There’s a lot of misinformation, a litany of vertical jump myths out there floating about the volleyball and basketball worlds. Let’s clear up a few, shall we?
Myth #1: It’s All About the Calves
I’ve reviewed a number of vertical jump programs, available on the interwebs, that advocate tons and tons of jumping, mostly centered around calf bouncing. These programs miss the point.
Lock your knees and try to jump – how high do you get?
Ok, sure – the body works as a whole and no muscle is by itself responsible for creating the vertical jump. But, the calves are a relatively small part of the process.
What most people are looking for is more “spring” in their jump, which they assume is calf-related. This is and isn’t true. Those who have a more bouncy jump have two qualities, both of which are genetic gifts:
- Highly elastic tendons, specifically the achilles
- Highly reactive muscles
Some of us are more “fast-twitch” or reactive than others. This just means that these people can summon their available muscle force faster than others. It can be trained (plyometrics) but of course there is a wide range of genetic predisposition.
Think of Kangaroos – they are very, very reactive and elastic due to their long achilles tendons. Some of us have more of this than others, but the calf muscles themselves aren’t really the reason.
Myth #2. More Jumping Is Better
Jumping is very taxing on the central nervous system (CNS). Jumping requires the body to produce a very high amount of its force in a very short time, which requires tremendous nervous system excitement and muscular contraction.
So, programs that advocate endless jumping are going to wear you out to the point where the body is too fatigued to make gains. When volleyball and basketball players are in-season, we train them with minimal jumping or none at all in their strength training sessions. This is because we would be adding to the mountain of fatigue, which would inhibit gains.
Myth #3. Strength Training Is Too Slow
It’s true that the bar speed of a heavy squat or deadlift is slow – much slower than the 0.4 seconds that is the window for a jump. But, what matters is available force and how fast an athlete can summon it.
So yes, a very heavy squat moves slow. BUT – the squatter is trying to move it fast, which recruits a very high percentage of his available muscle. This makes him or her stronger, which then adds to the pool of available force.
The more force an athlete has, the more they can apply to the floor, and thus the higher potential they have to jump. This is why the best jumpers are usually also the strongest.
Myth #4. It’s All About The Quads
The quads are important. But, because most athletes have very underdeveloped hamstrings and glutes, the quickest way to increasing one’s vertical is by improving these weaknesses. And, the glutes are the main contributor to hip extension, which is a MAJOR component in the jump – this is when the hips come forward out of the squat position. Muscularly, the easiest way to think about it is 30-30-30-10
- 30% = Quads
- 30% = Glutes
- 30% = Hamstrings
- 10% = Everything else (calves, core, upper body)
Knee jumps are a great example – they take the quads and calves out of the equation. They teach explosiveness that originates in the hips, something that more athletes need. Too many volleyball and basketball players rely on their quads for their jumping power, which further increases their quad dominance, which likely contributes to knee pain.
Hamstrings and glutes are the most underrated body parts in both jumping and sprinting.
Myth #5: To Jump higher, eat more waffles.
Okay, I made that one up. Waffles are tasty, though.
Ways To Increase Your Vertical Jump
Now that we’ve busted a few myths, I’m going to send you home with a few tips and tools to help you build strength and jump higher.
Note: Links to products below are affiliate links, which means I’ll earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if buy a product. I only recommend and endorse products I use and believe in. I own a sports performance academy and use the following products every. single. day.
#1. Improve Hamstring Strength
The Sliding Leg Curl
The hamstrings are VERY undertrained in volleyball players, despite the fact that they contribute to vertical jumping quite a lot.
The sliding leg curl is a fantastic exercise that is way, way harder than it looks. It’s a major hamstring builder and yet very easy to do at home on your carpet – this makes it my #1 exercise to add to your routine.
Required Equipment: Plastic Sliders
Buy A Pair of Sliders Here [affiliate Link]
#2. Strengthening Your Lateral Hip Muscles
The Clamshell Exercise
I’m a huge fan of monster walks, mini-band shuffles, clamshells and lateral hip abductions to build strength and prevent injuries in volleyball players. And, strengthening these muscles helps increase jumping power by preventing the knees from collapsing inward.
Required Equipment: Mini Band Loops
Grab a Mini-Band Pack Here [affiliate Link]
Your lateral hip muscles help control your knee and prevent ACL tears in the knee. Strengthening them will keep you on the court longer, and all it takes is a few dollars for a band and some dedication.
This is an absolute MUST for volleyball players. If you’re not doing these at home, you’re playing Russian roulette with your career. A few minutes a day might prevent a major knee injury.
Every player should have a mini-band or two in her gym bag. It’s an investment in injury prevention.
#3. 1-Leg Hip Thrusts
These are another great exercise to work an overlooked muscle group: the glutes. The hip thrust will help build both the glutes and the hamstrings and balance out very quad-dominant volleyball players.
They require no equipment except something to put your back up against.
Good Luck! Jump Higher & Stay Healthy!