Training The 7 Most Critical Vertical Jump Training Mistakes and Misconceptions

Published on March 5th, 2013 | by Joe Starks


The 7 Most Critical Vertical Jump Training Mistakes and Misconceptions (Part 1)

Many Athletes give up trying to improve their vertical when they think they have reached their vertical jump peak at a disappointing height, without ever realizing their true potential. These people work their backsides off at the gym trying to improve their vertical seemingly with no results!

The truth is that you (or anyone training their vertical, really) may be wasting hours of precious training in problematic workouts. This is rarely the athlete’s fault, as the amount of misconception surrounding vertical jumping is truly staggering, with amateurs posing as veteran trainers and scammers proclaiming they’ve found the ‘secret’ to improving vertical jumping performance, just to draw in more victims who will shell out money on worthless products.

The reality is simple; if your vertical isn’t improving, in 99.9% of the cases, you are just training incorrectly.

Let’s see some of the most common mistakes and misconceptions that can lead to significant problems when it comes to boosting your vertical:

Mistake #1: Too many repetitions

Many amateur athletes just train by doing lots of repetitions of the same exercise without realizing how wrong this is. Huge numbers of repetitions may be a great way to max out endurance but they do little to actually improve peak vertical performance!

Vertical jumping is all about burst speed and power, with endurance playing a secondary role. Endurance helps us perform average jumps for long periods of time and keep on jumping. However, for vertical jumps, we want quality and not quantity.

To illustrate my point, just look at other explosive athletic activities that need burst muscle action instead of endurance to perform.  100m sprinters don’t need endurance as all their magic must happen in these short, 100 meters; they need max explosion to get there as quickly as possible.  Disc and sphere throwers also don’t need any endurance training as they only have to throw a few times each session and also get to adequately rest between sessions. These athletes train in short, powerful bursts (much like vertical training should be) to boost their muscle explosiveness; you’ll never see a disc thrower do hundreds of weightlifting reps or the sprinters jog a dozen miles every day! Leave many repetitions and endurance training to marathon runners, fencers, cyclists and the such; vertical jumping needs BURST.

Mistake #2: Too few explosive exercises

Contrary to the above, some athletes may perform too few explosive exercises; not nearly enough to impact meaningfully on their vertical jump performance.

Verticals need flexibility and muscle explosion, qualities that quickly diminish if you don’t train right.

Flexibility and muscle explosiveness are gained through smart, powerful repetitions and lots of explosive exercises in short bursts that train your fast twitch muscle fibers.

Some great explosive exercises for your vertical include lateral jumps, squats (and squat jumps), tuck jumps, platform (and reverse platform) jumps, lots of plyos and many others.  (I will dedicate many future posts on explaining the best vertical training exercises so don’t worry). Whatever you do, trying to minimize downtime and perform all exercises as quickly and as explosively as possible will ensure you gain maximum twitch muscle fiber growth, unless you are:

Mistake #3: Failing to train all associated muscle groups

This is one of the most blindingly obvious mistakes that even experienced athletes may make from time to time. Many athletes aren’t training all the muscles involved in vertical, effectively creating an insurmountable barrier on how high they can jump. This limits their maximum vertical jump height and reduces their potential as athletes.

To perfect vertical jumping, you must train all muscles involved.

Vertical jumping is a complex movement that requires perfect coordination of multiple major muscle groups and puts pressure in several joints of the legs, lower body and back, If you are not training all the muscles involved in vertical, you are wasting a lot of your potential. All muscles involved in moving the ankles, knees and hips work to propel your vertical.

The major muscles involved in vertical jumping are the (from bottom to top):

  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Lower back muscles
  • Abs

The hamstrings, calves, quadriceps and glutes all contract as you complete your pre-jump downward movement (where you wound up like a spring prior to jumping) then quickly expand to propel you upwards. Your lower back muscles and abs work to balance your body while you perform the jump as well as while you are mid-air, so their role in vertical jumping should not be underestimated.

To ensure you are training all the muscle groups mentioned above, you must circle through all your regular exercises, focusing one by one on each muscle group. Pay close attention to what your body is telling you, if one muscle group is getting more tired than the rest, chances are you are under-training it.

Remember, your vertical is as good as your least trained muscle group.

In my next blog post, we will see even more vertical training mistakes and misconceptions including improper training focus and the dreaded muscle plateau.

If you have any questions about the problems discussed above, don’t be shy and feel free to drop me a comment below.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, as I will be sharing many insider tips and valuable info for improving your verticals there!

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