Jump Science: the lowdown on achieving a high vertical leap

At my point in life, I don't get excited by much, but I did when by chance I found the site jump-science.com. My first career out of college was as a Research Engineer, so I am a science nerd, gym rat and incurable basketball fan - all rolled into one.

When researching information, I first look for flaws that tell me to seek elsewhere. Daniel Back's jump science site has none. This article is based on what I already knew about training to increase vertical leap ability, while adding much that Back put into his article.

Increasing vertical jump height begins with increasing maximum strength, accomplished by doing routine lower-body exercises such as leg presses, back squats and hex bar deadlifts. And no, a hex bar is not a liquor establishment that puts a curse on you. Daniel stresses that this is where it all begins, and squatting 1.5-times your body weight is a good barometer of a starting point.

The second factor is speed of force development, or simply explosiveness (per Jump Science's Daniel Back):

The goal for athletes is to train to increase the percentage of their maximum force that can be generated quickly enough for use in jumping and all athletic maneuvers. This ability is improved by exercises that require fast muscle contraction; Olympic lifts (clean, snatch, jerk) and plyometric drills are the most common.

The third factor in jump training is called elastic strength. Per Daniel Back, "This is the ability of muscles and tendons to store energy in a stretch and utilize it in the following contraction." Tendons stretch, store energy, and expel that energy on a vertical jump. The first video demonstrates ankle bounces, a simple entry-level plyometric exercise to increase jump height. The second video is a compilation of many exercises at all levels of plyometric training. Many of them are only for the more-advanced athlete.

Daniel Back can be seen doing his dunks in the video below. His article goes into a lot of science including physics and biomechanics, but breaking it down, if you want to increase your max vertical leap:

1.) Start by increasing lower-body strength
2.) Introduce explosive movements into your exercise routine
3.) Do plyometrics to train your muscles and tendons to exert maximum force quickly

This article is far from complete, in part because I did not want to lose anybody with a lot of science. There will be some readers who would like all of what Back had to say, and I highly recommend reading his entire article. Articles with more detail may follow. And also, I am a huge fan of the hex bar for deadlifts and farmers walks. Take a look at the video below.

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Videos by Jump Science and Erin Stern
Image by Youtube and Jump Science