When the basketball off season is in full swing and I have been asked numerous times, "how do I increase my vertical?" Most aspiring basketball players think about flying through the air "Like Mike". As fitness professionals these people come to us for help in achieving that dream. They see the value of having professional training to get them off the ground quicker and higher than their opponent.
There are many proven exercises that will increase the height in someone’s jump and many reliable sources teaching the proper training techniques and cues. Our job is to take this information and customize it to suit the need of each individual that we deal with to avoid the possibility of overtraining. Even though I will focus on improving the vertical for basketball purposes, the same exercises can be used for all sports requiring jumping or explosive power from the legs.
We know that plyometrics is one of the best way to increase the height is one’s vertical. Plyometrics is derived from Latin meaning measurable increases. Plyometrics are exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible, creating power and explosiveness within the muscle. Plyometrics have been used effectively since the days of the Coliseum and were considered to be the reason behind the quick growth in competitiveness for Europeans in track and field. Although I still use many of the traditional plyometric exercises designed for the vertical, I have found that adding non-traditional techniques can greatly improve results and can be functionally beneficial to the trainee.
However, this program will not have any plyometric jumping exercises. That’s right; you can increase your vertical jump without plyometric jumping exercises! Trust me, it works. First and foremost you must strengthen your core. It doesn’t matter how strong or explosive your legs may be if you have a soft core. The core is the center of the body through which all movement passes. Having a strong core will allow the power generated from the legs to more efficiently transfer to the upper body to propel you from the ground. Some of my favorite core exercises are performed on the stability ball. The stability ball allows you to recruit the muscle fibers of the prime movers as well as the stabilizing and postural muscles giving your core a solid workout. Two of my favorite core exercises on the stability ball are the basic crunch and hyperextension. Although simple in nature, with the additional recruitment of the stabilizing muscles these exercises have proven to be very effective.
If all you did was improve the strength of your core you would see an improvement in your vertical. Of course we are not going to stop there. Let’s move onto the legs. Developing not only the strength, but increasing the explosiveness and neuromuscular response of the legs is what will allow you to soar to new heights. The biggest mistake most people make is isolating the muscle groups in the leg. The theory here is that the stronger you make each group the better your vertical will be. The problem is that when jumping all the muscle groups work together, allowing you to get off the ground. If we don’t train with the end result in mind, then the end result will never come. Yes, we will be stronger and in better shape, but we will not be any closer to our goal. I have put together three exercises for the legs that will completely crush them. The first two exercises are ones that I learned from a seminar I attended a year ago. The third exercise is a modified plyometric exercise. Since then I have put these exercises through the trenches and have had great results.
The first exercise we are going to talk about are Leg Cranks. Leg cranks are by far one of the best bodyweight exercises I have found to work the legs. Not only do they work on your strength and endurance, they also work on lactic acid threshold. Lactic acid threshold is the point where the demand for lactic acid meets the supply. Improving lactic acid threshold will allow you to train at a high level of intensity for a longer period of time. Leg cranks are a series of exercises performed one right after the other. The ultimate goal is to complete the entire series in 1:30 minutes or less. Leg cranks consist of: 24 squats – 24 lunges – 24 split jumps – 12 jump squats.
The next exercise is called the Triple Threat. The triple threat is performed with a stability ball. The triple threat is also a series of exercises. The exercises consist of: supine bridges – supine leg curls – supine bridges with feet on side of ball. The number of repetitions will vary depending on an individual’s level of strength. Generally speaking you want to perform anywhere from 8 – 15 repetitions of each exercise. Once you can complete 15 repetitions of each exercise perform the triple threat using one leg at a time for added difficulty.
The final exercise is high knee lunges. Although a basic exercise, they pack a powerful punch. High knee lunges are a modified form of the plyometric exercise called Power Skips. To perform this exercise you start by standing with feet together. As you begin to lunge forward you lift the knee of the lunging leg so that you upper leg becomes parallel with the ground. Repeat process as you return to the starting position. The ability of the muscle to resist against the impact of the landing and the explosiveness of the return simulates what the muscle experiences during a jumping motion.
If you are looking for something different to increase your vertical give this workout a try. Although I cannot guarantee that you will jump "Like Mike", I will guarantee an increase in your vertical and improved explosive strength. Incorporate this program into your normal routine no more than two to three times a week and let the results speak for itself.