Feature: How to Increase Your Vertical Jump

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If you're looking to jump higher on the court or on the beach, look no further.

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of strength training articles written specifically for volleyball players.  Ryan Jobs B.H.K. of Coastal Fitness prepared this series with his staff and we will be posting new articles regularly.  This article is written by Johann Windt (CSCS B.H.K, PN-1) and focuses on jumping.  You can contact Ryan directly on the Coastal Fitness website, or send us a message on our contact page.

As a strength coach for a large number of volleyball athletes, the most common question I get is: “How can I jump higher?” This article breaks down the answer I give when that question is put forward, and aims to explain the reasons behind the different components of the answer.

Jump Properly then Jump Often

The first thing a person must learn to do in order to jump to their maximum capability is to learn to jump properly. If you are incapable of effectively making an overhand serve, it would be silly to immediately start working on your jump serve. One comes before the other. In the same way, trying to do effective vertical jump training must come after learning how to effectively jump and land. This alludes to the second article in this series, in that you need to learn to move well before you move often. The basic principles that must be present in a proper jump and landing include:

Knee tracking

The knees must remain in alignment with the ankles and hips. An inward collapse on the jump or the landing predisposes an athlete to knee injuries, and will cause issues if done repeatedly. Similarly, it is troublesome if the knees travel too far forward beyond the toe in jumping or landing.

Hip Hinge

During the countermovement before the jump as well as in the landing, the hips should hinge backward as the torso moves forward to maintain balance. If the hips don’t hinge backwards adequately, the hip extension muscles (glutes and hamstrings) will not effectively contribute to the jump or absorb force on the landing, increasing knee stress.

Triple Extension

At the point of takeoff, the athlete must reach triple extension, with the ankles, knees, and hips all reaching simultaneous extension. This should be coordinated with a well-timed arm swing that helps to maximize jump height. Short hip flexors can limit hip extension and reduce jump height, inadequate ankle mobility can reduce maximum height, and poor coordination can reduce efficiency and prevent maximum performance. 

As long as these three principles remain in place, athletes should jump often. It is extremely difficult to become a good jumper without jumping. Therefore, practicing these principles helps to ensure safe and efficient jumping and landing. 

Get Stronger

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Newton’s third law of motion explains that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When jumping, the upward momentum of the athlete is the reactive force produced when they push into the ground as hard as they can. Essentially, the more force they place into the ground, the higher they will jump. Therefore, when two players have an equal body weight and both know how to jump, the stronger athlete will jump higher.

Therefore, to maximize vertical jump potential it is important for athletes to gain strength, and to gain it in the manner in which it is used in jumping. Isolated exercises such as leg extensions and hamstring curls may strengthen specific muscles, but during jumping, the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves all work together to reach triple extension, while the core muscles need to brace to prevent energy from leaking out of the bodily system. This is a big reason why full body movements such as front squats, back squats, and deadlifts have been shown to increase vertical jump more effectively than isolation exercises. 

Gain Power

Unfortunately, there is one caveat to the prior point about getting stronger. Everyone knows those people who may be super strong, but move slowly. It’s one thing to do a heavy squat slowly and another to produce those high forces in a short amount of time. The ability to generate forces at high rates is referred to as ‘power’, and is equivalent to Force/Time. Since the time it takes to complete a vertical jump is so short, it is essential to train explosively to help increase power development. This type of training is traditionally done using either Olympic style weightlifting variations, or with well-designed plyometric drills. Because maximizing force and power are so crucial to these drills, plyometric and power drills should not be done beyond a point of fatigue, so work periods are short, and full recovery should take place between sets. High repetition jumping drills helps build muscular endurance during submaximal jumps, while plyometrics should be geared at maximizing muscular power during maximal jumps.

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Conclusion

In summary, in order to maximize ones vertical jump as a volleyball athlete, one must first master the mechanics to jumping and landing safely and efficiently, properly hinging the hips, reaching triple extension with a properly timed arm swing, and avoiding any inward drift of the knees. Beyond this, off-court training should consist of getting stronger through heavy resistance training with functional movements, and maximizing power through well-designed plyometric drills. 

About The Author

Johann’s keen coaching eye has been a valuable asset to Coastal Fitness’ strength and conditioning program.  He is the head strength and conditioning coach for CBC Bearcats Athletics as well as a strength coach for Volleyball Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Abbotsford B.C.  He has his Bachelors of Human Kinetics from TWU as well as his CSCS through the NSCA, he is also Precision Nutrition certified.  During his undergraduate studies Johann mentored under head strength and conditioning coach Andrew Hemming of the national title winning volleyball program at TWU.