4 Ways to Boost Your Vertical Leap

Take your leg training to new heights (literally) with these moves that build explosive power.

Whether you are a seasoned athlete, a kid trying to make the varsity basketball team, or just a weekend warrior looking to impress your buddies, you have probably wondered how to increase your vertical jump. How high you can jump is a result of two things — your force output (how much energy you can apply to the ground) and your rate of force production (how quickly you can apply that energy). So to improve your jumping ability you have to work on improving these two factors.

Improving Force Output


Back Squats: The barbell back squat is one of the best exercises you can do to increase your lower body force output. For maximum benefit, the squat needs to be performed below parallel. Aside from the fact the squatting above parallel is bad for your knees, high squats do not recruit nearly as many muscle fibers as full depth squats. The more motor units we can recruit the better, particularly when it comes to increasing your vertical leap.

Trap Bar Deadlift: The movement pattern of the trap bar deadlift is very similar to the movement pattern of the vertical jump. Because the weight is centered rather than in front of you, as in a conventional deadlift, the trap bar allows you to stay more upright just like you would be when performing a vertical jump. When compared to the deadlift or the squat, the trap bar deadlift is a very simple exercise to learn and can usually be learned in one session. That clears the way for increased proficiency and greater loads fairly quickly, putting you on a one-way road to sicker hops.

Increased Rate of Force Production


Clean/Clean High Pull: Few exercises can boast the benefits of the clean. It is impossible to do a heavy clean slowly. The clean forces you to recruit as many motor units as possible, as quickly as possible. Of the two Olympic lifts (the clean and jerk and the snatch), the clean is the easier one to learn. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy – it takes a considerable amount of concentrated practice to get comfortable with the clean. If you don’t want to take the time and effort to learn the clean, or the means to secure reliable coaching, just stick with the clean high pull. The high pull gives you most of the benefits of the clean without the headache of learning a difficult movement.

Trap Bar Jump: This is a pretty simple exercise to perform. Load up the trap bar with 20 to 30 percent of your 1RM deadlift. Explode up as hard and fast as possible and jump off the ground. This is safer alternative to the jump squat. Jump squats with the barbell on your back can be a little dangerous but with the trap bar jumps, you don’t have to worry about the bar slipping off your back or slamming down on your spine.

Of course, in addition to these resistance-based moves, some actual practice with your own bodyweight each week is a good idea. Try 1-2 sessions per week when you perform 5-10 max effort jumps, allowing 30-60 seconds between reps. To take advantage of the post-activation potentiation (PAP), follow these bodyweight jumps with your normal leg session – the additional nervous system excitation should allow you to recruit more total muscle once you’re under the barbell.

The key to improving your vertical jump is to work on increasing your force output and your rate of force production. These four exercises – combined with some actual max-effort jumps – will help you do just that. Add them in for a couple cycles and watch your vert go through the roof.