High level basketball is played above the rim. Even hybrid point guards like Russell Westbrook can throw it down with authority in today’s NBA. While height and wingspan play an undeniable role, one thing youth basketball players can improve is their vertical leap.
While jumping ability might not be as trainable as strength, it can absolutely be improved with targeted exercises and training. Basketball players can reap the rewards of a higher vertical when it comes to scoring, rebounding, and defending just to name a few.
We believe that young athletes can learn to jump higher through technique, understanding the movement, strength training, and functional training.
Vertical Leap vs. Basketball Jumping Ability
Before we get into how to improve the vertical leap for basketball players, we must first identify what a vertical is, and how jumping ability and vertical leap are not exactly the same.
A vertical jump, more commonly known as a vertical leap, is an individual's ability to jump straight up from a standing position with both feet on the ground. There can be no forward momentum or foot movement going into a strict vertical.
Real live basketball rarely involves players standing perfectly still and jumping as high as possible on two legs. More likely, basketball players will be moving in a direction and jumping with some sort of momentum.
It is important to distinguish that a higher tested vertical does not always equate to a higher jump on the basketball court.
One Foot Jumps vs. Two Leg Jumps for Basketball
As an extension of that point, youth basketball players should train to improve both single leg and double leg jumps.
Double leg jumps are traditionally performed in a basketball game for jump balls and to get rebounds in the paint. This also translates to jump shots and blocking shots from a solid defensive base. From a relatively stationary position, two leg jumping is more effective.
Single leg jumps are seen more when a player is driving to the basket. These are the leaps that make it onto the poster hanging on your bedroom walls. Michael Jordan and Dr. J leaped from the free throw line on one leg, using the momentum and the power from their run to get airborne.
Strength Exercises to Improve Vertical for Basketball
Traditional strength training can certainly allow for a higher jump for basketball players and other athletes. Leaping ability is derived from fast twitch muscle fibers. These muscle fibers can be developed from focused weight training. These exercises should be performed with good form and an emphasis on speed and explosion.
Kettlebell swings - not generally thought of as a jumping movement, kettlebell swings actually mimic the explosion of a basketball jump quite closely. The hips are loaded, and all of the power comes from a bent knee, hips back position.
Box squats - traditional back squats and front squats allow for some “bounce” at the bottom of the movement. Instead, try box squats to eliminate this stretch reflex. For maximal results, keep feet positioned in a natural, athletic, jumping stance. Keep the back tight, chest up, pause at the bottom, and explode up with the weight.
Trap bar deadlifts or traditional deadlifts - these movements are great for overall strength, packing on muscle, and developing fast twitch muscle fibers. Either variation of deadlift will tax the posterior chain, strengthen the athlete’s core, and the strength gains transfer naturally to the vertical jump.
Jumping Higher with Dynamic Training
Traditional strength training is not the only way to improve your vertical leap for basketball. More functional, non-weighted movements can also increase your explosiveness and lead to a higher jump.
Seated box jumps - basketball players can begin by sitting on a box or bench which allows their knees to rest at approximately 90 degrees. Without leaning back or using momentum, athletes should explode out of the seated position and jump up onto a box in front of them.
Hurdle jumps - this exercise can be done in a variety of ways, but essentially involves basketball players leaping over an obstacle or obstacles. Some youth players will respond to single rep hurdle jumps while others might prefer jumping over multiple hurdles in a row.
Single leg box jumps - box jumps from a single leg are beneficial for a number of reasons. They strengthen smaller, more specific muscles in the calves and hips which stabilize basketball players’ bodies during the leap. They also improve coordination and comfort level when jumping off a single leg.
Increase Your Vertical Leap with Hustle Training
Created as a means for coaches and players to take advantage of professional workouts and drills, Hustle Training has been quickly rising to one of the most popular sports drill apps available. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this growing startup maximizes your performance potential through fundamental advanced techniques with workouts and drills crafted by professional players, college coaches, and expert trainers.