For a higher vert, all you have to do is practice jumping, right? Wrong. That’s a common misconception, according to certified strength and conditioning specialist Eric Wise.
As the owner of Premier Athlete Performance (Laureldale, Pa.), Wise works closely with athletes of all levels, finding ways to make them stronger, faster and more powerful.
We tapped into Wise’s training expertise to share a few myths about the vertical jump.
Myth 1: To increase your vert, just focus on jumping.
Wise: When you bend down and jump up, the way you to get off the ground is by pushing into it. That requires force, and the stronger you are, the more force you produce, which allows you to jump higher. To produce that force requires a three-pronged approach with a focus on upper- and lower-body plyometrics, speed development and strength training.
Athletes who focus just on jumping to increase their vertical may see an initial increase, but it’s not sustainable. Your body won’t be able to hold up to the demands of just jump-focused training, and the probability of developing knee and back pain increases.
Myth 2: It doesn’t matter if one leg is stronger than the other.
There are so many imbalances with athletes where one leg is stronger. If you can get both legs equally strong, you’re going to be more powerful, which is going to translate into more force and a higher vertical.
The key is to focus on single-leg strength training, and one great exercise is the Rear-Foot Elevated Split-Squat (also known as Bulgarian Lunge). You move up and down with one leg on the ground, which mimics jumping.
Myth 3: Only your legs contribute to your ability to jump high.
Your glutes are the engine that helps you jump higher, and they’re part of your core, which also includes your abdominals and hip flexors. The core is essential for producing the power necessary to jump.
Your upper body also has a role. It takes a great deal of strength in order to jump high and produce a great vertical leap. Upper-body strength and power helps you quickly transfer momentum to the lower body when you jump.
Myth 4: How you jump is more important than how you land.
Athletes are so focused on jumping, but what’s also really critical is the landing. A lot of athletes don’t jump and land correctly because they don’t have the strength.
When you jump and land, you want to do so with your knees bent. If you can land soft and quietly, that means you’re controlling your landing. That’s also going to take the impact off the knees, and the force goes to your larger muscles — the quads, glutes and hamstrings.