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How to Improve Your Vertical Leap

How to Improve Your Vertical Leap

repost from By Alan Stein, CCS, CSCS

Explosiveness, as it pertains to a sport like football, is a combination of strength, power, conditioning, flexibility, and skill proficiency. These traits are vital to the success of an athlete at every level and are characteristics that can be improved through proper training. A standard measurement for explosiveness is the vertical jump test (used at every major football combine, including the NFL). If you really want to reach your potential and maximize your vertical jump, it is important you participate in a truly comprehensive training program.

After 10 years of experience as a professional strength & conditioning coach, I have developed a vertical jump training program called the M.V.P. (Maximum Vertical Potential). The key to the M.V.P. Program is training the "Core 4." There are four key areas you must train if you want to jump as high as you possibly can--flexibility, strength, power, and core. If you aren't effectively training the "Core 4," you simply won't be able to reach your true vertical potential.

The goal of this article is to share these training concepts and help you improve your vertical jump. The principles behind the M.V.P. can be used by athletes of all ages and levels, from junior high to the NFL.
How Do You Improve Your Vertical Jump?
Explosiveness is an important ingredient in the game of football. After all, with all else equal, the athlete who can run faster, jump higher, and hit harder has a tremendous advantage on the gridiron. Vast improvements can be made to an athlete's explosiveness and vertical jump by implementing a structured, progressive, and safe training program that focuses on the "Core 4" mentioned above: flexibility, strength, power, and core. By improving each of these four areas, you will greatly improve your vertical jump:

Flexibility is defined as the range of motion in a joint or series of joints. It is important to increase the flexibility of your Achilles, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors. This will aid in increasing your vertical jump. By improving the range of motion you can take your ankle and hip joints through, you can increase your potential to produce power. The more power you can produce, the higher you can jump.

The days of sitting on the ground and static stretching are over. You need to perform dynamic flexibility movements and exercises. In addition to improving flexibility, dynamic flexibility exercises assist in developing coordination and motor ability---both of which are attributes to help improve your overall explosiveness.

When you increase the strength in your legs and hips, you will automatically improve your ability to produce force, which results in increased explosiveness. The more force you can exert against the ground---the higher your ability to jump.

It is extremely important for a strength training program to be safe; nobody can jump higher when they are injured. To reduce orthopedic stress while strength training, you should work within an appropriate repetition range. For most football players, sets with 6-15 reps are usually appropriate. You should avoid maxing out (seeing how much you can lift for one repetition) as that can be extremely dangerous.

You should aim to make every strength training workout brief, yet very intense, just like each play in a football game. A strength program should focus on training the entire body equally to ensure muscle balance, as well as having each exercise taken to the point of momentary muscular fatigue (the point at which no further reps can be achieved). Training at a high level of intensity will produce maximum results in the shortest time possible. All of this can be accomplished in two or three well-planned full body workouts per week, each lasting about an hour.

As obvious as it sounds, if you want to be able to jump higher, you need to practice jumping as high you can.

Plyometrics are exercises that usually involve some form of explosive movement such as a jumping, hopping, or bounding and are designed to increase power and explosiveness. If used appropriately, plyometrics can be a great tool for increasing your vertical jump. These exercises usually use the force of gravity to store potential energy in the muscles, and then immediately release this energy in the opposite direction--similar to pulling a rubber band back before you fling it. The energy stored is used to produce a more powerful muscle contraction--in other words, a more "explosive" movement.

Plyometric exercises such as jumping, skipping, and bounding--if incorporated appropriately--provide a means for you to practice jumping with maximum effort in a controlled and safe environment. Additionally, a proper plyometric program can help train your nervous system to perform athletic movements more efficiently. These exercises and drills should be chosen carefully and be done in limited volume. Attempts should be made to reduce as much impact and orthopedic stress as possible, so try to use soft training surfaces, make sure you are wearing proper footwear, and know that when it comes to plyometric training, more is not necessarily better.

Squat jumps, broad jumps, and box jumps are some common plyometric exercises used to increase your explosiveness and improve your vertical jump. When performing box jumps, it is highly recommended you jump on to the boxes only; not off of them. You should step down off of the boxes to eliminate as much impact as possible. It is important to note that these exercises should be performed when your legs are fresh; so do them before a strength training workout if both workouts are being performed one after the other.

When most athletes think of their "jumping muscles" they think of their legs and hips. However, your core (abs, low back, hip flexors) play a huge role in jumping. Your core is the center of every athletic movement, including jumping. To truly maximize your vertical jump, you need to have a strong core. The days of lying on your back and just doing regular crunches are long gone; you need to stimulate yourself with new and innovative exercises to work your core from a variety of angles and motions.

In addition to the "Core 4", there are two other aspects to consider when trying to increase your vertical jump:

  • Keep your body fat percentage low. Excess body fat is simply dead weight. Too much dead weight will inhibit your explosiveness and vertical jump. In order to maintain an appropriate body fat level, you should eat a nutritious, calorically appropriate diet and adhere to a year-round conditioning program. Please note this is referring to body fat, not necessarily body weight. Additional muscle mass is not a hindrance to jumping higher, but rather an asset. Putting on five pounds of muscle through proper strength training will help you jump higher. Putting on five pounds of fat will weigh you down like an anchor.
  • Practice the vertical jump test exactly as it will be tested. There is a slight difference between being explosive on the field and testing well on a vertical jump test. If your focus is aimed primarily on a vertical jump test, you must follow the exact guidelines and specifications as the combine test protocol and you must to perform countless hours of task-specific repetitions. No sense in practicing your vertical jump with a running start if you can't do that when you are tested at the combine.


Here is a great drill to improve your explosiveness and vertical jump:

Highest Point

  • Reps: 1 jump
  • Sets: 10
  • Rest: 30 seconds in between jumps


  • Player stands in an athletic position (chest over knees over feet, slight bend in the knees, most of their weight on the power pads of their feet) facing a wall with a tennis ball in their dominant hand.
  • They throw the tennis ball underhand in an upward motion against the wall.
  • Without taking a step, they vertically jump to catch the tennis ball at its highest point.
  • The key is really challenging them by throwing the ball in a manner that requires them to jump as high as possible.


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