How to Improve Your Vertical Jump

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A common misconception is that basketball players must improve leg strength, and leg strength only, for a better vert. However, there’s no quick fix for improving a basketball player’s vertical jump. Yes, ballers must perform lower-body exercises to strengthen their legs. But many more dimensions of an athlete’s physical make-up must be addressed to maximize his or her vertical potential.

Core Four
According to basketball performance expert Alan Stein, four key areas must be trained to improve a player’s vert—flexibility, core work, strength and power.

  • Flexibility refers to the range of motion in a joint or series of joints. A basketball player needs to improve lower-body flexibility to increase power production. Perform lifts that work the triple extension, meaning the ankles, knees and hips.
  • Core strength is just as important as lower-body explosiveness to achieve higher “ups.” And the core includes more than the abdominal muscles. Basketball players must also strengthen their lower back, glutes, obliques and hip flexors. The hips play a major role in an athlete’s ability to produce power from the ground. [Watch video of Stein's core-strengthening routine.]
  • Strength is the ability to produce force. The more force a basketball player can create against the ground, the higher he or she will be able to jump, according to Stein.
  • Power is defined as the ability to exert maximum strength quickly and forcefully, which Stein considers “the essence of jumping.”

With a comprehensive training program focusing on the “Core Four,” a baller can maximize his or her vertical jump performance, says Stein.

To develop explosiveness for an improved vertical, basketball players must train using full-body, ground-based lifts, such as Power Cleans and Squats, which mimic the explosive movement patterns required to jump higher.

The benefits of performing full-body lifts include increased lower-body power output, core strength development and the recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers. By performing Power Cleans and Squats, a basketball player is training the hip driver that generates explosive power to jump higher.

Plyometric exercises are another explosive power driver. When performed and used correctly, plyos help a basketball player produce faster, more powerful and coordinated movements. The objective of plyometric training is not to jump as high as possible. It’s to land softly in a balanced state, and to work for limited ground contact time.

The combination of flexibility work, explosive weight training and plyometrics is a training method known as sequences. Sequences were created by Tim Grover, owner of ATTACK Athletics and performance coach for Michael Jordan and many other NBA stars. Grover says, “When you combine the three together, we are actually training the mind and body for the muscle to work the way it is supposed to work…because now it knows why it is doing the weight training, plyometrics and stretching.”

The benefits of training to improve a basketball player’s vert go beyond jumping ability. The muscles trained and used to execute a jump are the same as those needed to run faster and move laterally. In other words, basketball players are not just improving their vert; they are enhancing their overall athleticism.

Follow the links below to learn how to perform the vert-heightening sequences used by Grover:

Vertical Jump Training with Michael Jordan’s Former Trainer
Michael Jordan: The Mind and Muscle of a Champion
Dwyane Wade’s On-Court Skills and Weight Room Training

Find information on additional workouts for improving vertical jump performance at:

Brandon Roy’s Explosive Training
NFL Combine Training for Football
Kobe-Inspired Plyo Program
Vertical Leap Training with Connecticut Basketball

Photo:  Danny Vega