How To Improve Your Vertical Jump With A Good Plan

At the start of every year you always see fitness related websites come out with an article talking about the importance of goal setting and how to set good goals. While this is all well and good, setting goals is really just the start. The harder, yet more rewarding task is planning how you are going to achieve these goals.

You see setting goals is simple, and I will tell you how to do that in a minute, but sitting down and performing the necessary analysis to work out a plan, well that takes time, effort, and a lot more than just wishful thinking. In this article I am going to tell you not only how to set good goals, but more importantly how to go about the planning process to ensure that you actually meet them.

A-TeamThe A-Team: They loved it when a plan came together

Fundamentals of Goal Setting

Before you start planning anything you need to set some goals. There are good types of goals and there are bad sorts of goals. Bad sorts of goals are bad because they are too general in nature and therefore unlikely to succeed. In the context of vertical jump improvement a bad goal would be "I want to jump higher".

Contrast this with a good goal such as "I want to be able to dunk a basketball by this Christmas" which is much more specific. The reason that the dunk by Christmas goal is better is because it is something tangible to aim for and it has a time frame. You can work out approximately how many inches you need to dunk and also how long you have to get them, and then plan for it accordingly.

The next important aspect to consider when setting goals is that they must also be both challenging and achievable. For example a goal of being able to jump over a golf ball by next September is certainly specific, but you could do this now with minimal effort. That is a pointless goal. Equally stupid and pointless is setting a goal that is completely unrealistic such as "I am going to jump over the moon on Halloween".

cow jumped over the moonLeave the jumping over the moon to the cows

Also it is important to consider when deciding the time frame of your goals that unrealistic this year, might not be unrealistic next year. For example if you are 5'4 inches tall and in the 8th grade it might well be that dunking by Christmas is going to be out of the question barring a massive growth spurt. However you could certainly have a goal such as by the end of the 8th grade I want to grab 1/2 way up the net. Then by the end of 9th grade I want to be grabbing the ring with two hands, and finally, by the end of 10th grade I want to be dunking.

Obviously a lot of things can happen between 8th grade and 10th grade in terms of physical maturity, but you get the picture about how achieving smaller goals can build on each other until you have achieved something that a while back did seem unrealistic (this is actually the power of goal setting and planning summed up).

Finally the last thing a goal needs to be is meaningful to you. If is not meaningful you won't care, and if you won't care, you won't work towards it, and if you won't work towards it, you won't achieve it. Simple really. If you set yourself a goal of getting a 40 inch running vertical just because all your teammates also have that goal, when in fact all you really want to do is become a world champion Call of Duty 4 player, well unless you have freakish genetics, I can't really see that running 40 inch vert really happening for you.

SO there you have the key aspects of setting good goals. It is pretty simple really. To recap, a goal must be

  • As specific As Possible. The more specific it is, the easier it is to plan for, and when you have a plan, you have a much better chance of success.
  • Challenging, But Realistic. If your goal is not challenging enough there is no point setting it. If the goal is unrealistic then you won't even try to achieve it because your mind will always be telling you that you are wasting your time.
  • Important To You. Unless you really want something bad enough you won't put in the necessary time and effort to work for it.

Planning: The Road Map To Success

Ok, so once you have set your goals then the real work starts, and that is creating the plan. The planning process itself is actually pretty straight forward. At a high level the planning process involves the following key steps:

  1. Identify the goal of the plan
  2. Identify the requirements to meet those goals
  3. Perform a situation analysis
  4. Perform a risk analysis
  5. Prepare the plan
  6. Implement the plan
  7. Follow up to ensure plan succeeds

Now lets take a look at those steps in more detail, and then I will outline a detailed example of how I would put together a plan for me.

1) Identify the Goal of the Plan

Like I mentioned at the outset of this article setting the goals is just the first step. Literally. Once your goals are set then you can move onto the next step.

2) Identify the Requirements to Meet Those Goals

Here is the make or break part of the plan because if you do this step wrong you could end up wasting a lot of time and achieving not much. You see in identifying what is required for you to meet your jumping goals you need to be specific to you. These requirements will differ for each person.

In terms of vertical jump improvement identifying the requirements is where you assess your individual athletic strengths and weaknesses to determine the areas you need to focus the most on in your training. Some key questions you would ask yourself include how relatively strong you are, can you display that strength quick enough in the jump, what is your body fat %, what is your jumping technique like, and how well do you absorb eccentric force?

If you are unsure about how to do this I highly recommend you sign up to our jump coaching program. As part of the service we will analyze your individual strengths and weaknesses and build you a customized workout based around your individual needs.

This is not an ebook where you do the pre-tests and still have to figure out which program is right for you, what loads to lift etc. The service has an actual qualified coach who writes your unique and customized jump training program specifically for you.

Training for your specific needs is THE FASTEST WAY TO INCREASE YOUR VERTICAL JUMP.

3) Perform a Situation Analysis

The next step is the situation analysis. This would include identifying what equipment you have access too (weights, running track, weight vest, kettlebells, etc), how much time you have to devote to your training and recovery training, how much total sport and training you are doing, what is your diet like, what sort of weather you are likely to experience and so on.

Once you have assessed your unique set of circumstances you can then see if you will need to make further modifications to your training plans in step 5.

4) Perform A Risk Analysis

A risk analysis is a crucial part of the planning process because it is where you identify the things that might potentially prevent you from achieving your goals. Doing this step allows you to then prepare contingencies to overcome those risks.

As an example if you know that in 2 months time you are going to be going on a 6 week holiday around Europe the chances are that for that 6 weeks you will not have access to a properly equipped gym. You might therefore modify your plan to include a lot of strength work before leaving so that you can use that 6 weeks to focus on jumping drills and plyometrics for a while which tend to require far less equipment (a soccer pitch or park would do and there are usually plenty of those in Europe).

5) Prepare A Plan

Once you have assessed your situation, your individual strengths and weaknesses as they relate to jump training, and identified potential pitfalls, it is time to prepare the plan. Unfortunately this is where a lot of people who don't have the necessary experience with preparing athletic programs fall down. It is also why a lot of people pay money to personal trainers. If you want your taxes done and you know nothing about tax law you pay an accountant. Likewise, if you know nothing about vertical jump programming and planning, you hire a trainer, or purchase a commercially available vertical jump program.

Now, if you are not confident in how you should go about preparing your vertical jump plan, don't stress. I will go through a detailed example of the planning process using a completely random sample athlete who we will call Jack Woodrup.

Now before anyone asks, although I still do some jumping and power training, I have not specifically trained my vertical in a number of years and have no intention of doing so this year for reasons that will become obvious when I get into the details of the plan. However, if I were, this is how I would go about it.

A Sample Vertical Jump Plan

Setting the Goal

Ok, step 1, identify my goal.

I recently did a running vertical jump test and after no vertical jump training in 2 years I was quite surprised to find it was still a reasonably respectable 32 inches. So for the sake of this example lets state my goal as achieving a 37 inch running vertical by Christmas. That is a 6 inch increase in just under 12 months. This is challenging because, well, I am 41 years old and also the higher you are jumping the harder it gets to keep gaining. If I had a 21 inch vertical and was trying to get to 27 inches, well that would much easier than trying to get from 32 to 38.

Athletic Analysis

Now despite being pleasantly surprised by my 32 inch vertical it did occur to me that there was still plenty of room for improvement so here is my athletic analysis. When I was jumping my highest I weighed 74kg and squatted a 1RM of 160kg. Now I weigh 80kg, and my squat is around 130kg. Relatively speaking I am heavier and weaker, but at a 1.6X BW squat this still isn't too bad.

In terms of reactive strength I still do a reasonable amount of sprinting work and low level plyometric training so this isn't too bad and when I performed a depth jump test I was able to reach higher off of a 15 inch box than my standing vertical. This was also a nice surprise.

My explosive strength as tested using the Myotest device though was pretty woeful and was well below my counter-movement jump result. The other area that really needs work is my running jump technique. When I watched a video of my jump I couldn't believe how poorly timed my run up was or how uncomfortable it felt to perform a maximum effort running vertical jump again. Both of these will need some work.

Situational Analysis

Well in terms of access to equipment I pretty much have everything I need (gym, park to do plyometrics etc). I do not compete in season but I do play pick up ball once a week with a group of friends I currently train 4-5 times per week comprising of a mix of general weight training, gymnastic ring work and sprints but would re-arrange this to be more jump-centric.

Risk Assessment

I have 2 major risks that would prevent me achieving my goal. One is that I am going to be moving house at least twice this year, once from Brisbane in Queensland back to Melbourne in Victoria, and again when I am in Victoria.

Moving house is a huge distraction, time drain, and of course VERY stressful. Changes in circumstances like that can have dramatic impacts to your results. On top of that when I am back in Melbourne I will be spending a lot more time with my children which means less time to train and focus on recovery.

The move to Melbourne will also entail change in employment and all the associated stress that goes with that. Colder weather in Melbourne also limits the ability to train outside and also increases the likelihood of injury.

Which ties into the other risk. I am 41 years old now. I am still very athletic for my age (for any age actually), but I don't recover as fast from workouts, and I am more injury prone. At the time of writing I have a shoulder impingement, a sore neck from getting dumped surfing, and the occasional aching Achilles tendon if I do too much sprint training.

None of these is too serious right now but they are symptomatic of the challenge of power training as you get older.

These things are on top of the commitments I already have which include working, answering my customer emails, and writing articles for, and of course, enjoying life and spending time with my family which is something that quite frankly, I love.

However, freeing up time is not insurmountable. If I was truly serious about training my vertical this year I would slow down my article output for this site, maybe outsource a few things, and I would also cut back on some of my leisure activities (I hear NBA 2K is over rated anyway. They can't even get Steph Curry right!).

MelbourneMelbourne: Beautiful in Winter. But Cold.

Preparing the Plan

Ok, so if you were to summarize where I am at, I am reasonably strong, have decent reactive strength, but my jumping form and explosive strength need a bit of work. I am also going to be very busy this year with various house moves etc. On top of all that, if I do too much max effort jumping my knees tend to get sore. So, where does that leave me?

Well first thing I would do is spend the next 8 weeks focusing on getting my weight back down to the 75kg mark through a combination of good diet and high intensity exercise. The primary reason for this is so that when I resume jumping drills I would be reducing the impact forces at landing by that extra 5kg I am now carrying. I would do this now because at the time of writing it is summer here in Australia which means the weather is warmer, the days are longer and generally the motivation to do the type of training I like doing for fat loss is higher. Also, I know I am going to be really busy after March so I won't necessarily have the time to devote to it then.

hill sprintsHill Sprints: One of my favorite exercise choices

For fat loss I love hill sprints, skipping rope intervals, prowler sprints, kettlebell intervals, and battling ropes because they are all low impact and pretty fun. I like the higher intensity stuff because you can go hard at it for 20 minutes, get the heart pumping, burn a truck load of calories and be done. I would also perform one day a week of weight training to try and maintain my strength levels during this time. I would also expect that the act of reducing my bodyweight by about 5kg would help my running vertical by an inch or so.

By the end of March early April, I would be entering the busiest and most stressful time of the year for me because that is when I anticipate my first move to Melbourne happening (as well as a planned quick trip to Nashville - and that is a LONG flight).

Stress is a performance killer, combined with an expected low free time availability I would not be aiming to achieve a great deal in this period but I would still be wanting to have some milestone goals to aim for so I would pencil in this next 2-3 months to do some basic strength work combined with some explosive jumping drills to start building my try and increase my squat strength back to a 1RM estimate of 150kg (or 2x BW), and to try and bridge the gap between my paused jumping and my counter movement jumping.

I would do this by following an in season type jump program which targets these two areas specifically because they are generally not too taxing on the joints or CNS compared to higher intensity jumping drills. Now, if this wasn't going to be such a stressful time I may do things differently but I am expecting it will be so I am factoring in a reduced commitment to jumping and recovery to help me prevent over reaching. Also taking it a bit slower at this early stage allows me to build a better base to prepare my body for the higher intensity stuff later on in the plan.

Once things settle down with the house and I have completed an in-season cycle or two of my jump training workouts I would then re-assess to see where my strengths and weaknesses were at.

By this point it would also be the middle of winter so shorter days, colder weather, more potential for injury. However, I would also have just come out of a period of limited training and as such I would expect my motivation levels to be quite high to get back into things.

So for the next block of training I would do a regular jump training program with one change. In a regular jump training program one session per week is devoted to sports specific jumping. If my stated goal is a RVJ of 37-38 inches then this would mean practicing max effort running vertical jumps. However, I have also identified my biggest risk to success being that too much max effort jumping starts to hurt my knees. I also identified that one of my weaknesses was that after 2 years away from jumping my form has dropped away terribly. So what do I do?

Actually, the answer is something that is quite simple that you can also try. The real issue with max effort jumping is the landings. If you can soften the landings you can do more jumps. Enter, the long jump pit.

I was at the track doing some interval sprints and saw the long jump track not being used and so I decided that it would be fun to do a few jumps. I did about 12 jumps and my knees held up fine. Better still it was quite fun (and even though this plan is just hypothetical, I might just start going to the track more often to get a few jumps in).

long jumpLong Jumps: A knee friendly way to perform max effort jumping.

This would take me through to early Spring here in Australia and after 20 weeks of structured workouts I would take a 2-3 week block and just do 2-3 short long jump sessions (obviously working on height as well as distance). I like to do this every now and then because sometimes following structured workouts is the right thing to do to ensure built in progression (a good vertical jump program should have built in progression), but sometimes it is also good to remember to just go out and do what it is you are trying to get better at.

At the end of that 3 week period I have a weeks holiday tentatively scheduled to go and visit my friends in Nashville, TN,  again. This is a really long trip from Australia (28 hours door to door). In Nashville though I have access to the gym (Thank you YMCA of Middle Tennessee), and plenty of parks so my training shouldn't suffer (except from the late nights catching up with friends and eating all that good southern food).

NashvilleNashville TN: I LOVE this city

After the week off to rest I would re-test my running vertical and my strengths and weaknesses and depending on how close I was to achieving I might add in another day of sports specific long jump training per week. I could afford to do this because aside from the fact that at this point in my plan I would be getting close to the end, it would also mark the return of daylights savings and warmer weather. I would then follow another cycle of my training through to the end of December before taking a few days off and testing to see how I went.

Some Comments About This Plan

So there you go, that is a 12 month hypothetical training plan to get me from a 32 inch RVJ to a 37-38 inch RVJ. In truth I doubt it would take 12 months because I have previously achieved this jump height and even though it was a few years ago it often doesn't take as long to get these things back. Also, my jumping form is currently a long way off where it was. With practice this would come back reasonably quickly and would probably give me a few extra inches right there.

So here are the key things to take away about effectively designing and implementing a training performance plan.

  1. A good plan has detail. As you can see from this plan I have taken quite a lot of time to look at my year ahead and plan around it. It incorporates weather, holidays, periods of stress, individual health requirements and training needs.
  2. A good plan is customized to the individual. Quite clearly this training plan only applies to me. There are many personal elements that I have taken into consideration and when you do your plan so should you.
  3. A good plan builds on itself. In my plan I identified the need to reduce weight and therefore landing forces so I attacked that first. From there I built on my strength and from there I advanced to jump related methods.
  4. A good plan is flexible. This plan is 12 months long. This would give me plenty of time to make adjustments as necessary. Obviously not everyone has the luxury of time so there are other avenues of flexibility. For instance in the periods where I anticipate high stress I have low volume of workouts per week (2). If things are not so stressful I could easily add in a third workout.
  5. A good plan has measurable milestones. In this plan I have a weight goal set and a time frame, I have a strength goal set and a time frame, and once those foundations are in place I have regular assessments to monitor my progress. When you are doing your planning you should try and build these things in to. They represent small steps along the way and help you stay focused on the longer term objective.


So there you go. I know this was a long article and if you have made it this far you have done well. However, it had to be long because to fully reflect how important the planning process is and how much detail and thought is required I thought it best to show you rather then talk about it in reference terms.

I hope I have inspired you to think about what you would like to achieve out of your vertical jump training this year and if you want to achieve amazing results, then you better get started on a plan of your own.


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Periodization Part 1 - We look at the linear model of program periodization and how you can apply it to your vertical jump training.

Sports Specific Jump Training - How to perform a sports specific jump training session.

How Strong is Strong Enough? - How strong do you need to be when training to jump high? Find out in this article.

Fastest Way To Increase Your Vertical Jump - The fastest way to increase your vertical jump is by following a training plan that addresses your needs. Find out more.