The vertical jump is a measure of raw power that is used widely throughout professional and college athletics as a performance test. It can determine how explosive an athlete is and if they can use their strength efficiently in different athletic movements. It is for that reason that many athletes look to improve vertical jumping performance.
Considering this, your vertical jump training program should include and focus on 8 key performance qualities to help you maximize the benefits you will receive to your vertical jump.
1. Control & Stability: Before you can develop high amounts of power, it is important to have a good amount of control of your bodyweight, and to be able to control minimal loads. When learning new movements, it is important to first focus on coordination and on the movement itself in order to learn the correct form and to avoid bad habits.
2. Range of Motion: Also refers to flexibility. You need to have a certain degree of flexibility in order to avoid injuries and to maximize performance. When it comes to the vertical jump, if your ankles, calves, or quadriceps are very tight, then that could potentially lead to serious injuries. On the other hand, it is not very useful and can in fact be detrimental to have a very high degree of flexibility, so there is no need for your training program to have a major focus on flexibility.
3. Maximum or Absolute Strength: The focus here is to enhance the muscles’ maximum force output. This is done by lifting maximum loads and using progressive loading so that you can progressively increase the maximum load you can lift from one workout to the next or from one week to the next. This comes after control and stability for one reason: If you have never executed a movement before in your life (such as squats), then there is a high risk you will injure yourself. For that reason, it is important to focus on learning the movement using lower loads before you can gradually add more load and advance towards maximal strength training.
4. Maximum or Absolute Power: Power can be defined as (force x speed). The focus here is to ideally put out more force in less time so you can jump higher. This is important because a vertical jump takes around 0.2 seconds to execute, an d so you can only use a part of your maximum strength. All types of training can include power training as long as you’re working against a load and you attempt to move the load fast, though some can be less effective than others. This can also be referred to as rate of force development.
5. Movement Starting Strength: This refers to the ability to apply a high amount of force at the start of a movement. Like any other strength quality, it can be trained and improved, and its purpose is to allow your muscles to fire in a quicker manner.
6. Force Absorption: During a vertical jump, there is a high amount of eccentric forces generated when you dip down, and the ability to absorb and stabilize these forces is an important step in developing good plyometric power. This is a pre-requisite to the next quality: reactive training.
7. Reactive Training: The focus is to improve your reactive strength, otherwise known as plyometric strength or elastic strength. This is a result of being able to release a high amount of the energy absorbed due to the eccentric forces generated during the negative movement of certain movements. This is a highly trainable strength quality, and makes an important part of performance in any athletic endeavor, especially when looking to increase your vertical jump. The combination of both force absorption and reactive training (certain drills can train both at the same time) make up what many athletes know as plyometric training. Reactive training is rather a big topic as there can be differences in how you train for different movements: a single-leg running vertical jump or a sprint requires a very short time to switch from an eccentric to a concentric movement, and so can benefit from faster plyometric exercises.
8. Movement Training: All the training you do might not lead to optimal gains without training the movement itself. To jump higher, you need to actually jump. Practice makes perfect and your body will adapt to the jumping needs. In addition, this will develop an optimal mind-to-muscle link which will translate to a better vertical leap.