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Dwight Howard

The Science Behind Your Vertical Leap

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

Do you dream of soaring through the air like LeBron James or Michael Jordan? If so, whether you are young or experienced, overweight, underweight or average weight, this article will help you increase your vertical jump. The same general training principles apply to everyone.

With thousands of different articles, books, videos and even wrong information on how to improve your vertical jump, it can be confusing to find accurate information. In most areas of life, there are multiple ways to achieve one specific goal, and the same goes for the vertical jump.

Below are some general principles that will help you improve your vertical jump.

The secret to jumping high is found in 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 such as the full Olympic back squat, front squat, power-lifting squat, box squat and dead lift. Increase the amount of weight you can lift in any of these exercises in comparison to your body weight, 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 quick movement. On average, most vertical jumps happen around .2 seconds. Having quick velocity allows you to take advantage of your strength. Effective ways of increasing your velocity are exercises such as depth jumps, shock jumps, broad jumps and even just jumping.

To better understand these principles here are some examples:

Example 1

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

Athlete B: Body weight 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 puts out 100 lbs. of force, therefore, Athlete A will jump higher than Athlete B. Athlete B will have to increase their Velocity to allow their strength to carry over into their vertical jump.

Example 2

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

Athlete B: Body weight 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 themself into the air higher.

Example 3

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

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

Which one of these athletes can jump higher?

Athlete B can jump higher than athlete A, because they have more strength and can display that strength with a quick velocity in the vertical jump. If Athlete A wanted to increase their vertical jump, they could increase their maximum squat and/or increase their velocity.

Flexibility

Another important factor when it comes to improving vertical jump is flexibility. If you are not flexible enough, you will not be able to get into the proper position to get a 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 after a workout, or on off days.

Sample Training Program

There is no perfect training program. As long as you increase your power-to-weight ratio and have efficient flexibility to get into the proper position to jump, then your vertical jump will increase. There are many variations of exercises and programs that can help you achieve those goals. The secret is picking a program and consistently sticking to it.

That being said, the goal of this program is to simultaneously increase your velocity, strength and flexibility, which will carryover and increase your vertical jump. You should progressively add weight to these exercises each 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 Bench press
  • 2x5 Chin-ups with weight (Use body weight if you can’t use weight)
  • 2x8 Dumbbell Rows
  • 2x8 Dumbbell 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 Dumbbell Lunges

Day 6

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

Day 7

  • Static Stretch

Repeat the workout again the next week, trying to add weight and to jump higher/further/quicker. If at any point you are feeling overworked, beat up, or drained, take the day off and eat more healthy food. Nutrition is equally important as the 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.




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  • Author:
    Steve Drumwright, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Mar 17, 2022

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