Having spent as long as I have teaching people how to jump higher I see a lot of the same training mistakes being made time and time again. They say that if you don't learn from your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them, so hopefully after reading this article you can understand what those mistakes are, why people make them, and what you can do to avoid making them yourself.
People love structured workouts made up of various jumping drills and plyometrics, and they often mistakenly think that finding that magical sequence of exercises is the key to un-locking massive inches on their vertical jump.
Sadly, in having this view they overlook the single best thing they can do to increase their vertical jump, and that is to go and practice jumping. Actually getting out and busting their backside to jump as high as they possibly can is nearly always one of the most effective ways to add inches to your vertical.
Your jumping ability is a function of relative power, and power is a function of BOTH speed and strength. Unfortunately many athletes make the mistake of thinking that strength work will make them slow and decrease their vertical jump.
Usually this is because they think that lifting weights will turn them into bulked up muscular bodybuilders. What they don't realize is that bodybuilders eat very high calorie diets and train using high time under tension principles of slower, controlled reps, higher numbers of reps and sets, and of course it takes most people years of dedication towards that goal to get that big.
Power athletes don't need to eat anywhere near the same number of calories, and their strength training protocols are usually very different to that of a bodybuilder. Power athletes will focus more on minimizing time under tension via lifting weights (even very heavy ones) as fast as possible using lower reps per set and a lower lifting volume in general.
For younger athletes who don't have much weight room experience, strength training can often provide a lot of inches onto their vertical jump quite quickly as they start to get stronger and improve their power base.
I realize that having this right after “Not Enough Strength Work” might be a bit contradictory, but it is sadly quite true that many athletes who have seen the benefits strength training can have on their vertical jump start to lose sight of the fact that their ultimate goal is to jump higher, not squat more weight. In short, many young athletes go from having a jumping and power mindset to having the mindset of a powerlifter.
This usually happens after an athlete who starts off quite weak increases their strength and power via weight training and they see some quick results on their vertical. When these gains start to slow down they then start to think that further increases in their vertical jump will come if they can just squat more weight. In other words they start to think that strength = power.
While strength is absolutely a component of power, strength most definitely doesn't equal power. As they get stronger the newbie gains slow down and instead of spending time on becoming more explosive to better access their strength quickly, they just keep focusing on adding more strength.
Depth jumps and altitude landings (the shock methods, or 'true plyometrics' as they are often called) seem to have developed almost mythical powers when it comes to increasing your vertical jump. Usually the word plyometrics is used in the same sentence as something stupid and hyped up like “secret Russian training methods”.
Now I am not saying plyometrics don't have their place in vertical jump training because they sure as hell do, and a very important place at that. What I am saying is that like anything, you can have too much of a good thing. And when it comes to plyometrics, some is great, but lots is, well, stupid really.
Like all forms of training there are diminishing returns with plyometrics. Small, selective doses appropriately used in the context of an individualized vertical jump program can illicit excellent vertical jump gains, but large doses can overly tax the joints and central nervous system, cause overuse injuries, and a reduction in performance.
Basically this common mistake can happen in two ways.
The first way for this to happen is when you go out and train hard, hitting the weights or doing some intense plyometrics and then instead of resting up you spend another 2 hours playing pick up games. And then you do the same thing the next day as well. The day after that, despite giving your body no time off for rest and recovery, you train hard again, and probably spend another hour or two playing.
This pattern is then repeated over and over and then people wonder why their vertical isn't really improving very much. There are several things that occur here that are going to have a negative effect on your results. The first is that you are never giving your body a chance to recover from the workouts. The second is that all the sports you are playing can actually have a de-training effect on your vertical jump training. A vertical jump is an all out explosive movement performed once. It is an expression of power.
A classic example (and the most common occurrence of this mistake) is playing basketball for several hours a day. Doing this in no way resembles all out explosive single efforts, but many, many sub-maximal efforts. This is a conundrum of course.
People who play basketball want to jump higher to help them be better basketballers, but to do that they need to stop playing so much basketball. There is no easy solution, and ultimately it comes down to whether or not your skills are such that increasing vertical jump will provide better returns than working on your crossover.
The other aspect of recovery that many athletes underestimate is the value of a good nights sleep. I have often mentioned on this site how this is the most important element of recovery. It is the best time for reducing inflammation of the joints, it provides the best time for the muscles to repair and recover, and it helps you become more mentally alert which means you can play and train harder.
Sadly, with today's internet lifestyle many of us don't get anywhere near enough sleep and so we lose many of the great benefits it offers. In short – go to bed earlier and you will get a lot more out of your training.
There are few things more satisfying in life than working hard towards a goal and reaping the rewards of that work. Conversely there are few things as frustrating as busting your butt and getting nowhere (or even going backwards). These 5 vertical jump training mistakes I have outlined above are sadly way too commonly seen among aspiring high flyers.
Fortunately all of these mistakes can be avoided with better programming such as that offered by our vertical jump coaching program which assesses your needs and your training load and builds you a custom training plan for maximum vertical jump gains, and setting aside a bit of time for recovery work.
All pro athletes follow training programs written specifically for them by the teams trainers and coaches. Why? Because it is the best way to get results. And just like the pro's, the best vertical jump program is one that is written specifically for you and your individual needs. Cookie cutter programs won't get you the same results as a program designed for you. If you are serious about increasing your vertical jump then check out our vertical jump coaching program.
How To Slam Dunk - How to slam dunk. Breaking down the fine art of dunking a basketball.
How Strong is Strong Enough? - How strong do you need to be when training to jump high? Find out in this article.