The key to jumping higher is being able to produce a lot of power at takeoff so you fly high into the air. If you remember from physics class (yes, sports is a science!):
Power = Force x Velocity
In this equation, “Force” is your strength, such as the amount you are able to squat. “Velocity” is your speed.
Based on this equation, you’d think that increasing your strength would be enough to improve your vertical jump. However, this isn’t exactly the case. Improving your strength only makes things easier. It doesn’t necessarily improve your power output.
Let’s say you weigh 150lbs and are able to squat 200lbs. It is going to take a lot of your strength (75%) to get yourself off the ground. After a season of training, you are able to squat a respectable 250lbs. Now, it only takes 60% of your strength to get yourself off the ground. You will be able to jump more frequently without getting strained.
Because you’ve increased your strength, you should be able to increase your power output and get higher off the ground. But, again, this isn’t always the case. Many athletes make the mistake of focusing too much on bulk strength but without ever learning how to apply that strength to their jump. This is why bodybuilders (who are really strong) don’t make good basketball players.
To really improve your vertical jump, you’ve got to learn how to apply more force incredibly quickly.
A vertical jump takes about 0.2 seconds to complete. This is a really short amount of time. To put this into perspective, a typical squat will take about 0.7 seconds to complete.
How do you train your muscles to react faster?
Here is where a lot of people in jump training make mistakes. They think they can improve their Velocity by learning to run faster or other aerobic exercises. As far as jump training goes, aerobics aren’t going to help your Velocity at all! Velocity is all about being able to increase the speed of force at the jump.
Basically, you must teach your muscles to react really quickly when you jump. Imagine a rubber band. If you stretch it back far and let it go, it will release a LOT of force. Now, take that same rubber band. You stretch it back, but this time slowly release it. You aren’t going to get that same amount of force!
The way you get your muscles to react quickly is by training your fast-twitch muscle fibers (which I’ve talked about before). Here is an example of how you can train fast-twitch muscle fibers to boost velocity.
- DO NOT: Follow traditional bodybuilding programs. These are meant to develop sheer bulk and strength, but do not teach you to use that strength. Traditionally bodybuilding programs can actually make you slower!
- DO: Perform fewer strength exercises but at heavier loads. For example, instead of doing 10 repetitions with a moderate load of 100lbs and a short amount of rest between sets, do 1-5 repetitions with a heavy load of 150lbs and at least 3 minutes of rest between each set.
By focusing on heavier loads, you will tap into your fast-twitch muscle power and be able to really increase your Force + Velocity – which means more power output during your jump!