Get Up to Rock Out – 4 Vertical Jump Tips

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I was recently asked a question regarding athleticism in adults and competitors that I thought was pretty interesting. It was “what is the number one most important, across-the-board athletic skill?“. Wow, now that’s a pretty loaded question.

I mean, we’re not taking into account what type of athlete, their overall program, the individualism of the athlete, the sport-specific demands, and all sorts of other stuff. So after a long and angry argument within my head (trust me, there are voices, and they’re pretty much all angry) I came up with a pretty solid conclusion.

We can talk all day about developing athletic skills, getting stronger, faster, learning the finer points of the Box Squat versus the Zercher Squat, but there’s one athletic skill that I think is necessary for any and all athletes and weekend warriors out there to become proficient in:

Jumping.

While you need a complete program designed to develop the athleticism and the physique that you’re looking for, there’s no getting around the glaring point that the strongest, fittest, leanest, and most mobile people out there are at least better than average jumpers. As a matter of fact, of all of the NFL Combine tests, the one measure taken that most accurately correlates from the tape measure to success on the field isn’t the 40-yd Dash or the 225 Bench Press, it’s the Vertical Jump.

If you jump well, then chances are you can sprint pretty well. Chances are you can hit pretty well. Chances are you can react pretty well. The inverse, however, is not necessarily true. It’s much easier to do those things and not be a particularly good jumper (although the sprinting and jumping will at least be in the same ballpark).

Plus, if you can jump well then you automatically get some cool points. I don’t know about you, but I wear a lot of Chuck Taylors and hoodies, so I need all the cool points I can get.

Jumping’s a big deal. I’ve said it. You get it. So how do you start busting backboards?

I'm betting on a short, and not pretty, jump.

-Stop Being Fat and Get Lean. Do you need to be lean to have a big jump? Nope. Even when I weighed 280 as a powerlifter I had a pretty big jump… for a big guy. But lo and behold, at about 30 pounds less bodyweight my jump is even higher.

The bottom line is this: Extra fat and bodyweight doesn’t do anything to make you faster or more explosive. All it does is weigh you down, literally. The more of a fatty you are, the lower your hops (and the more your tits bounce when you do try to jump, which is not a good look).

If you want to be your most athletic self, it’s pretty rare that having a big old gut is going to make you into a better athlete. Even most “fat” type athletes that people think of, like football offensive linemen and elite powerlifters, are getting bigger and leaner all the time.

This isn’t to be confused with increased muscle mass, mind you. Additional muscle mass can be “good weight” if the strength it contributes propels you harder and farther.

-Get Strong Where It Matters. The ability to jump high is basically the measure of your ability to put force rapidly into the ground. The more force you can produce in the less amount of time is your power. Pretty basic, right? Well, the most important component of that equation is the overall force produced.

When it comes to sprinting and jumping the muscles of the posterior chain (the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors) are your big movers. They also tend to be astonishingly weak in most people, even already competitive athletes. For example, I have a national-class thrower I work with who, by increasing her deadlift by about 100 lbs, has consistently added monster length to her throws… and she jumps like hell, too.

Make training the posterior chain a priority through box squats, deadlifts, power cleans, snatches, glute-ham raises, and sled dragging and you’ll see your hops go up.

*****Ok, now that we’ve covered a couple of basics, let’s get into some jump-specific tips.*****

-Learn How To Use Your Hands. One of the biggest problems I see in bad jumpers (especially women, for some reason), is that they don’t use their hands well while jumping. The upper body is responsible for up to 20% of your jumping power, and if you’re not using it then you’re robbing yourself of some serious lift!

When jump training, start with your hands above your shoulders, preferably over your head. As you squat to jump, whip your hands down and behind you to create a stretch. When you explode into your jump, throw your hands in the direction of your jump and your body will follow. Think of yourself as looking like Superman.

-Practice Elasticity. This goes hand-in-hand (pun intended, I am that shameless) with the above tip. Sure, it’s important to put power into your jump, but that’s only half of the movement. In most movements, including jumping, there is an eccentric (negative) and concentric (positive) part of the motion. Only working on the positive portion of the movement is sort of like taking the prom queen to the big dance but not getting any action. Sure, it makes you look cool, but you’re definitely not getting the full experience.

When jumping it’s important that you practice a fast eccentric and as rapid a change from the eccentric to the concentric as possible. Think about it like this, if I told you to take five seconds to descend into a deep squat, wait five seconds, then try to jump as high as you can chances are it’d be a pretty piss-poor jump. However, if you drop and go as quickly as possible you’ll rebound and jump much higher.

When you descend fast you’re not just moving your body to a new position. You’re loading your muscles, tendons, and ligaments with potential force. When you release them they’re going to snap back fast just like a stretched rubber band. This will propel you higher and faster.

Is jumping higher going to instantly make you better? As an athlete, no, not necessarily. As a Vertebrate? Certainly.

The act of improving your jump, through training for power, dropping fat, and improving your biomechanics WILL make you a better athlete.

The next thing you wanna do is sign up on the right to get the simple program I use with my athletes every day to prime their nervous system, teach the MOST efficient movements, and add explosive power.



What’s your favorite jump training technique? Comment below!

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