How to Add Inches to Your Jump Height With Training and Technique – Everything You Need to Know

By on December 4, 2014

Jumping high is an awesome skill that can be useful in a range of different scenarios. A good jumping height is useful in a number of different sports and athletic pursuits (most notably basketball) but it also just makes you generally explosive, light on your feet and agile. In martial arts it helps you to deliver high kicks to the face and in parkour and trail running it’s useful for leaping over obstacles and across chasms.

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Jumping height comes down largely to the amount of explosive type II muscle fiber in your legs and this is largely genetically determined with some muscle fiber change possible but seemingly limited (2).

But the good news is that it’s not entirely genetics and there are a number of ways you can increase your jumping height. Having more muscle in the right places will always increase power but at the same time you can also gain inches by using stretching and correct technique.

Training Your Jumping Muscles

Even if you have a low amount of fast twitch muscle fiber, building bigger muscles will increase your power by enhancing both kinds. Thus training muscle is a simple way to jump higher, but you need to ensure you’re training the correct muscles.

Those would be the muscles that drive your up through the ground, specifically the ones you’d use during a squat or a kettlebell swing which actually even better for training the posterior chain in the right way for jumping.

Using leg press and squats will train the glutes, the hamstrings and the quads which will all help you with your explosive power and jumping. Kettlebell swings add the erector spinae to this equation too though, which are the muscles you use to straight your spine and which help throw your body up when you jump and build momentum. You can also train this with the deadlift (basically every athlete needs to deadlift).

Another benefit of kettlebell swing is that it builds the anterior deltoids – the front-facing segments of shoulder muscle that you use to swing your arms upwards and thus again build momentum. Don’t neglect the anterior delts and erector spinae as this momentum building with your upper body is a big part of what helps you jump higher.

All this still leaves out calves though which are even more crucial in propelling you off the ground, especially when you’re launching off of one foot. You can train your calves with calf raises but my preferred technique which is particularly good for explosive power is to use ‘calf jumps‘. These are small jumps you do without using your upper legs at all – you’re jumping just with the power of your calves by going onto tiptoe. They’re even better when you train them with one leg and you can do them anywhere, though you may get a few stares.

When using calf raises, make sure to also train your flexor hallucis longus. This is your big toe flexor, found in the lower portion of the fibula between the distal phalanx, that lets you independently move the big toe. As this toe takes the brunt of your force when you’re jumping, this is a big contributor to your overall height. The best way to train this muscle is with one legged calf raises while feeling your big toe and that part of your foot really working it. It’s even better to do this while wearing Vibram Five Fingers or other ‘barefoot shoes’ which give you the ability to flex your foot. Barefoot running in general may also help to develop the muscles of your foot and thus your jumping height.

Finally, it’s also important to train all these muscles together in an explosive manner, so box jumps are also invaluable. Though if you don’t have a box, tuck jumps can do the same job, as can holding a stick in either hand and jumping through the gap back and forth.

How to Increase Jumping Height With Stretching

Want to increase your vertical jump immediately? All it takes is some stretching. As in, if you do some stretching right now, then within minutes your jumping height will increase. And if you continue to do this stretching regularly, then you will permanently add inches to you vertical jump.

The reason for this is that by stretching you can eliminate tightness in key areas in your legs. For instance, if you have short, tight hamstrings – which most people do from sitting down all day – then this will mean your legs are constantly being slightly pulled upwards towards your buttocks. This in turn means that you won’t be able to straighten your legs out to launch upwards with quite the same explosive power that you otherwise would have. The same goes for your tibialis anterior – this is the muscle located on the front of your shin and which you use to pull your toes up towards the sky. If you don’t stretch it then it will reduce your ability to push up off the ground.

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So stretch the tibialis as well as all your leg extensors and contractors and you will have more freedom of movement and more power in your jumps. This is also the mechanism through which stretching can actually make you immediately stronger in the gym (1).

Correct Jumping Technique

Now your strength and explosiveness is down, you need to focus on technique. The right technique will vary slightly depending on the person and situation, but there are some tips that can help anyone to increase their jumps and taking these on board can have a significant impact on your own leaping ability.

Two Legged Jumps

For two legged jumps one of the most important things is how quickly you let your body drop down prior to springing yourself back upwards. This gives you more distance to travel in order to build momentum and power, ultimately giving you more force to push off the ground with. At the same time, swinging your arms upwards can also help you to generate more upwards momentum and to move up. At the same time lunging downwards like this will allow you to utilize your reflexive strength as your muscles spring back out and you gain the extra height.

You do want to avoid ducking down too far though as this will increase the load you are pushing against and put you at a difficult angle. There will be a ‘sweet spot’ that feels just right to drop down to before launching back up and you should be able to feel where this is. Your aim is to use a ‘triple extension’ which means you should be bending and then straightening at the ankles, the knees and the hips. Remember to bend forward slightly, keeping your back straight, and to swing up with this part of the body too. At the same time, to get more flexion in your feet it can be helpful to start with your toes pointing slightly upwards. This position is called dorsiflexion.

Running Jumps

Most often though, standing jumps are relatively useless. In action you’re much likely to use running jumps – whether that’s in sports like hurdles or basketball, or it’s in parkour. This is a little more complex though…

For running jumps you aren’t going to have the same opportunity to squat prior to jumping and as such you need to generate power and momentum in other ways. One way you will do this is by making sure you are moving fast enough forward as you reach the position to jump and you can then convert your forward force into upwards force.

Unfortunately this is where many people stumble – literally – as they struggle to find their perfect footing to leap off of. As a result they often end up actually slowing down which is about the surest way to limit your own performance. One of the surest ways to do this then is to actually focus on accelerating – start more slowly and then speed up as you reach the jumping position. If you watch basketball players you’ll often see them doing this. As a side note, many people are confused about which foot to push off from when jumping – the answer is that your dominant foot (right for most people) should be the last to leave the ground.

While speeding up towards the thing you want to jump, keep your eye on the prize and let your body work out the maths. Your brain is better at doing this sort of thing unconsciously so you need to let your ’embodied cognition’ kick in. One of the best ways to do this is simply to practice running jumps again and again while trying to launch from a predefined spot. This way you’ll eventually learn your natural ‘MAV’ or Maximum Approach Velocity.

Again you want to be in a start of dorsiflexion with your foot point upwards on impact and you are going to be very slightly bending your ankle, knee and hip. At the same time though, you’re also going to swing your free leg upwards very quickly in-front of you – like you were kneeing someone in the chin Ryu style – and this will be what helps you to generate the rest of that upward momentum. You can also bring your arms up with you depending on what you’re doing.

Jumping Over Things

As a side note, I am a big fan of leaping over things for parkour and I consider it one of my skills (everyone has to be good at something right!). For doing this, bear in mind that you only need to ensure that your center of gravity is higher than the thing you’re jumping over. This is why the Fosbury flop worked so famously well in high jump (where you throw yourself over backwards). As long as your center of gravity is above the item you can then contort yourself over the thing you’re jumping over.

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In the case of a hurdle, that means flexing your legs to ensure they’re higher than the object – they can be lower on either side it doesn’t matter. To do this I swing both legs upwards forcefully which generates more upward force. After the non-dominant leg comes up, I kick it outwards like a flying kick and I then pull my dominant leg upwards and sideways with the bottom of my foot facing sideways. It looks like an awkward contortion but this is very effective for ‘folding’ my body in half (fists also come out forwards) and for clearing high objects.

Of course there’s much more you can learn about jumping higher, but this should be more than enough to get you started and to add an inch or two to your SVJ as well as your hurdle ability.

Finally, why not try doing what the ninjas (allegedly) did. Go to your garden and plant a sunflower seed. Now simply jump over it once every day. It will only get a fraction of a centimeter higher every day, so you should always be able to clear it. Eventually though it will be huge and by this time you’ll be leaping around like Super Mario! Maybe…

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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