Jumping is a useful skill in sports like basketball, plus it’s a great way to work on your explosive power. If you’d like to jump higher and jump better, we have some tips for you.
Test your vertical jump
Before you start working on your jumping ability, set a baseline by figuring out how high a vertical jump you have. Sometimes gyms will have a device to do this, which looks like a series of flat blades on hinges. You reach up and try to smack them out of line; the highest one you moved marks the top of your jump.
But if you’re at home, you can test in a low-tech way. Ball up a piece of masking tape, sticky side out, and stick it to your fingertip. Jump next to a wall, and hit the wall at the top of your jump to stick the ball to the wall. The difference between the tape ball and the highest you can reach while standing is the height of your vertical jump.
Another simple way to test, which works well on outdoor walls, is to simply apply some chalk (lifting chalk or footpath chalk, it doesn’t matter) to your fingertip. Touch the wall while standing and again while jumping, and then measure the difference.
Learn to land properly
If you’re going to do a lot of jumping, you’ll want to make sure to do it safely. Land softly, absorbing the force of your landing with your knees and hips bent into a very slight squat. Your knees shouldn’t dip toward each other as you land or take off, and your feet should be roughly hip-width apart. Here’s a video demonstration of safe landing principles.
It’s also important not to do a ton of jumping if you’re not used to it. Landing from jumps is hard on your body, and you have to work up slowly to get your body used to doing full plyometric workouts.
While jumping exercises are great at building the skill of jumping, and helping you develop power, you still need strength training to develop strength. The stronger your legs are, the higher you can jump.
USA Basketball recommends the trap bar deadlift as the best exercise for building strength for jumping. This is a move that’s a bit of a hybrid between a squat and a deadlift, building strength in your hamstrings, glutes, and quads. The technique is also relatively easy to learn.
If you don’t have access to a trap bar, make sure you have some other heavy leg exercises in your routine. Squats, deadlifts, and lunges are some of the most useful.
Power is not quite the same thing as strength. Power refers to force applied quickly over time. Jumps themselves are a power exercise, but other power exercises can help you build power without the impact of actual jumping.
Powerlifting, despite the name, doesn’t qualify; the squat, bench, and deadlift build strength but aren’t usually performed quickly. One exception, which might help in jumping, is speed deadlifts. They’re just what they sound like, deadlifts performed quickly with light weight. (Sets of three reps with 60% of your max, for example.) Kettlebell swings also work on power, especially if you do them heavy.
Olympic lifts are classic examples of power training. The snatch and the clean and jerk are the lifts done in competition, but their variations can be useful as part of a training program. Perhaps you’ve done power cleans, power snatches, or one-hand dumbbell snatches. All of these require a quick explosive lift in which your legs need to push against the ground to snap your body into an upright position, and then immediately bend to absorb force — a lot like what you ask your body to do in a jump.
If you want to get better at jumping, you’ll have to actually jump. Try any or all of the moves below, but remember not to do too much your first day. Work a few of these into your routine over time:
- Squat jumps
- Tuck jumps
- Split jumps (like a lunge, but alternate feet with each jump)
- Broad jumps (as far forward as you can)
- Box jumps
Get over your fear of box jumps
Box jumps are a special category, because there’s a little bit more going on than just jumping. First, note that very high box jumps are often less about your jumping ability than your ability to pull your knees up high to stick the landing. For that reason, many trainers prefer to keep people on medium sized boxes rather than trying to always jump higher and higher.
Second, they can be intimidating. To get over your fear, start with a very small box to build confidence. Even if you’re jumping onto an aerobic step or a bumper plate laid on its side, that’s still a start. We have some more tips on box jumps here, so take a look and get jumping!