One of the many mistakes many people make when they start trying to improve their vertical jump is ignoring weightlifting and only doing plyometric exercises. Plyometrics can be great, but it’s important to incorporate strength training into your routine if you want to maximize your explosiveness.
There are two factors to remember when working to increase your vertical:
1. Force output – How much strength/energy you can be apply to the ground.
2. Rate of force development – How quickly you can produce and apply force.
Keeping that in mind, here are 5 of the best lifts to help you increase your vertical jump.
1. Power Cleans
Power cleans are one of the best exercises when it comes to increasing vertical jump. Power cleans help your vertical jump as they mimic the same range of motion as a vertical jump, except you’re doing the movement with added weight. It works your rate of force development, as the exercise is moving an amount of weight from one position to another at a fast rate.
It’s important to note that the power clean is an extremely technical exercise, so you want to make sure that you perfect the proper form, with very light weight, before you start progressing! Also make sure your gym allows you to drop the weights – as that is what you should be doing with this movement.
2. Front Squats
Front squats are a great vertical jump exercise to develop your force output. They have several advantages to the traditional back squat, especially with athletes. The first being that most young athletes have muscle imbalances that they can hide with back squats through bad form. The front squat is great at exposing those weaknesses and imbalances, as you have to carry the bar in front of you. So if you are unable to keep your chest up, you will end up just dropping the weight halfway through your squat. On top of that, front squats cause less spinal compression than back squats.
Another reason that front squats are great is that they really work your core muscles! Don’t be surprised if you wake up the next morning after doing front squats and your abs are sore – a lot of your core muscles have been activated to make you keep your chest up with the weight.
3. Snatch Grip Deadlifts
The snatch grip deadlift is an awesome, but underrated, exercise for increasing your vertical jump. This deadlift variation encourages the highest range of motion (except for deficits), which in turn will activate more muscles and hit them harder. One tip for using deadlifts to increase your vertical jump, is to really focus on the concentric phase (the way up).
Also (just a tip) once you complete the lift, drop the weight – don’t worry too much about lowering the weight. Although, if you are going to be dropping weights, make sure they are proper bumper plates and/or that your gym permits dropping.
4. Trap Bar Deadlifts
Another variation of the deadlift that is very useful for improving your vertical jump is the trap bar deadlift. With a relatively similar range of motion to the vertical jump itself, this exercise works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, lower back and several other areas throughout your body. You can do these to either increase your force output or to increase your rate of force development – depending on the weight you use and the tempo of your lift.
5. Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarian split squats are my favorite unilateral exercise for increasing your vertical jump. They are really great at hitting your legs’ quads and glutes, while the resting leg gets a solid stretch in the hip flexor. One variation of these that I have personally found beneficial are tempo Bulgarian split squats. Try lowering into the movement slowly for 3 seconds, pause at the bottom for 2 seconds, and explode up as fast as possible.
These are 5 of the best leg strengthening exercises for increasing your vertical jump. Remember to never ego lift! Use proper form in your workouts, as it will help you prevent numerous injuries and you will see much better results in your performance.
You should also understand exactly what each exercise’s purpose is when you are performing it – and not just doing the exercises for the sake of doing them. If you really want to jump as high as possible, you need to be following a proper training routine that covers every aspect: from lifting, to nutrition, to mobility, to core strength, and so on.