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The 5 Best Exercises to Improve Your Vertical Jump and Dominate Your Sport

The vertical jump is a crucial art to master for a variety of sports from Basketball, MMA, Rugby, Football, Soccer, and practically anything dynamic.

There are people — usually on the skinnier side — who have rockets strapped to their ankles, and can soar above the rest of us fairly effortlessly.

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If this isn’t you, well, keep reading; we are going to go over what are, hands down, the very best exercises to improve your vertical jump.

What is Needed for a Vertical Jump

vertical jump

The vertical jump is a violent triple joint extension — ankles, knees, and hips — at a high rate of force development.

You need to recruit and turn on as many motor units as possible in a short space of time possible with a high power output.

Speed is one half of the components to express power — the other being strength.

Both strength and speed have a symbiotic relationship, which is why you have to focus on both.

Don’t forget that strength is a skill. Although powerlifters and Olympic Lifters might be jacked, their training varies significantly from bodybuilders.

For an efficient vertical jump, your relative strength needs to be optimal. Any dead weight has to go.

As we’ve noted several times in the past, the quickest and best way to become better at bodyweight exercises is to lose fat — and this is going to be our starting point.

1. Lose Fat

Keto King: Vince Gironda

Yeah, yeah; I know this isn’t an exercise, but it’s the very best way to improve your vertical jump.

Excess bodyfat not only increases the total weight load you have to propel upwards, but its distribution is always poorly balanced, taking away from your ability to leap higher even if you do make significant progress in your squat numbers.

As we wrote in our article how to become more athletic as quickly as possible:

The number one best way to get more athletic — and fast — is to lose fat.

And thankfully, Herculean Strength has a growing reserve of free resources to help you achieve your fat loss goals and athleticism forged in the weight room.

That’s it.

Granted, some people are natural athletes, while others may need years of dedication and hard training to get there, losing fat is the best way to get there.

Wanna sprint faster, jump higher, do more pullups/dips, become more agile?

Well, lose fat.

Most people underestimate how fat they are, in my experience.

Think you’re 15% bodyfat? The chances are that you’re 5-10% higher.

Say you’re 200lb and 20% bodyfat; you’d need to lose 24lb to get down to 10%!

Around 10-14% bodyfat is the best place to be for athletes, depending on their sport. You’d need a little more natural cushioning for some contact sports such as rugby.

Imagine how much more athletic you could be by losing a good portion of those 24lb?

The problem with fat is that it is very mechanically inefficient, unlike muscle.

Losing fat helps with generating a greater rate of force development when sprinting or jumping as there’s a lighter total load.

In my personal experience, I was a lot quicker at around 215lb bodyweight with a max squat of 350lb in my early 20s than weighing 270lb and squatting 600lb for reps a few years ago — even though my potential rate of force development through a significantly greater squat total was a lot higher.

One study, that had participants don a weighted vest while running, showed that a 5% reduction in weight improved 3,000 meter run times by 3.1%, while a 10% weight reduction improved times by 5.2%.

Another study found that for a 170lb athlete, a fat gain of 3.4 pounds (2%) drastically reduced their athletic output, potentially resulting in a vertical jump height loss of 2 inches and a 40-yard dash time increase of 0.26 seconds after a fat gain anybody could easily sustain over a Christmas Holiday period — night and day!

A rough weekend on the beer and eating junk food could result in a noticeable drop in performance.

Therefore, a combination of strength training and fat loss will optimize athleticism while the athlete attempts to abstain from overeating or indulging in the “good” life.

We have a growing compendium of articles and FREE eBooks to help you lose fat and become more athletic.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that keeping the body fat percentage down was far more effective at athletic expressions than doubling my squat.

Fat is extremely mechanically inefficient and it’s also highly estrogenic — both of which you want to avoid like the plague if you’re a young man in search of a good physique.

The chances are, your favorite NFL offensive linesman is not as estrogenic — for reasons that can’t be discussed here — as the average person of a similar body fat percentage.

Your vertical jump will suffer as you gain fat or even too much bulk. But, having said that, if we were to get two men who weighed 240lb — one 25% bodyfat and another 12% — who could squat the same amount, I would bet my bottom dollar on the leaner athlete to vertical jump higher than our chubbier friend.

2. Weighted Box Jumps

Jumpsole weighted box jumps - YouTube

What better way to vertical jump higher than by jumping with a weight?

Remember, strength is a skill as is jumping high.

A weighted box jump — preferably from a dead stop — will tick all the necessary boxes for a high vertical jump.

It requires:

  • a high rate of force development
  • a brusque triple-joint extension
  • rapid motor unit recruitment
  • type IIb fast-twitch muscle fiber contraction
  • co-ordination

The ideal rep ranges for this movement are between 3-5 reps for 3-5 sets.

This isn’t Crossfit and box jumps are dangerous — especially when fatigued.

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Adding an extra weight into the equation ups the risk of injury, too.

And you’re not training for endurance or hypertrophy so there is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED to take this exercise to high rep ranges.

Start with a light dumbbell or weighted vest, say, a 10-20lb total and increase the weight until you can safely land 5 box jumps.

DO NOT do this exercise with a barbell. If you butcher the execution, it’s harder to bail when you have a barbell on your back and your risk of serious injury skyrockets.

Alternatively, you can perform Quarter Squat Jumps from pins if you have safety concerns about executing weighted box squats.

On the power rack, set pins around 3/4 of the way up on your squat and jump as high as you can with the weight across your back.

This exercise can be overloaded more safely than the Weighted Box Jump and will go a long way to improving your vertical jump.

3. Box Squat

5 Reasons You Should Box Squat | Breaking Muscle

The box squat is one of the very best exercises for athletes, period.

Not only will this improve your vertical jump, but it will add mass to your legs, butt, and entire posterior chain.

Make sure you come to a dead stop before exploding off the bench/box. Use a high bar stance without making your feet width excessively wide.

A high bar stance is more knee-dominant than a low bar squat. A low bar squat recruits the hips more when knee flexion is more desirable for athletes.

Check out our article on the difference between high bar and low bar squat for more information.

Like with the weighted box jump, the box squat improves your vertical jump through the following.

It requires:

  • a high rate of force development
  • triple-joint extension
  • rapid motor unit recruitment
  • type IIb fast-twitch muscle fiber contraction
  • co-ordination
  • knee flexion

You can, of course, add bands and chains to the movement to increase the resistance as you complete the movement. This, in turn, will increase the rate of force development required — similar to a vertical jump.

The front squat variation is just as valuable, if not, more, as it mimics athletic movements more closely than a back squat variation. Moreover, the risk of buttwink or your lower back rounding is lower, plus there’s reduced spinal loading if you have concerns about your spine.

Check out our article on spinal decompression to protect your back from injury and to increase athletic longevity.

4. Snatch-Grip Deadlift

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The legendary Dmitry Klokov

The Snatch-Grip Deadlift is one of the best articles to increase your vertical jump for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, it mimics the same movement of a vertical jump; secondly, it has a long range of motion; and thirdly, it begins from a dead stop.

As we mentioned in our article on why the Snatch-Grip Deadlift is awesome:

The Snatch-Grip Deadlift follows a range of motion nearly identical to a vertical jump. The rate of force development to complete the Snatch-Grip Deadlift carries over to many athletic movements such as jumping, first step speed, and acceleration.

It also trains the entire posterior chain as well as providing an extra bit of all-important knee flexion over the traditional conventional deadlift.

This means that the quadriceps receive extra stimulation.

In the past, I’ve included the Snatch-Grip Deadlift in a list of quad exercises you can complete without a squat rack.

It will also address weaknesses in other areas as well as adding mass and strength to your all-important posterior chain.

Strong hamstrings are necessary to help prevent tears or knee injuries which are all too commonplace in sports.

Many athletes over train their quads through an excess or prioritization of squatting to perfect their craft.

Posterior chain exercises commensurately strengthen your hamstrings to avoid any potentially harmful imbalances.

5. Hang Power Snatch

THe Hang Power Snatch - YouTube
The Hang Power Snatch

This is probably my favorite movement to forge raw athleticism.

It’s violent, brusque, brutal, technical — it’s awesome!

Now, this exercise might be daunting to newcomers — and that’s fine. In the meantime, you can do Banded Kettlebell Swings to build strength and get used to this intense hinge pattern movement.

And although the Hang Power Snatch is a hinge pattern movement, like the Box Squat or Box Jump, it requires:

  • a high rate of force development
  • a brusque triple-joint extension
  • rapid motor unit recruitment
  • type IIb fast-twitch muscle fiber contraction
  • co-ordination

All of which contribute towards an orbital vertical jump.

And like with the weight box jump, it can be dangerous to perform in a state of fatigue, which is why it’s advisable to keep the rep ranges low.

Anywhere between 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps with a weight 70-90% of your one rep max will suffice.

This is a better choice to its less technical cousin the Powerclean because it requires a greater rate of force development and faster motor unit recruitment, making it a better choice of exercise.

It will also hammer your forearms, traps, and posterior chain harder than anything else if done correctly.

All of the exercises listed are taxing on the Central Nervous System (CNS). Exercises from a dead stop are even more taxing. Be sure to limit heavy dead stop exercises to 2 training sessions a week to facilitate recovery.

Don’t hesitate to email us at herculeanstrength1@gmail.com for personalized coaching and a client questionnaire if you’d like DEDICATED tailor-made personal training on strength training, building muscle, losing fat, developing athleticism, and more — all to your liking, lifestyle, habits, and taste!

Otherwise, don’t forget to claim your FREE eBook detailing how to lose 20lb of fat while building muscle in 12 weeks! You can claim it here.

Alternatively, you can pick up a FREE eBook on fundamental strength principles offering an introductory workout program.

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