vertical jump training

Jump Training For Older Athletes

Written by Jack Woodrup for

Many people consider having a big vertical jump to be a young mans game. And in many respects they are right. As you age you do start to lose a certain amount of spring in your step. However, that doesn’t mean that the older athlete can’t make improvements to their jumping ability, it just means they have to be smarter about it. >With that in mind, lets have a look at vertical jump training for the older athlete.

how to jump higher and increase your vertical jump

Things For The Older Athlete To Focus On

One of the first things that we lose as we get older is strength. This is why we see so many older people with injured hips, sore backs etc. Basically they no longer have the strength in their muscles to move themselves about with the same degree of certainty and balance they had when they were younger and they injure themselves doing mundane daily activities.

For older athletes who want to do things above and beyond just the mundane then, it becomes even more important to continue working on their strength. As always, the best, and most efficient way of doing this is with a combination of bilateral compound lifts such as the squat and deadlift varieties, mixed in with some single leg work in the form of the various lunges, step ups and split squats

.how to jump higher using the trap bar deadlift

Strength Training: An ESSENTIAL component of the older athletes vertical jump training

As is the case with all strength training it is best to generally keep the reps in the 3-6 range and really push yourself to maintain or increase the poundages used. If you stop challenging yourself just because you are getting older, then you stop progressing.

 Another aspect of aging that can be addressed in the weight room is loss of lean muscle mass.You see between 25 and 50 years there is a 5–10 per cent decline in muscle size. Between the ages of 50 - 70 there is another 15 per cent decline. After 70 years there is an even greater rate of muscle loss to the tune of a further 25 per cent. 

So how do you offset this? Not surprisingly you need to do more strength training, however, as you get older it is a good idea to spend a but more time using higher reps to increase time under tension and therefore promote greater muscle hypertrophy.

Another training consideration for the older athlete is the impact that a lifetime of wear and tear has had on the joints. As you get older your joints don’t handle high impact plyometrics as well as they used to. As such it is a good idea to start increasing the training emphasis on low impact training methods such as box jumps, jumping in sand and other soft surfaces, seated jumps, and a preference of 2 legged jumps over the single leg varieties.

vertical jump training in the sand

Sand Training: Soft surfaces such as sand can be easier on the joints of the older athlete

This doesn’t mean you ignore traditional plyometrics or single leg jumps entirely, it just means a lower volume or the use of lower box heights to reduce landing forces.

The last major factor an older athlete looking to jump higher needs to consider is the increase in recovery times. It might be ok for a 20 year old to train every day (and even then….) but when you get into your 30’s and beyond it gets much harder to back up your workouts.

The older athlete should therefore look to factor in more time into their vertical jump program for rest and recovery. All the things I like to talk about that contribute to better recovery, particularly sleep, stretching (you should be stretching daily by the way) and soft tissue work, and sensible dietary choices become even more important the older we get.

I know from my own experience that just going to be bed too late a few nights in a row can make my knees flare up dramatically. If I don’t stretch my hip flexors, ice my knees, and foam roll my IT bands and quads on a daily basis for the 3-4 days after doing heavy squats I can literally feel them all pulling tight again. And I am only 37!

These are things that are much easier to take for granted when you are young and dumb, but as we age we need to live and embrace the saying you can’t put a wise head on young shoulders. We all know we should be working on active recovery, but it isn’t until we are older and really feeling our age a little that we realize why it is so important.

Another way older athletes can reduce their recovery time is to prioritize their athletic goals and do less non beneficial activities. For example I get a lot of athletes who want to jump higher email me and ask about additional activities like tennis, bike riding, jogging etc. While these activities don’t really do much for you vertical jump, a small amount of each won’t be hugely detrimental. As you get older though, they do have a bigger impact on your recovery times. If your athletic abilities are important enough it might be time to give away the incidental activities.

What To Expect In Terms of Results

One of the hardest things about getting older is that you can still remember what you used to be able to do. I recently saw an interview with Michael Jordan, now 49 years old, where he was talking about playing against Kobe and LeBron and he was saying that when he watched those guys play he thought mentally he could still kick their ass, but physically he was long past being able to keep up with them. Most older athletes can relate.

training for older athletes

Masters Athletes: Age Shall Not Weary Them

The hardest thing for an older athlete is therefore tempering your own expectations. You don’t want to lower the bar too low of course, but you do need to reset it to a more realistic height. What that is of course will depend on the individual. If you had a 40 inch vertical jump when you were 20 years old then it will be easier for you to maintain a 30-35 inch jump when you are 40 then someone who had a 35 inch vertical jump when they were 20.

Each person will have a relative decline. It is up to you to determine where you are at, what you have done for the last 20 years, how your body is holding up, what your priorities are etc.

One Final Tip For ALL Athletes

If you love jumping high and being an explosive athlete then the best thing you can do to maintain that is to be consistent with your training. If you take extended time off from anything you will lose the ability to do it and it will be harder to regain when you try.It is much easier to maintain your gains, and the best way to do this is with consistent training. In vertical jump terms this means that no matter what else you are doing, you should, if you want to maintain your jumping ability, continue to do some form of jumping or jump related strength work.

That might be something a simple as adding in 4 sets of 5 box jumps at the end of your workouts 2-3 times per week. It might be doing some heavy single rep squats to keep your strength up. For MAINTAINING gains and jumping ability it doesn’t have to be a high volume or even a particularly high intensity, it just needs to be something and it needs to be consistent.

In fact, if you don’t entirely let yourself go you will be very surprised at how long you can maintain a very high level of performance. Maybe not 100% of your younger self, but pretty close to it.


I am sure you have heard the saying about working smarter, not harder. When it comes to learning how to jump higher you generally have to work both smarter and harder in order to truly maximize your vertical jump. For the older athlete though, it becomes even more important because failure to be smart about their training will lead to a MUCH higher incidence of injury. The key things for older athletes wanting to jump higher are maintaining strength and muscle tissue, proper recovery, and choosing exercises appropriate for their level of athletic capability.

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Low Impact Training - Jumping is hard work on your body but it doesn't have to be. Follow a few of these simple low impact strategies and give your joints a break without sacrificing your gains.

Strength Training Part 1 - Getting strong is vital for jumping high. Part 1 of our 2 part look at strength training covers the various theories behind strength training.

Stretching and Jump Performance - Stretching is an important part of any athletic program. Here we take a quick look at what sort of stretching you should be doing for maximum hops.

Foam Rolling for Faster Gains - Like stretching, foam rolling should be an integral part of your vertical jump program.

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