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The Science Behind Your Vertical Leap

  • Author:
    By J.B. Sky
  • Date:
    Apr 8, 2015

Do you dream of soaring through the air like LeBron James, Nate Robinson, or Michael Jordan? If so, whether you are overweight, underweight, or just average, this article will help you increase your vertical jump. The same general training principles can apply to anyone, no matter what their weight is!

With thousands of different articles, books, videos, and even wrong information on how to improve your vertical jump, it can become very confusing on what the right thing to do is. In most areas of life, there are multiple ways to achieve one specific goal. The same goes for the vertical jump.

There are many different ways to jump higher, however, I’m going to share with you general principles that have helped millions of people increase their vertical jumps and become top athletes. Many NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and Olympic athletes have followed these principles. If you follow them as well, I can promise you that your vertical jump will have no choice but to increase!

The secret to jumping can be found in basic physics. Increasing your vertical jump comes down to one simple concept. Increase your overall power-to-body weight ratio. If you can do this, your vertical jump will scientifically have to increase.

What Is Power?

Power = Force x Velocity

When it comes to the vertical jump, Force is the maximum amount of strength that someone has and velocity is the maximum amount of speed someone has. If you increase your strength and your velocity (in ratio to your body weight), then your vertical jump will improve. This is the general principle that millions of top athletes have followed. It is that simple!

What Is Strength?

The most effective way to measure your strength when it comes to the vertical jump is through exercises like the full Olympic back squat, front squat, powerlifting style squat, box squat, and dead lift. Increase the amount of weight you can lift in any of these exercises in comparison to your bodyweight and your vertical jump will increase.

What Is Velocity?

Velocity is the speed at which the vertical jump is done. The vertical jump is a very quick movement. On average, most vertical jumps happen around .2 seconds. Having quick velocity allows you to display your strength. Effective ways of increasing your velocity are exercises like depth jumps, shock jumps, broad jumps, and even just jumping.

To better understand these principles here are some examples:

Example 1

Athlete A: Bodyweight 160 lbs., Maximum Squat 300 lbs., Maximum Power in the Vertical Jump 250 lbs.

Athlete B: Bodyweight 160 lbs., Maximum Squat 300 lbs., Maximum Power in the Vertical Jump 100 lbs.

Both of these athletes weigh the same and can squat the same, however, in the quick movement of the vertical jump, Athlete A puts out 250 lbs. of force and Athlete B only puts out 100 lbs. of force. Therefore, Athlete A will jump higher than Athlete B. Athlete B will have to increase his Velocity to allow his strength to carry over into his vertical jump and make his vertical increase.

Example 2

Athlete A: Bodyweight 160 lbs., Maximum squat 300 lbs., Maximum Power in the vertical jump 275 lbs.

Athlete B: Bodyweight 300 lbs., Maximum squat 300 lbs., Maximum Power in the vertical jump 275 lbs.

Both of these athletes can squat the same and put out the same maximum power in the vertical jump, however, Athlete A weighs 140 pounds less than Athlete B. Therefore Athlete A has a better power-to-weight ratio and will be able throw himself into the air higher. If athlete B wanted to jump higher he could lose some weight.

Example 3

Athlete A: Bodyweight 160 lbs., Maximum squat 160 lbs., Maximum Power in the vertical jump 155 lbs.

Athlete B: Bodyweight 160 lbs., Maximum squat 400 lbs., Maximum Power in the vertical jump 375 lbs.

Which one of these athletes can jump higher?

If you answered Athlete B, then you are learning! Athlete B can jump much higher than athlete A because he has much more strength and can display most of that strength with his quick velocity in the vertical jump. If Athlete A wanted to increase his vertical jump he would have to increase his maximum squat and continue to increase his velocity so that he can display his strength in his vertical jump.


Another very important factor when it comes to improving your vertical jump is flexibility. If you are not flexible enough, you will not be able to get into the proper position and go into the full range of motion when you jump. This will limit your vertical jump potential. As well, stretching will help prevent injuries. You can increase your flexibility and prevent injuries by doing dynamic and static stretching.

What is Dynamic Stretching?

Dynamic stretching uses speed of a movement and momentum to stretch a muscle. For example, swinging your leg side to side is a dynamic stretch. Dynamic stretches should be done before a workout to help you warm up.

What is Static Stretching?

Static stretching is keeping the body at rest and staying in one position while stretching a muscle. For example, leaning over and touching your toes, and then holding that position for a certain amount of time without moving. This type of stretching should be done at some point after your workout, or on off days.

Sample Training Program

There is no end all be all, magical training program out there. As long as you increase your power-to-weight ratio and have efficient flexibility to get into the proper positions to jump, then your vertical jump will increase. There are millions of different variations of exercises and programs that can help you achieve those goals. The real secret is picking a program, consistently sticking to it and never giving up!

That being said, the goal of this program is to simultaneously increase your velocity, strength, and flexibility, which will then carryover and increase your vertical jump. Therefore you have to be adding weight to these exercises every week and consciously try to jump as quick and high as you can on every rep.

Day 1

  • Dynamic Warmup
  • 8-10 Running Vertical Jumps
  • 3x5 Maximum Full Olympic Back Squats
  • 2x10 Glute Ham Raise

Day 2

  • Dynamic Warmup
  • 3x5 Benchpress
  • 2x5 Chin-ups with weight (Use bodyweight if you can’t use weight)
  • 2x8 Dumbell Rows
  • 2x8 Dumbell Shoulder Shrugs

Day 3

  • Static Stretch

Day 4

  • Static Stretch

Day 5

  • Dynamic Warmup
  • 5 Standing Broad Jumps
  • 3x2 Depth Jumps
  • 2x3 Maximum Front Squats
  • 2x10 Dumbell Lunges

Day 6

  • Dynamic Warmup
  • 2x8 Incline bench press
  • 3x5 Max pull-ups with weight (Use bodyweight if you can’t use weight)
  • 2x5 Barbell Rows
  • 3x5 Dumbell Shoulder press

Day 7

  • Static Stretch

Then repeat the workout again the next week, trying to add weight to every lift and jump higher/further/quicker. If at any point you are feeling overworked, beat up, or drained, take the day off and eat more food! Nutrition is equally important as the actual training when it comes to the vertical jump.

As long as your power-to-weight ratio is improving every week and you feel energized and healthy every day then you are heading in the right direction.

Good luck and have fun flying!

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