Want to Jump Higher? 8 Ways to Improve Your Vertical Leap

Training methods including heavy resistance training, explosive resistance training, plyometrics, electrostimulation, and even vibration platforms have all been used to potentially enhance vertical jump (or vertical leap) performance. But which ones have been proven to be the most effective?

Brock Armstrong
8-minute read
Episode #412
Photo of a woman doing a box jump

5. Calf Raises

Shaquille O'Neal reportedly did 1,000 calf raises every day before bed. By doing this, he apparently increased his vertical leap by 12 dunking inches. Whether that is folklore or not, calf raises are an effective way to add some coil and recoil into your jump.

Calf raises are a simple exercise and when you are doing that type of volume (please, don’t go from zero to 1,000) you don’t need any weight or gear. Although, I am a fan of doing them on the edge of a stair for maximum range of motion.

6. Depth Jumps

This one is likely the most common exercise prescribed to increase your vertical jump. If you only do one exercise from this list, do this one.

Use the same platform that you used for the Box Jumps and simply jump off the box, then immediately jump up off the ground vertically; the very second your feet touch the ground after jumping downward, you should start jumping upwards. This trains your body to use and re-use the elastic energy in your muscles to propel yourself with velocity and power.

As you get better and better at this exercise, you can modify it by adding obstacles, hurdles, faster repetitions, and of course by increasing the height of the box.

7. Trap Bar (hex bar) Deadlifts

I would recommend this exercise over the weighted squat but both can help build the strength and force necessary to jump high. The thing I like most about this (over the squat) is that it uses similar biomechanics to a vertical jump. The fact that the weight is centered around your body can allow you to stay upright and in a more "jump-like" pose.

Stand in the center of a trap bar and grasp the handles. Keep your back straight and lift the bar up off the ground in one smooth and slow motion. Pause for a second or two at the top and then lower the bar back down to the ground, in a smooth and controlled motion.

8. Hang Clean Pull

At first, you may think this one is out of place but if you watch a video of someone doing a Hang Clean Pull (and I highly recommend that you do before attempting it), you will see that the motion being executed is basically a weighted jump—without leaving the ground. Which makes this both a strength and a plyometrics exercise that targets the quads, calves, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, and traps.

Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart with a barbell at your feet. Squat down and pick up the barbell and hold it at waist level. Then bend at your knees and waist (keep your back straight) and lower the weight to the top of your knees. Explode upwards with your legs, hips, and calves while pulling the weigh upwards with your shoulders. Reset the barbell to waist level and do it again.

Word on the street is that Wilt Chamberlain had a vertical leap of 48 inches (that's four feet) with Darrell Griffith and Michael Jordan close behind. But the average NBA player can only jump 28 inches ("only"...ha!) so don’t despair if you can’t measure up to Wilt “The Stilt.” I mean, neither can LeBron. Just sayin'.

In the end, if you want to jump higher, you need to practice jumping higher. But by including some of these exercises in your workout regimen, you will certainly get there faster. Remember, it’s all physics.

For more jumping info, vertical tips, and to join the leaping conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy or visit me at BrockArmstrong.com. Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, StitcherSpotify, Google Play or via RSS.


About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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