I used to be obsessed with increasing my vertical. In my early high school years, I couldn’t wait to start dunking. I tried a bunch of things to boost my vert and I narrowed down the top exercises that helped me not only increase my vertical but increase my overall athleticism. I was more agile, quicker, and faster. The first time I dunk was during my junior year of high school. I was 6 feet tall at the time. I always was a decent leaper, but I wanted to take my jumping to the next level. I wanted to be able to dunk no problem. My junior year, I was barely squeaking in the dunks. It wasn’t until my summer going into senior year where I really learned about the art of leaping and put myself through a wide variety of workouts. I tried powerlifting, plyometrics, running, and dynamic stretching. And I will boil down for you the best exercises that helped me the most. There is one thing you should know. Your body has natural limitations. There is a reason not everyone can be Usain Bolt. No matter how much you train, most people still won’t be able to be close to his level. Some of us are simply gifted through our genetics. But don’t let this discourage you! You may not be able to increase your vert by 2 feet, but you can easily increase it up to 10 inches or even more depending on how you train and your body’s genetic makeup. After the summer of endlessly working to increase my vertical, I learned the secret formula for me with a combination of different exercises. These exercises led me to dunking no problem in high school with alley oops, two and one foot take off, two handed, reverses, and even a windmill or two. Here are my leap hacks…
- RUN HILLS – This is one of the most important things I can preach on this topic. In my experience, running hills has been one of the best things I’ve done for increasing my vertical. I was lucky enough to have a very steep hill near my house that I would run up. I would sprint up and lightly jog down. The hill was about 100 yards long. Perfect for a sprint that would push me. When running hills, you have to push yourself. It will definitely suck, but that is how your body will adapt. Put on some energetic music and get up the hill as fast as you can. This is not a run. This is a sprint. Depending on the steepness and length of the hill, I would do about 5 sprints up the hill. At this time, you will be wiped out completely if you’ve been true to the workout and actually sprinting up it. You’ll also become much faster and hills are great for burning calories if you’re trying to lose weight. You should be feeling it in your butt after the session and the next day. This is where the majority of your leaping power comes from. If you have a safe hill without many cars, then you can also consider running up the hill backwards after your initial 4-5 hill sprints. Running up the hill backwards a few times will target your quads more. This is great for finishing off your workout.
- JUMP – How do you become a better running? You run. How do you become a better writer? You write. How do you become a better jumper? You jump. Practicing jumping is as simple as standing in your living room and jumping as high as you can for about 30 reps at a time. You can add weight to your jump by holding 10 – 20 pound dumbbells. 3 Sets of 30 is a great addition to your workout. I would either do these at the beginning or end of the workout. I prefer to do them at the end because I like the idea of pushing through those tired legs because when you need to jump high in a basketball game, your legs are rarely fresh. You can play around with the types of jumps that you do as well. You can get into a deep squat and then jump, or you can work on exploding fast after touching the ground. I would do both. If you really want to increase your leap, this has to be in your routine.
- MACHINE SQUATS – I say machine squats because I’m not a fan of barbell squats. Barbell squats take a lot of form to be able to do them right without risking injury. Machine squats make it easy for anyone to jump on and have good form. Go heavy here. 3 sets of 5 and you should barely be getting the fifth rep.
- CLIMB STAIRS – This can be done running or jogging. If you don’t have access to a good flight of stairs, you can even do weighted step ups on a box or a bench. This exercise is perfect for targeting your glutes. This is a very similar motion to jumping and you’ll see some pretty fantastic results from this exercise alone.
- BIKE – This would be a great warm up. With riding the bike, you also get that similar motion of pushing down. Do 10+ minutes of biking before your workout.
- PLYOMETRICS – This is a very general term, but I’ll explain one workout that I did a lot of. There are plenty of other plyometric exercises that would be helpful too, but I’ve seen the bestl benefits out of this one that I’ll explain. I’ll call these side jumps. For side jumps, start with your right foot on the ground and your left hand touching the ground right in front of your right foot. Push off as hard as you can to the left and land on your left foot with your right hand touching the ground right in front of that foot. Then go back. Pushing off and trying to go as far right as you can. It’s important to spend as little time as possible on the landing. You want to be explosive and quick. Don’t spend time getting low and loading up before you jump. Explode quickly. You will surely feel it the next morning after doing this for the first time. If you don’t feel it, then you aren’t going quick enough and you’re spending too much time on the floor and loading up. Do this for 3 sets of 16, or 8 each leg.
- ABS – Yes abs. Having a strong core is vital for having strong leg performance. You can’t expect to have strong legs if your core is wobbly. Your body needs to be solid all the way through. See my ab routine in my other blog titled, “Getting Abs is Easy”.
- CALF RAISES – This is not a crucial part of the routine, but it is good to add. Find a machine that helps you do these. If you don’t have access to a calf machine, you can stand on a stair or any ledge with one foot so only the ball of the foot is on it. Go down as far as you can and explode up. 3 sets of 12.
- DEADLIFT – I’m a little hesitant to add this to the list. One reason is that I didn’t do these when I was in high school training myself to be a big leaper. But the main reason is there is a lot of risk with deadlifts. Your form needs to be spot on or you’ll be at risk of injury. That’s why I didn’t do them in high school. I didn’t know proper form. Now I do know proper form and I can tell you these will help with your explosiveness. Just make sure you are shown how to do them properly. It is not the end of the world if you don’t add these to your own routine. If you would like to try them out, get a trainer or someone who knows what they’re talking about and start with light weight. Perfect your form before increasing to heavier weight.
These are the main exercises I worked on that helped me increase my vertical. Keep in mind that you must be doing all of these as hard as you can or else you will only see minor improvements. To get the most out of these exercises, push yourself with every repetition. For the jumps, you want to spend as little time on the ground as possible (unless you’re doing a deep squatted jump). If you have any more suggestions that you found helpful, please drop them below in the comments. Hope this helps.