Think that having a high vertical jump is all about your leg muscles? Well, there are actually a lot of muscles which make it possible to jump high – including your big toe muscle.
Flexor Hallucis Longus – The Most Overlooked Vertical Jump Muscle
You’ve probably heard of your glutes, hamstrings and maybe even spinal erectors before, but I doubt you know about the flexor hallucis longus muscle. Okay – the FHL isn’t nearly as important as those other muscles for getting a high vertical jump. But, if you are serious about jump training, then strengthening this often-overlooked muscle can give a competitive edge and take your jump to a new level.
The FHL starts in the lower part of the fibula and goes down to the side of your ankle, through your foot, and ends at your big toe. The FHL is what allows you to move your foot downward (like when taking off during a jump). It also allows you to flex your big toe.
How to Exercise the FHL for Vertical Jump Training
The most effective way of exercising the FHL is to do single-leg calf raises while holding a weight. These exercises are pretty simple. You first need to find a step or a surface which is elevated. You can even use a heavy concrete brick put on the floor. Make sure you have something to hold onto for stability – like a wall – but that your posture is still upright when doing the exercise.
Stand on your right foot so just your toes and ball of foot are on the surface. The other leg should be lifted behind you so it is up in the air. Holding a weight in your right hand, lift your heel as high as possible (like you are trying to get on your tippy toes). Then lower your heel down by bending your ankle. Do this for about 10 reps. Then switch to your left foot with the weight in your left hand.
An even easier way to exercise the flexor hallucis longus is to simply curl your toes or crunch them together in your shoes. You can even do this while watching TV. Not only will these exercises help your vertical jump, but they will make your calf muscles look awesome!
Don’t Forget to Stretch!
I know that stretching seems like a waste of time, but flexibility is seriously important for your vertical jump. You can’t release explosive power when your muscles are tight – and you definitely aren’t going to be able to jump higher if you have muscle injuries! To make sure you are getting your FHL stretched, try this:
- Sit on a chair with your leg crossed over so your ankle sits on your knee.
- Keeping your ankle in a 90 degree position, push your toes upwards towards your knee (just move your toes, not your foot!).
- Then use one hand to bend your toes downward and simultaneously use your other hand to twist the sole of the foot upwards.
- Now grasp your foot just above the ankle. Push your toes upwards while simultaneously pushing the sole of your foot towards the floor.