of wonderful things including help with inflammation, and glucosamine as I’m sure you know is great for the joints. [Editors Note: ETS would be an effective supplement to use, as it aids in both recovery and joint problems many lifters struggle with.]

Wannabebig: What about nutrition–how important is its role in your program?

Kelly: It’s important in the sense that having a low level of bodyfat is a big advantage and having a high level of bodyfat is a definite disadvantage. In today’s society, with supersized fast food meals and 44 ounce sugar soft drinks being the most common dietary choices for young athletes, (and sitting on the couch playing Madden football being the entertainment of choice), it’s fairly difficult to carry a low level of bodyfat unless you train with the volume of Lance Armstrong. Therefore I feel it’s important to learn how to eat. For that reason I also include a 60-page bonus nutritional e-book on Body Composition Management.

Wannabebig: On average, what can someone expect if they follow your program religiously?

Kelly: In addition to consistent improvement, the most important thing I want people to gain isthe understanding of what they need to do to make further improvements, regardless of where they might be at now or where they’re at in the months ahead. Instead of getting lucky and happening to stumble onto a program that gives them results for 3 months, and then getting stuck for the next 2 years while they figure out what they need to do to continue gaining, what I’ve tried to do with my system is eliminate the guesswork and allow an individual to ALWAYS know what they need to be doing to make the quickest improvements. It should be as simple as plugging yourself into a formula and then having a plan to follow based on the results of the formula. So an athlete might say, “Ok right now when I plug myself into the formula it shows me that I need to increase my explosiveness so this is the right program for me” Six months from now that might change and they’ll be saying, “Ok now I’ve improved my explosiveness so now I need to go back and create more raw horsepower…this is the program that I need to follow to do
that”.

When I increased my vertical jump from 23 to over 42 inches I didn’t have the luxury of having a roadmap of how to get there. I had to experiment with everything and figure out everything the hard way. There were times when my vertical didn’t budge for 2.5 years. Some times I even regressed. One time I had got it all the way up to the mid 30 inch range and within 6 months it was down under 20! (That’s what high volume endurance training can do to an explosive athlete).

Wannabebig: How soon can someone expect to see results?

Kelly: One of the first things I try to do is teach people the proper technique. Most guys can gain an immediate 2-3 inches just by making a few minor technical adjustments in their approach and takeoff. Once that happens and a person begins a program that encompasses the right training at the right volume and frequency, improvements can occur very quickly. It’s not uncommon to see a 4-5 inch gain within a couple of solid weeks of training. However, the best improvements tend to occur after a dedicated phase of focused training when the body is allowed to recovery fully. For example, we might hit everything hard for 3-4 weeks and then have a really easy week. Towards the end of that easy week is when you see the big time jumps.

Wannabebig: Thanks, Kelly, for taking the time to share your insights on this very hot topic. For more info on his book, visit Kelly’s Verticle Jump website

Written by Maki Riddington

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Increase your Vertical Jump – An Interview with Kelly Baggett discussion thread