Plyometrics are a crucial component to developing the elasticity needed to jump really really high.
You can squat as heavy as you like, but if you’re avoiding plyometric training, you’re not going to jump very high.
Today we’re going to briefly look at what plyos are and why they’re important, and then we’ll take a look at 10 of my all time favorite plyometric exercises for the vertical jump.
Let’s jump right in!
What Are Plyometrics & Why Do They Matter For Your Vertical?
The vertical jump is a power movement.
Power is described as strength x speed.
You build the strength in the weight room with exercises like squats, Nordics, calf raises, etc…
Plyometrics are all about the speed aspect of the vertical jump equation.
Plyometrics are exercises designed to help athletes express their strength as quickly as possible.
Most plyometrics come in the form of quick and explosive jump variations, a number of which we’ll unpack shortly.
Plyometrics essentially train the body to become more efficient at producing force quickly, over the desired stretch shortening cycle.
As a jumper, without sufficient plyometric training, you’ll develop what we call an explosive strength deficit, which means you’ve got ample strength, but lack the ability to activate it quickly.
Athletes with the most impressive vertical jumps are not only super strong, but they’ve taught themselves to express that strength really efficiently.
Let’s take a look at some of my top plyometric exercise recommendations for athletes looking to maximize their explosiveness…
In no particular order…
1. Overspeed Banded Vertical Jumps
Using a band, we’re able to increase the velocity we’re able to leave the ground with as well as increase the height from which we land.
This exercise also massively reduces impact forces, allowing us to safely perform more reps without worrying about aggravating the knee joint.
Simply attach a resistance band overhead and hook it under your armpits.
Try to stay under the band as much as possible and perform 8-15 reps to a depth that is comfortable for you.
2. Depth Jumps
The holy grail of plyometric training, depth jumps are designed to ‘overload’ the eccentric portion of the movement by leveraging gravity.
Know as the “Shock Method”, we’re trying to shock our body into becoming competent under extreme loads, so that it performs even better when we’re jumping normally.
Note that with the depth jump (specifically not the drop jump), we’re trying to replicate the ground contact time we’d use in our sport when jumping.
If we’re simply trying to increase our maximum vertical jump, it’s better to absorb as much of the landing force as possible before exploding up in a smooth, comfortable manner.
To be clear, we’re not trying to explode off the floor immediately, as we do in drop jumps (unless you’re looking to drill quicker reaction stuff like rebounding in basketball).
3. Pogo Jumps
Pogos are my favorite ‘extensive’ plyometric, which means it’s relatively low impact and isn’t going to stress your joints and tendons too much.
Start with your hands on your hips, and focus on jumping using your calves only, explosively dorsiflexing your ankles.
Try to keep your feet under your hips.
Your knees should be bent slightly, but we’re mainly looking to generate power through our ankles here and there should be minimal knee extension.
Darius Clark (one of the highest jumpers in the world) recommends doing a couple sets of about 20 seconds worth of pogos.
4. Hurdle Jumps With Double Jump
This exercise is fantastic because you can modify it to make it more difficult by removing the double jump.
The double jump acts as somewhat of a crutch to help less advanced athletes develop their explosive ability safely.
Remember to use your arm swing!
5. Extensive Knee Dominant Jumps
I found this exercise while digging through Paul Fabritz’ Vert Code program – it’s fantastic at engaging the quads and getting the knee extensors primed for explosive movements.
Make sure you stay on the balls of your feet.
Your knees should flex to about 90 degrees on the way down and you’re only looking to jump about 50% of your max effort.
Avoid getting stuck in the hole and try not to let your heels touch the ground.
Avoid this exercise if you have joint pain or use less knee bend to where you can do it comfortably.
You should feel a strong burn in your muscles with no joint pain.
Avoid over-plantarflexing the ankles as we want the focus to be on the knees here.
Paul recommends 3 sets of 12 reps for this exercise.
Sprints are the kissing cousins of the vertical jump.
A maximum velocity sprint is pure explosiveness.
Jumpers can benefit from doing sprints as they’re a great way to train all the muscles involved in triple extension as well as provide some unique stimulus to muscles like the hip flexors.
Try to keep the distance fairly minimal, about 40-60 yards should be plenty.
7. Length-Height Jumps
Here’s another less common exercise we’re poaching from @Kingdac – he calls them ‘length-height jumps’.
All it is is a horizontal bound followed immediately by a vertical jump.
The horizontal momentum really overloads our entry into the vertical jump, forcing our body to deal with the difficult task of converting horizontal momentum into upward power.
The best jumpers in the world are extremely good at transferring the energy generated during their (usually quite large) penultimate strides into vertical inches.
Do about 10 of these.
8. Box Jumps
The beauty of box jumps is that they remove the landing forces incurred when you perform a vertical jump.
Because you’re landing at the top of your jump (on the box), this exercise allows you to practice your vertical jump with very little stress on your joints.
I love programming box jumps in when athletes are slightly fatigued but still want to get some plyometric volume in.
They’re also great for deload weeks.
Make sure you climb/walk down off the box after your rep (don’t jump down – that defeats the point).
9. Skater Jumps
Us bilateral jumpers need to occasionally include some unilateral jump work to ensure we’re well-rounded athletes who aren’t deficient in any major stabilizing areas.
Skaters massively improve balance and stability, which are vital for being able to jump high.
Anywhere from 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps should be fine for these.
Also be sure to check out our list of the best single leg plyometrics for more exercise ideas!
10. Overhead Target Vertical Jumps
Who would have thought that the best possible plyometric exercise to become better at jumping would be… jumping!
Simply practicing your standing and running vertical jumps are one of the most effective plyometrics you can do.
Research has also shown that using any sort of overhead target, like a vertical jump measurement device, actually increases our vertical jump compared to jumping with no overhead target.1https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/17543371211039632?journalCode=pipa
Make sure you land on both feet (don’t be like Juan Thornhill)!
Do as many of these as you please, but just be aware of how much jumping you’re doing and don’t overdo it!
So there you have it!
Those are 10 of my top plyometric exercises for the maximum vertical jump.
By that I mean, they’re ideal for athletes simply looking to maximize their absolute highest possible vertical jump.
There’s other exercises that make more sense for sport-specific movements like rebounding in basketball or jumping to catch a football.
Play around with adding a few of these to your vertical jump program and you’ll be jumping out the gym in no time!
Plyometrics For Vertical Jump FAQ
I’m often asked the following questions, so I thought I’d address them quickly…
Are plyometrics better than weight training for vertical jump?
For certain athletes, plyometrics will be more effective than weight training, but the opposite is also true.
Whichever way you slice it, a mixture of strength training and plyometrics is necessary in order to maximize your progress.