Every basketball player wants to be able to dunk, especially when you’re younger! I was no different and even though I trained endless hours shooting and ball handling skills, the capability I wanted almost more than anything was to be able to dunk. I went through almost every program A-Z (ail alert, jump soles,etc…). I can’t even remember all the names, but all of them advertise adding 4-10 inches to your vertical jump within two months (or something in that manner). In all honesty none of them really worked. I improved on some of them but it was never close to what was promised.

I have never been a genetic freak with a crazy amounts of fast twitch muscle fibers or anything like that. I always busted my butt and trained hard, even though I can’t tell you how many mistakes I made along the way. The first time I dunked was when I was 17 and I remember it clearly (it just like remembering your…..fill in the blank). I took off one foot and it was official as confirmed by my team mates. I say that because when you almost get it, you tell people that you can dunk (I’ll be honest I did that too).

The first time I dunked was basically from training hard and getting in the weight room where I really pushed the intensity even though I can honestly say that I didn’t have much rhyme or reason in the exercises or programming. It was after I dunked the first time that I really started studying everything I could about it because when you get the taste you just want to jump higher. I can honestly say that I’m still chasing that 40” vertical even though I feel its not that far away. When I get it I will know that every single inch came with hard work!

What the proper training can do for a non genetically gifted 5′11”, 200 lb guy

This is after Monday’s crucial leg day…

10 years after my first dunk I want to explain jumping higher really simple as I get asked questions continuously and even though I have written a couple of articles on it, it seems like people still search for gimicks and want me to tell them that it will work and that “that” program is the real deal. You have to understand that when programs are put together without much understanding of how the body works, the science and reasoning behind why the training methods are effective, it will not work and in many cases it will cause more problems than good.

So here is vertical jumping 101. Everyone has heard about power right? Well a vertical jump is an expression of power.

Power = Force x Velocity

You know what, I don’t even want to go there and bore you with the science of it. The qualities that need to be trained to see consitent gains in a vertical jump are as follows (you may be good at some and real bad at the others so pay attention and work on your weakness):

1. Movement Pattern, Control, Stability. Before you can ever reach maximal power you have to be able to control your own bodyweight and move it through the proper movemnt patterns. Start learning a skill and do it right so that you do not develop improper movement patterns. Learn squats, lunges, deadlifts, jumping techniques (yes, there is a proper way to jump), etc.

2. Maximum Strength and Power. Since jumping is an expression of applying as much force as fast possible, then we should train to produce a lot of force, thus lifting heavy stuff. Relative strength is really important here. Make sure you have the proper base conditioning and technique before you go lifting really heavy loads though (common sense is not very common nowadays so I have to mention this). We also have to work on power which means lifting submaximal loads fast. You can train for power using just bodyweight, adding additional load t o bodyweight, moving lighter weights fast or attempting to move heavier loads fast.

3. Range Of Motion. This would be considered flexibility and mobility training. You have to have proper range of motion to execute movements optimally and maybe even more importantly it will keep you injury free (being injured will definitely result in the lowest vertical jump believe me). Tight hip flexors are definitely a no no and nearly everyone could work on their hip flexibility and mobility. One thing to also keep in mind is that having too much flexibilty is not a good thing.

4. Being Able To Absorb Force. To be able to exert force you first have to be able to absorb it. Your vertical will only be great when you have made sure that you are able to stabilize eccentric/negative forces. I’m talking about the countermovement when you wind up to jump. Your tendons and muscles are like rubber bands and they store energy, so basic strength levels and being able to absorb the force is a must before you start training the nextstep.

5. Reactive/Plyometric Training and Short Response Reactivity. I know everyone has heard about this one as most people will just focus on the plyometrics (not always the best idea to do lots of plyo’s if you have not taken care of the previous steps). It also has names such as elastic strength and spring proficiency. Many people that are strong but cannot jump high need to train this as they cannot apply their force quickly enough. The good part that this quality is quite highly trainable. Short response reactivity is the time your foot spends on the ground during a sprint or a run up. This movement occurs much faster than a regular vertical jump and the shorter it is, the better.

Rate of force development, don’t try this at home kids

6. Starting Strength. This is the ability to apply as much force as possible at the beginning of a movement without any elastic energy. Starting strength is rate of force development which means its a must. My favorite exercises here would be the box squat, deadlift, box squat jump, etc.

There are definitely more factors that influence vertical jump but I feel these are the ones that are misunderstood when I get asked questions.

In all honesty though a good program should include much more than just a focus on improving the vertical jump and it should have a wholesome approach that makes you a better athlete at your sport. We will have our athletes gaining pounds of muscle and going up with weight while becoming fatser, more explosive and increasing their vertical jump.

On a seprate note I have to share what I had seen in a mainstream gym today. The free weight area had exactly 28 people in it and not one was doing a leg exercise. More than half were doing biceps and triceps exerices while the other half was doing bench press, shoulder and ab work. After further investigation I realized that out of more than a 100 people in the whole gym there were 2 that were doing legs, one on a leg press and the other on a leg extension. The only thing I could think of was that you have to be shitting me! A great tip is to do exactly the opposite of what the average Joe is doing…..

If you have any more questions about improving your vertical jump then jut drop them in the comments section. Let me know what you have been doing for your vertical and whether it has produced results.

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