Top 10 Exercises For A Higher Vertical Jump

When I think about all the things I have done in my lifetime to improve my vertical jump it makes me laugh (and cry too sometimes) because I think of all the dumb things that I have done. That’s what happens when you listen to the “guru’s”. Back then I did not know any better and I followed anything I thought would give me a better vertical. Honestly, it has made me learn from my mistakes and seek out as much information as possible about what works and what doesn’t. I have tested everything on myself before I applied it to my athletes.

18 years old, this is still in the testing stages…

If I break it down to the basics, there are two things that really influence the vertical jump: how much force you can apply into the ground and how fast you can apply that force. So you need to get relatively stronger and/or improve rate of force development. Some people need more of one while other need more of the other. Many athletes just need a lot of both!

You also need to pay attention to flexibility, mobility, posture, core strength (or whatever is the right term nowadays), etc. I am not going to bore you with that though and I will jump right into ten of the best exercises to improve your vertical jump (in no particular order). If you do not know how to do a certain exercise, then find a good strength coach in your area and let them help you with the technique. Here they are:

1. Snatch Grip Deadlifts. Hopefully you already know how important deadlifts are for posterior strength and improving performance, but this exercise is a regular deadlift with a wide grip (as in the snatch). Because of the grip you have to get deeper in the hole to maintain a neutral spine (straight back), thus recruiting even more muscles in the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes,low back). This exercise will put a good amount of muscle on the backside of your legs and help improve your vertical. Then again, it will also keep you away from sitting too much for a couple of days.

2. Kettlebell Swings. To some this may be a new exercise but in reality it is “old school” and making quite a comeback. You start with feet as wide as in a squat position and hold the kettlebell between your legs, explode with the hips while maintaining a neitral spine and letting the kettlebell fly up in the air with the guidance of the arms. Let it drop without trying to slow it down with the arms but rather catching it with the hips before repeating the movement. This movement closely resembles the exact movement of the vertical jump. To get extra range of motion you can stand on two boxes while doing the exercise.

3. Depth Jumps. A depth jump is a great exercise even though many consider it advanced it can be altered to the level of the athlete by adjusting the height of the box. It is performed by stepping of the box (NOT jumping) and exploding up immediately after landing. The muscles are stretched rapidly right at the landing phase and enables them contract faster as you explode upward. You should spend the least amount of time on the ground as humanly possible (less than 0.15 seconds is what I am looking for), otherwise the exercise doesn’t have the effect that you are looking for. This exercise is very effective if used correctly but you have to make sure the athlete is ready for it and doesn’t crumble at landing.

This is a depth jump onto a box but you see the short ground contact. Courtesy of Defranco’s Training

4. Bulgarian Split Squats. This is similar to a single leg squat  except that the non working leg is elevated on a box or bench behind you. Hold dumbells in each hand and descend until your kne touches the floor then explode back up to the beginning position. This exercise will “smash” your glutes and quads while also stretching your hip flexors and correcting imbalances in your legs (unilateral exercise). That’s a three for one deal so it deserves its spot in the top 10.

5. Static Hip Flexor Stretch. As you may know I’m not the greatest fan of static stretching, especially when it comes to any explosive movements such as speed and jump training. I feel the exact opposite when it comes to the hip flexors! You have to stretch them aggresively, I’m talking about stretching them like you want to rip them apart (what I’m saying is don’t just go through the motions). You might be asking why that is right? Most athletes just have incredibly tight hip flexors and it prevents the hip from extending, literally pulling you back down when trying to jump. So when you stretch them hard you put them to sleep (long slow stretch). To show you what a difference it makes, start by jumping as high as you can. Now stretch your hip flexors for 30 seconds on each side two times and then try jumping again. I bet you will jump 1-2 inches higher than you did before!

Two things to remember though, this is about the only stretch you should do before jumping and you should do it throughout the day and not just before you get ready to jump. Here is the static hip flexor stretch:

Defranco again…he just has all the answers. Thanks Joe!

6. Box squats (w/bands). If you are not doing box squats, then you need to find out how and get on the program. I love them because they teach the athlete to sit back in the squat and use his posterior chain (hamstrings,glutes). Apart from that it trains the explosive aspect as you sit down and then have to fire your muscles from a complete standstill. This is great for certain athletic movements such as sprinting out of the blocks and a start of the football lineman,etc.

We will use the bands to accelerate the negative portion of the lift. It comes back to Newton’s 3rd law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction), meaning that the faster you can descend the faster you will explode up and the higher your jump will be. The bands also ad tension at the top of the lift so you have to accelerate the whole time and apply more force at the top then you do at the bottom of the lift.


Box Squat Hocevar Performance

Bands not included

7. Trap bar deadlifts of a box. If you aren’t doing deadlifts then you aren’t serious about your performance and you definitely don’t want to jump higher. For some the regular deadlift is a little out of the way because of restrictions in flexibility, mobility and injuries. The trap bar allows you to stand inside the bar and hold the barbell on the side thus lowering the stress on your low back. Athletes love this and it makes them a lot more comfortable doing the exercise. Standing on the box will put extra work on the hamstrings which will help you with running and jumping.

Trap Bar Deadlift Hocevar Performance

Just do it

8. Power Clean/Snatch. I have talked about the olympic lifts before and in a previous post I discussed how some coaches make them out to be impossible to learn. It can and should be learned as it teaches the athlete to explode as it is impossible to perform an olympic lift slowly. Even though the learning curve is a little higher for these exercises, it is worth the work. You may have also noticed that it works the posterior chain – almost a prerequisite to make the list!

9. Weighted ab work. The abs or should I say “core” (abs and low back) is the link between the lower and upper body. It is responsible for transfering the force from the former to the latter. You can have strong legs and upper body but if you core is weak you’re not going anywhere! Work the abs hard with different exercises and make sure that you use weighted movements too. We will use kettlebells, medicine balls, standing rotational cable work, etc. Make sure that the abs are not whats holding you back to a better vertical!

Weighted Ab Work Hocevar Performance

Weighted abs with kettlebells

Medicine Ball Circuit Ab Training 

10. Vertical jumping. Guess what? To improve your vertical jump you actually have to practice jumping! I know crazy right. Many times athletes jumping technique just sucks and they can’t jump high even though they have good strength, speed and flexibility. Just correcting form can improve the vertical by inches!! When working on your vertical make sure quality and not quantity is the focus. Do it right before you increase volume.

I hope that these tips help you gain some extra inches and create a lot of comments starting with “I just dunked on someone….”. I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. Here is some jumping drills that we worked on in the last training session:


Box squat jump into broad jump

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “Top 10 Exercises For A Higher Vertical Jump”

  1. Jack says:

    Another great post by you Luke. Can I post this one at too? I promise as always to link back to your blog.



  2. Andy Fossett says:

    Wow that’s a great paraphrase of DeFranco’s “fabulous 15″ article that I read about four years ago (

    At least it’s not total plagiarism – you changed some of the wording and cut it down from 15 to 10. Still, zero points for creativity.

  3. Kim says:

    Good post! I like the emphasis on posterior chain strength! Keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply