THE FABULOUS 15
“Top 15 Exercises for Higher Vertical Jumps”
by Joe DeFranco, Owner, Performance Enhancement Specialist
DeFranco’s Training Systems
(The following article is an excerpt from Joe’s best-selling training manual,
“The Vertical Jump – Advanced Speed & Strength Methods”.)
You now hopefully realize that there is a lot more to the vertical jump then you originally thought. This should also help you to understand that there’s a lot more to the training then you maybe originally thought. It’s not just about wearing some funny-looking shoes that claim to work magic on your vertical jump. There is definitely a science to this type of training. There is also a reason and purpose why every single exercise in this section was chosen. It’s now time for the fun stuff! After learning and understanding the following 15 exercises, it will soon be time to go to our favorite place in the world. . . The Gym!
In this section we will give you our Fab 15 list of the exercises we’ve found give the best “bang for your buck” with regards to improving your vertical jump. Remember that there are many exercises out there that will work, but in the training economy you want to pick the exercises that will give you the greatest results in the least amount of time. This list of exercises accomplishes that goal. These are the main exercises we have used to get our athletes to jump high… in minimal time! An added benefit of this list of exercises is that you’ll notice your sprint times will also improve. Any time you train to improve your vertical, you’ll notice you also get faster. Not a bad side effect, is it?
Anyway, let’s check out the Fab 15! (They are in no particular order.)
#1) Box Squats with bands – We love box squats in that we feel they teach the athlete to “sit back” while squatting, which further recruits the all-important hamstrings. Your hamstrings must be super-powerful if you want to run fast or jump high. We also like the fact that we can set the depth of the squat without any error. This prevents cheating, especially when athletes start to fatigue and the squats tend to get higher and higher. We squat anywhere from 6” off of the floor to 1” above parallel, depending on our goal. We also like the fact that box squatting builds “static overcome by dynamic strength”. This type of strength is important in many athletic movements (sprinter coming out of the blocks, lineman coming off of the ball in football, etc.).
Some say box squats are dangerous. That is complete crap! Box squats done incorrectly are dangerous. We’ve never had an athlete get injured box squatting. Open your mind and learn how to do them the right way! It will pay huge dividends. To learn how to box squat correctly, go to Dave Tate’s website at www.eliteFTS.com. He has numerous articles written on how to box squat correctly and does a great job of teaching it.
One of the main reasons we chose the bands for box squatting is their ability to accelerate the eccentric portion of the lift. You see, the athlete’s we train that have the best verticals are also the one’s who descend the fastest during their jumps. Newton’s 3rd Law states that “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. What this means is that the faster an athlete can descend, the faster he will explode upward and the higher he will jump. The bands train this often-overlooked component of the vertical jump.
We also like the fact that as the athlete approaches the top of the squat the bands stretch out, thus increasing the tension. This teaches the athlete to accelerate through the entire rep. Basically, as the athlete’s leverage increases, so does the tension of the bands. In order to complete the rep, the athlete must apply more force at the top then he would if there were no bands attached to the bar. After this type of training an athlete will be much more likely to explode downward, make a quick reversal, and then accelerate upward rapidly during his jumps. Put all of these qualities together and you have a huge vertical. We usually perform multiple sets of low-rep box squats, focusing on speed (on the way down as well as on the way up). We like our advanced athletes to be able to perform 2 reps in less than 2 seconds.
#2 Static Hip Flexor Stretch – In general, we’re not big fans of static stretching, especially before performing explosive activities. This stretch is a major exception. Try this. Perform a vertical jump and record the height. Then, static stretch your hip flexors – 2 sets of 30 seconds each leg. Really stretch the sh** out of them! Stretch as if you’re trying to tear that hip flexor off the bone, baby! Don’t just go through the motions! Now jump again. Chances are you’ll jump ½” – 2” higher, just by static stretching the hip flexors. Why is this, you say? We’ll tell you. You see, most athletes have super-tight hip flexors. When you jump, tight hip flexors cause a lot of friction, preventing you from fully extending at the hip, as well as reaching as high as you can. By static stretching them immediately before you jump, you not only stretch them out, but also “put them to sleep” do to the long, slow stretch. This causes less friction at the hip when you jump. This results in higher jumps. You will be amazed at how well this works. (By the way, the hip flexors are the only muscles you would ever want to static stretch before jumping.)
It is also a good idea for athletes to get in the habit of stretching their hip flexors everyday, not just before jumping. This will help to increase your stride length when you run, as well as prevent hamstring pulls and low-back pain.
Any hip-flexor stretch will do but we will describe the one we use the most. Get in a lunge position with your left knee on the ground and your right foot as far forward as possible. Drive your hips as far forward as you can, while keeping your chest up. Try to get your left thigh 45 degrees to the floor. Raise your left hand as high as you can and twist slightly to your right, looking over your right shoulder and reaching over your head. You should feel a stretch in the left hip flexor as well as your abs. Perform 2 sets of 30 seconds and then switch sides.