Here's some breaking news: The best way to strengthen your jumping muscles, ladies, is -- drum roll -- to jump. A 2003 study showed that other athletic activities like swimming or kicking -- as in soccer -- did not translate into jumping higher. That said, you can also strengthen the muscles involved in jumping through resistance training, but here is something that really might surprise you: Increasing your vertical jump involves more than just your lower body. Your back and even your shoulders get into the act. So the best way to increase your jump is do a whole body workout but with special emphasis on your lower half.
Mimic the jumping move with squats. Jumps are plyometric, while squats are closed kinetic exercise. An impressive way of saying that jumps are explosive moves where you leave the floor, while with squats your feet remain planted on terra firma. But they both use the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. Progress from whimpy ball squats to smith machine squats and then to full-fledged barbell squats to strengthen your jumping muscles.
Strengthen your calves. The squat works the gastrocnemius and soleus, but you will want to strengthen them even more since they are 48 percent and 39 percent, respectively, involved in the push off. Do calf raises -- placing your toes and the balls of your feet on the edge of a step and extending your ankles as much as possible -- till the cows come home. Then, when they get there, add dumbbells hanging down at your sides, then a barbell across your shoulders.
Work your shins. That's probably a muscle you don't think about much but as noted on BodyBuilding, for true power you need to strengthen opposing muscles. The fancy name is the anterior tibialis, and you strengthen it by doing the opposite of a calf raise, that is, flexing your foot toward your shin. Start by doing it seated, then try standing and then move to placing your heels on a step, this time with your toes and the balls of your feet hanging off and flexing your foot back. Add a barbell.
Get down on your hands and knees to work your core for stability. Now you had to know that was coming. Core is involved in everything. Place your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Flatten your back like a table, then stretch one arm in front of you at shoulder height and the opposite leg behind you at hip height.
Practice swinging your arms up in front of you with an explosive, forceful movement as you would for a vertical jump. Add a medicine ball and swing it up from in front of your legs to up above your head. Control the descent. Next swing the ball up to one side then the other.
- Do these exercises in at least three sets of 10 or 12, three times per week, testing your vertical jump height to see how it's going.
- According to BodyBuilding.com, flexibility is also a factor in increasing your vertical jump. Stretch all those muscles and especially the calves, quads, hamstrings and spine. Slowly circle your shoulders, with your arm extended but kept in close to the body, three times in one direction and three times in the other.
- Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program, particularly if you have a history of pain or injury.
- Always work to develop core strength before attempting to increase your vertical jump.
Nancy Cross is a certified paralegal who has worked as an employee benefits specialist and counseled employees on retirement preparation, including financial and estate planning. In addition to writing and editing, she runs a small business with her husband and is a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).