Vertical Leap is a key physical attribute in Basketball, improving this can take your game to the next level.
Vertical Leap can be the difference between Blocking a Shot and giving up 2 Points, intercepting a Cross-Court Pass and giving up a Fast-Break basket, or making a Layup or Dunk against an opposing team to beat the Buzzer, and missing and losing the game; So it’s no wonder so many people want to Improve their Vertical Leap.
While many people may employ popular systems like the Air Alert system, or the Vertical Jump Bible; these programs are built around a number of core factors which have an impact on Vertical Leap, though certain programs may ignore some of these.
With the goal of Improving Vertical Leap in mind, it is important to first understand the five factors which have the most impact on the height of a Vertical Leap – Technique, Flexibility, Strength, Power & Weight.
Technique is probably the most overlooked factor when it comes to Improving Vertical Leap, as many consider it to be a simple motion and not requiring any concentration or focus; However understanding the structure of the Vertical Leap Motion is vital to Improving Vertical Leap.
Imagine the legs as Elastic Bands, by applying downward Force to them, you are storing Kinetic energy which is just waiting to be released. An often ignored part of the Vertical Leap Motion is the descent phase, which is the portion of the Motion from the upright position to the near squatting position. The amount of Downward Force being generated is directly related to the amount of Upward force which can be released. Often the most Explosive Vertical Leapers are those which have the quickest Descents.
By training to descend as quickly as possible to the ideal point where the body is ready to utilise the Stretch-Shortening Cycle and explode upwards with as much Force as possible, one can incorporate this into Muscle Memory, and often make small gains in Improving Vertical Leap just from this.
The next step when it comes to Improving Vertical Leap is to ensure one has adequate flexibility to perform the Vertical Leap Motion.
Many people overlook this factor when working on Improving Vertical Leap, but when performing a Vertical Leap, the force that can be generated is directly limited by the length of the Muscles being used and their direct Antagonist muscles (i.e. their opposites, the Antagonist muscle of the Quadriceps is the Hamstring).
For example, tight hamstrings can limit the explosiveness and height of a Vertical Leap, as they can prevent the surrounding muscles (Quadriceps, Glutes, and Hip Flexors) from Contracting fully, thereby reducing the potential Power that can be harnessed from the Elastic-like Vertical Leap Motion.
In order to improve Flexibility in regards to Improving Vertical Leap, there are many Stretches which can be undertaken to improve the Flexibility of the muscles involved in the motion, these should primarily be Static stretches at first, and particularly aimed at improving Flexibility in the Hip Flexors and Hamstrings.
These tend to be the muscles which are most neglected in terms of Stretching and are direct Antagonists in the Vertical Leap Motion; a Lack of Flexibility in these 2 groups can limit the Force of the Vertical Leap significantly.
It is also important not to ignore the Ankle and Feet areas when it comes to Stretching, as these are essentially the Launching Pads for the Vertical Leap, and power can be limited by tight Ligaments and Muscles which cannot fully transfer all the downward Force being exerted on them into the ground.
Another benefit of improving Flexibility of the muscles involved in the Vertical Leap Motion is that it may help reduce the risk of Injury, as Muscles, Tendons and Ligaments lengthen, making them less likely to be pushed beyond their Range of Motion and tear.
The Flexibility Phase can be undertaken at the same time as the Strength & Power phases, and should not be considered any less important than these.
Pro Tip: Always perform the majority of stretches after a training session, as stretching before training can reduce the potential Power being generated.
The next step when focusing on Improving Vertical Leap is to build a solid strength base, if the initial ability to generate force is not present, it will be difficult to increase the Power involved in the Vertical Leap motion, and can also lead to injury as the structures surrounding the main muscles involved in the Vertical Leap motion have not been properly prepared to handle the forces involved.
When beginning Strength Training with the aim of Improving Vertical Leap, it is important to utilise a program which focuses on developing the Muscle Groups used most in the Vertical Leap; particularly the Calves, Quadriceps, Glutes, Hip Flexors and Core.
The single most important Strength Training exercise when it comes to developing the Muscles used in Improving Vertical Leap; is the Squat. This Compound Lift will train almost all the Muscle Groups involved in the Vertical Leap Motion as it is a very similar movement to the ideal Vertical Leap Technique.
Ideally one should aim to be able to Squat at least 1.5x their body weight in additional weight added to the Squat before moving on to the Power phase of Improving Vertical Leap.
The Strength Phase can be undertaken at the same time as the Flexibility Phase, and should last for 8-12 weeks.
The Power Phase is the final phase in Improving Vertical Leap, and should only be undertaken when a solid Strength Base has been established and adequate Flexibility has been attained. For maximum results, the Power phase should be supplemented by continued Strength and Flexibility training.
Power can be defined as the ability to generate maximum Force over a small period of time, and is used in quick, explosive movements such as Jumping, Sprinting and Punching.
Focused Plyometric training involving Sprinting, Bounding and Jumping motions should be utilised to develop explosiveness. For best results, performing explosive movements similar to the Vertical Leap Motion will generate the best results when it comes to Improving Vertical Leap, as the motion will become ingrained into Muscle Memory.
Depth Jumps, Box Jumps and Squat Jumps are all great Jumping-related Plyometric exercises which can be used to develop an Explosive Vertical Leap, these can be supplemented by Sprints, Hill Sprints, Single Leg Hops, and various Bounding Exercises.
The Power Phase should last for approximately 8 weeks before another Strength Phase may need to be employed.
The final factor to consider when Improving Vertical Leap is Weight. If one can apply the same amount of force to a smaller weight, one can logically move this weight further, and at a faster speed. This concept can be directly applied to the goal of Improving Vertical Leap.
By following a proper Nutrition & Exercise program aimed at Reducing Body Fat while Maintaining Muscle, Strength and Power; one can maintain the amount of Force which is being generated, while reducing the Load that it is being applied to.
While you may see smaller results in earlier Phases, the main increases in Vertical Leap while be attained during the Power phase.
By considering these five factors, it is possible for nearly anyone to achieve the goal of Improving Vertical Leap through Dedication, Hard Work and Perseverance.