Jumping ability is a coveted skill in many sports. Whenever you leap high to block a volleyball spike, sky for a rebound or soar over the high jump bar, you need every bit of vertical jumping power you can get. Some exercise machines are designed specifically to help athletes improve their vertical jumps. But don’t worry if you can’t access those gadgets. Plenty of other ways can help augment your natural-born gifts.
Warm up with dynamic stretches -- slow, controlled movements -- as opposed to static stretches in which you hold a position for 15 to 30 seconds without moving. Focus on stretching the muscles you’ll use during the exercise routine that follows. Leg stretches, for example, may include front kicks in which you swing each leg forward and up until it’s parallel with the floor; front lunges; and ankle bounces, in which you place your hands in front of you against a wall, then bounce upward on the balls of your feet.
Perform a variety of jumps. As simple as it sounds, jumping is one of the best exercises you can do to improve your vertical leap. You can jump straight up or perform standing broad jumps. Or kneel on the floor on one knee, then explode upward, alternating lead legs with each leap. Make your jumping exercise fun by soaring as high as you can as you try to touch a target, such as a basketball rim or the backboard, from a standing start. If you’re not tall enough to dunk a basketball, have a basket lowered so you can dunk the ball with a superior effort.
Take advantage of gravity by running up hills or climbing stairs. You can perform step-up exercises -- stepping forward, backward or sideways onto a platform -- with or without weights. Try to find short hills -- or lengths of stairs -- that you can scale within 30 seconds. Pump your arms and lift your legs high as you run. Walk back down the hill then run up again. Try to perform at least eight repetitions.
Work out with free weights instead of machines. You can do toe raises while holding a dumbbell in each hand, for example, or perform lunges with a barbell draped across the back of your shoulders. Squats and deadlifts, performed with a barbell or dumbbells, strengthen your thighs.
Jump rope to strengthen your legs while improving your balance. Grip the rope lightly and flick your wrists to flip it over your head. Remain erect but flex your knees slightly. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet, except when you’re jumping over the rope, of course. Keep your elbows close to your sides.
Perform exercises using your body weight for resistance, such as toe raises -- standing erect with your feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. Rise up onto your toes, then slowly lower your heels to the floor. Repeat the exercise 30 to 50 times. Or try deep knee bends by standing erect, then bending slowly from both knees while keeping your upper body vertical. Go as low as you can, then gradually stand back up. Perform 15 to 30 repetitions.
- Brian Mac Sports Coach: Dynamic Stretching Exercises
- YouTube: Increase Your Jump – Exercises to Increase Vertical Leap
- Inside Hoops: Jump Higher -- Vertical Leap Exercises
- Brian Mac Sports Coach: Hill Training
- ExRx.net: Thigh
- ExRx.net: Calves
- American Council on Exercise: Jumping Rope: Not Just for Kids Anymore
- Perform vertical jumping exercises four to five times a week, for at least 30 minutes per session, during the offseason. But don’t do the same resistance exercise two days in a row. Reduce your workload during the season, depending on the number of your team’s games and practices.
- Don't ignore the rest of your body as you work your legs. Good overall strength and flexibility are key assets no matter which sports you play.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.