One of the easiest and most overlooked methods for increasing your vertical jump is to improve your jumping technique. Spending time on this is particularly useful for people who are working towards dunking a basketball as this is a fine motor skill that for most people requires a fair bit of practice
I am actually amazed why more vertical jump programs don't devote more time to this obvious and highly beneficial activity. At the time of writing the only vertical jump program that I am aware of that specifically includes any significant amount of straight up jumping practice is our own monthly vertical jump coaching.
When it comes to improving your jumping technique, your brain and your body is actually an extremely clever unit. If you practice trying to jump higher several times a week with maximum effort you will find that your brain soon realizes what you are trying to do and will send out the signals to your body to make the changes required.
Over time you will develop the necessary strength qualities and co-ordination to make your jumping progressively smoother, more efficient, and of course – higher.
However, it isn't always that simple and sometimes practicing the wrong things just makes you better at doing the wrong things. To help you avoid this I am going to give you a few simple jumping technique tips you can use to get more out of your valuable training time and start jumping higher, sooner.
When you think about it there are broadly two types of jumping you can do – jumping from a stand still (standing vertical jump or SVJ) and jumping off a run up (running vertical jump or RVJ).
These are clearly two very different movements so I will break the technique tips down into those two groups for simplicity.
The SVJ is a much simpler movement than the RVJ styles, and is commonly used for testing purposes as well as some actual in game purposes. Even though it is an easier jump to master, if you are trying to improve your SVJ there are still a few things you can do to help improve your results.
The most important things you can do to increase your SVJ result is to make yourself as tall as possible before you start the jump. This means you should rise up onto your toes and raise your arms into the air above your head.
What this achieves is that it give you more distance to generate downward forces on the eccentric to facilitate better utilization of the stretch shorten cycle. In terms of actual inches gained it won't be much, but, as we know, every inch counts.
When jumping off the run the obvious goal is to be able to use your horizontal speed to help increase vertical power. This added variable of horizontal movement at speed adds a significant amount of complexity to the jump. None the less there are some well known performance cues you can use to get more inches out of your jumps.
The best place to look for guidance is in the area of track and field – in particular the jumping events of high jump, long jump, and triple jump. While these 3 events do require different approaches, there is enough common ground to draw some conclusions about the best way to jump off the run.
The first thing any good jumping athlete does is works out their run up. In the case of a track and field athlete this is to ensure maximum distance on their jumps without fouling or running into the bar. Even if you aren't competing in track and field, determining your run up is still a very good place to start.
To do this you will need to find the spot that you would like to take off from and work backwards. It doesn't need to be as precise as a track athlete, but it is still a good idea to find a spot on the court that allows you to work up to maximum controlled speed from and try and always use that spot.
Why maximum controlled speed? If you lack reactive/eccentric strength your ability to rapidly absorb force is compromised and as such, if you try and run in too fast you will end up hurting your jumps as your technique will break down. People with low reactive strength often can jump just as high from a stand still as they can from a run for this very reason.
Also, by using a more controlled pace on the run up you set yourself up better for the takeoff. It should be noted that as your reactive strength increases so too will the speed of your run up which should also mean higher jumps. Just don't expect to be able to charge in at full steam and be able to take off like a bird the first time you try this.
Below is a nice instructional video by the very attractive (read – smoking hot) international athlete Jenny Pacey discussing long jump technique. In this video you can see how her maximum controlled speed is pretty much flat out. She really doesn't lose anything in terms of speed into the jump.
While a long jump is different to a running vertical jump, I believe that there are more than enough similarities that any athlete looking to increase his or her running vertical jump can certainly still learn a lot from their track and field counterparts.
The next area to focus on is the takeoff which is where your speed and momentum are transferred into actual jump height. Your aim here is to maintain as much speed as possible as you move from the run up into your jump.
For those of you familiar with track and field jumping events you will already know the term – penultimate step. However, if you aren't sure what it is, it is simply the second to last one before you take off and is a vital to obtaining maximum jump height.
The penultimate step is important because it it is where you slightly lower your center of gravity to put your body into a more advantageous position to convert your speed and momentum into vertical jump height.
What makes the penultimate step different to the rest is that lowering your center of gravity causes your body to travel a little further making the stride a little longer than the others. This in turn allows your body's center of gravity to rise up during the final step which leads to the last one being shorter and quicker for the takeoff.
Another key point to note about the last step is that your front foot should not be too far in front of the body. If you do that you can lose too much speed from your run up resulting in lost power and lower jumps.
As the body moves through this transitional phase it should continue to be in an upright position (staying tall). If there is a lean too far forward or back, the result is a lower jump. You should also keep your head up, and your eyes should be looking up towards your goal.
As you can see just from number of words devoted to running jump technique compared to the standing vertical jump, the RVJ is clearly a more complex movement. If your goal is to increase your RVJ then you need to obviously spend more time practicing than someone who just wants a bigger standing vertical.
These simple pointers are by no means a comprehensive list of the things you could work on to improve your jumping technique but they are enough to get you started when doing your sports specific training. Now all you have to do is go out and practice.
If you want more specific assistance with working your jumping technique work into your vertical jump program, or would like some individualized feedback on your own jumping technique then you should sign up to our jump coaching program.
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