Let’s face it: no one likes stretching. We feel like dweebs trying to touch our toes and arch our backs, and it seems like a waste of a perfectly good training session which could be spent on other things. But you can’t improve your vertical jump unless you work on flexibility.
Stretching Increases Fast-Twitch Power
The key to being able to jump high is to maximize your muscle’s explosive power, which is done with your “fast twitch” muscle fibers. I talked about fast twitch muscle fibers in this post. Basically, you want to stretch your muscle fibers out as far as possible and then have them rapidly recoil to create the most amount of explosive force. Well, guess what? The more your muscles can stretch, the more they can recoil and the more force you get when jumping. There are quite a few studies which back this up, which is why stretching is part of every single professional basketball workout plan.
Stretching Increases Muscle Usage
Stretching itself isn’t going to increase the strength of your muscles, but it can help activate your muscles so you utilize each and every single one of your muscle fibers to their maximum capacity.
Stretching Helps Recovery
If your muscles are tight, it is going to destroy your vertical jump. Aside from not tapping into their explosive power, your tight muscles are going to get torn each time you attempt some serious jumping. Now, keep in mind that muscle tearing is normal and is even what causes new muscle formation – but too much is a very bad thing. Those tears in your muscles turn into scar tissue, which is dense and hard. Good luck jumping high when your leg muscles are full of scar tissue!
Stretching Increases Range of Motion
Jumping high requires much more than an up-and-down movement. Your hips have to be able to move and tilt. Your back arches. Your ankles rotate. There is a lot of movement going on! By stretching and increasing your flexibility, you will have a much greater range of movement. You will be able to better activate all of the muscles which are needed to jump high so your vertical jump sees big results. Plus, stretching helps you perform other exercises better, like strength building and plyometric exercises, so you get more out of your training sessions.
You’ve really got to stretch your entire body if you want to improve your vertical jump. But, definitely focus on flexibility of your hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes.
Do dynamic stretches (moving stretches) to warm up your muscles before a training sessions. Do static stretches (where you stay still while holding your muscles in a pose) after a training session. You don’t want to do static stretches before vertical jump training because your muscles can lose some of their dynamic power through the stretching.
Consider joining a yoga class. Yeah, I know it seems weird and not very manly. But yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and strength (some of those poses are damn hard!). Plus, you will probably meet a lot of cute girls wearing spandex in the class 🙂