Vertical jump training is all about understanding what things actually get results.
For years now, the vertical jump training industry has been riddled with gimmicks, bad science, and bad information.
Firstly, I’m going to go over a short list of training equipment, aids, and tools that are actually going to make a real difference in your training.
After that I’m going to explain to you what the key things you should be focusing on are and why these items are an important part of the equation.
Let’s quickly take a look at my top recommendations.
Best Overall Sled
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Before we get into it, be sure to check out my latest roundup of the best vertical jump training programs for 2023!
Any athlete serious about developing their ability to produce and absorb large amounts of force with their lower legs must be training their tibs religiously! A tib bar is the best way.
Why The Tib Bar Is An Essential Piece Of Vertical Jump Training Equipment
Your body will only let you jump 40 inches in the air if it thinks you’re capable of landing from that height without injuring yourself.
The best jumpers in the world are therefore the best at absorbing landing forces efficiently.
The tibialis anterior is the muscle on the front of your shin which is your body’s the first point of contact when it comes to absorbing landing forces from jumping.
Basketballers will often find themselves landing on one leg which puts immense pressure on the knee joint.
Bulletproofing your tibialis anterior is the single best way to develop ankle and knee integrity, prevent jumper’s knee, and improve your athletic capacity immeasurably.
Be sure to check out this article for a full list of the benefits of training your tibialis anterior.
A tib bar is definitely the most efficient way of training this muscle.
It’s super simple to use.
You simply sit with your feet over the edge of a bench with the desired weight on the bar and dorsiflex toes in towards your knees.
You should feel an epic burn in your shins doing this exercise.
I’ve created a full tib bar buyers guide for anyone interested in doing a little more research as there’s a number of really great products on the market.
Regular tibialis training is, in my opinion, mandatory for all athletes who aspire to increase their vertical jump. A tib bar is the most effective way of bulletproofing this muscle.
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Plyo Boxes Produce Massive Vertical Jump Gains
Plyometrics are a fundamental component of vertical jump training.
This is where we’re focusing on developing explosiveness, speed, and reactive strength.
You want to jump higher? Do lots of jumping!
How To Use A Plyometric Box For Vertical Jump Training?
There’s a number of exercises you can perform with a variety of plyometrics boxes.
Use A Plyometric Box For Box Jumps
This one’s pretty simple. Pick a box height that’s not too low but not too high, 18-36″ is usually going to do the trick but advanced athletes can go considerably higher.
The reason box jumps work well is because you remove the concentric or ‘landing force’ from the jumping movement. Doing tons of jumping can be brutal on your joints, mainly because the force applied to your joints when landing is considerably higher than during the takeoff.
Box jumps are a great way to get jump volume in while giving your joints a rest. You’re still performing jumps, but at significantly less cost to your body by reducing the concentric force.
I like to program them in during my plyometrics-focused phase when I’m feeling particularly tired and feel my body needs to take it easy, but isn’t yet ready for a proper deload.
Use A Plyometric Box For Depth Jumps
Depth jumps are a more advanced exercise which are arguably the single most effective way to develop reactive strength. Reactive strength refers to your overall springiness.
To perform a depth jump, drop down off one plyometric box and absorb the landing force before springing up onto another plyo box in one smooth motion.
Your ground contact time should mimic that used in your preferred sport which means for most athletes there’s no requirement to minimize how long you spend on the ground.
You can do 3-4 sets of about 5-6 reps once or twice a week, or 2-3 times a week if your training focus is on reactive strength.
The JFIT plyo boxes are the bee’s knees of plyo boxes and are definitely going to be the best option for advanced athletes.
Having one box is good, but having a set of 3-4 is significantly better because it allows you to perform so many more exercises.
If you’re a serious athlete looking for the single best vertical jump exercise to develop reactive and explosive quickness, then depth jumps are going to have to feature in your workouts regularly.
These are by far the best option for doing depth jumps because they allow you to do consecutive reps, forcing your muscles to adapt to this reactive overload.
A plyo box set is the safest and most convenient way to perform plyometrics at home. All jumpers will have to do depth jumps at some point in their training, and the 4 piece set by JFIT is the best option I’ve used.
Why You Need To Be Using A Training Sled To Jump Higher
When it comes to vertical jump training, the best way to use a sled is to drag it while walking backwards, focusing on keeping a slow and steady pace and driving through the quadriceps.
The reason this is hyper effective is because it trains the knee joint at the opposite angle to how it’s normally overloaded (like during a squat).
In a squat, the load is above the knee, in a backwards sled drag, the load is below the knee so it strengthens the knee joint in a way most of us completely neglect.
It’s not only the ultimate knee rehabilitation exercise for anyone with tendinopathy, but it’s an excellent way to make the connective tissue more resilient to deal with the huge amount of stress we put on this joint when doing vertical jump training.
A typical sled workout will be done as either a warm up or finisher. I love doing sled work at the start of a leg session because you get an insane quad pump and tons of blood flowing into that joint.
I also love doing this at the end of a brutal leg session as a hypertrophy exercise to develop size in my VMO.
Simply drag the sled backwards about 10 meters and then push it forward back to your starting position – any location or surface is usually going to be fine.
You should start to feel the burn after 3-4 sets.
If you think this exercise looks easy, think again. By the end of it your legs will be absolutely on fire!
When you’re pushing the sled forwards, you’re doing a ton of deep ankle flexion, stimulating your Achilles tendon in a way that is really hard to replicate with any other exercise.
So not only is this a brilliant movement for the knee joint, but it’s also one of the best things you can do for tendon development and ankle mobility.
There’s good reason the training sled is right at the top of my list of knees over toes training equipment!
Who Should Use A Training Sled?
Any athlete of any age can start doing sled work.
It’s particularly effective for basketballers, volleyballers, and track athletes who are looking to develop their knee and tendon health.
If you’re at all interested in increasing your vertical jump, this is simply one of the best things you can be doing to promote longevity and avoid injury while simultaneously developing strong quads.
Be sure to check out my top 4 sleds for vertical jump training to find out which one is right for you.
Shogun’s Multi Purpose Sled is designed specifically for this style of training and is extremely affordable, making it a fantastic piece of kit for anyone serious about upping their vertical.
Sled work is super important for any athletes with knee pain/tendonitis as well as anyone who simply wants to keep their knees healthy. It’s also great for foot and Achilles development.
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How A Slant Board Can Improve Your Vertical Jump
The vertical jump is all about triple extension which is where your ankles, knees, and hips all work together to generate force.
Most athletes have very poor ankle mobility which limits the explosive energy they can produce with their calves and Achilles tendon.
A slant board is by far the most effective way to develop flexibility through the Achilles and calves.
You can also do squats on the slant board which will send your VMO muscle into overdrive.
Your VMO is the most explosive/fast twitch muscle in your leg and so you should be doing everything in your power to develop this muscle where possible if you’re a jumper!
The slant board allows for greater depth in squats which requires massive VMO activation.
Be sure to check out my review of the top 6 slant boards on the market so you can decide which one to get.
Having used several of these boards now, I’m still a massive fan of the SBG slant board and I think it’s the best option on the market currently.
Be sure to check out my full Slant Board Guy review!
Ideal for static calf stretching to develop ankle mobility as well as heel elevation to increase quadriceps activation during squats.
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A foam roller is a vital piece of equipment for any athlete, but they’re particularly useful for athletes engaged in vertical jump training, which can be brutal on your lower body.
Why Jumpers Need A Quality Foam Roller
We use foam rollers as a form of myofascial release – essentially a way to decompress and stretch the muscle out after use.
Studies have shown muscle soreness to significantly decrease if athletes regularly foam roll after their workouts.1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4299735/#:~:text=After%20an%20intense%20bout%20of,the%20recovery%20of%20muscular%20performance.
Not too long ago I wrote an article discussing the significance of foam rolling on vertical jump training. Be sure to check that out if you want more information.
I’m a massive proponent of consistency, longevity, and recovery when it comes to vertical jump training.
It’s so easy to beat your body down when regularly doing heavy squats and plyometrics.
If you want to optimize for performance, you need to optimize for recovery.
How To Use A Foam Roller For Vertical Jump Training?
Simply take 20 minutes to roll out your quads, ITB, hamstrings, Achilles tendons, glutes and hips at the end of any training session.
Find the point in the muscle where it hurts the most and hold it there for 10-15 seconds before rolling out the rest of the muscle and moving onto the next muscle group.
What Are The Best Foam Rollers For Vertical Jump Athletes?
You can get soft foam rollers that don’t hurt when you use them and then there’s super solid ones that will almost bring a grown man to tears. You need to use the latter.
The soft foam rollers literally don’t do anything.
You need to go heavy duty.
Yes, it’ll hurt a little more, but that’s how you know it’s working!
The extra firm GRID X roller is my recommendation.
It’s super solid and stimulates the muscles really well and is portable enough to take to the gym.
All jumpers should consider foam rolling after workouts to reduce soreness, improve flexibility, and speed up recovery.
By far the most important item on this list is the tib bar.
A tib bar is the best way to develop one of the most important vertical jump muscles in the body: the tibialis anterior.
If you’re not actively training your tibs, you are doing yourself a serious disservice.
The training sled is another item I can’t live without.
The benefits of being able to hit your feet, Achilles, and VMO in a single movement simply cannot be simulated with any other exercise.
All of the products listed on this article are super solid and any athlete interested in jumping higher will benefit greatly from all options.
How Do I Know Why This Equipment Is Worthwhile?
After having trained full time in an elite volleyball development academy as part of the Australian national team for 3 years, with access to top tier strength and conditioning coaches and world class facilities and equipment, I have first hand experience using all sorts of different vertical jump training tools.
As international-level volleyballers, our sole objective during S&C sessions was to improve our vertical jump. We had a huge budget and access to every piece of equipment under the sun.
All of the products I’ve discussed today I have first hand experience with.
Unlike many online product reviews where authors have never actually used the physical product, I have used them all extensively throughout my career and know what’s good and what’s not!
All of the products I’m mentioning in this article I highly recommend but my objective here is to help you decide which of them are a good fit for you.
Prioritize The Most Important Things
Firstly understand that you don’t have to spend a dime to get real results in your vertical jump training. I’d say the first thing you should spend money on is a gym membership, but if you’re a serious athlete, you likely already have access to a decent gym.
The reality is, you can get results at home with almost no equipment. But if you want really significant progress, you’ll probably have to pick up a few things along the way.
#1 Educate Yourself About The Science Of Vertical Jump Training
Knowledge is by far the most valuable training tool you can get to improve your vertical jump. It’s the reason I created this blog.
An athlete or coach who really understands what exercises are best, what training frequency is best, what ratio of jumping to weights is optimal, etc. is going to have infinitely more success than someone who has all the gismos and gadgets but no idea what they’re doing.
This is why I constantly preach the importance of learning and actually understanding why certain things are more effective than others as opposed to just blindly following some jump program in the hopes that it’ll work.
#2 Focus On The 20% Of Things Which Generate 80% Of The Results
As with anything in life, you should focus all your time, effort, and money on the things that really move the needle. Do the important things first.
Below is a list of the most important focus areas when it comes to improving your vertical jump.
Heavy Lower Body Compound Movements
As we know, improving your vertical jump is about simultaneously improving your strength and your speed.
We increase strength by doing heavy squats which are the most effective exercise because of how closely they replicate the triple extension motion in the vertical jump.
The back squat alone is enough to cover the strength component of the vertical jump.
Jump A Lot
Jumping and plyometrics help us increase the speed or explosiveness component of the vertical jump formula.
It makes sense that if you want to increase your vertical jump, you’re going to have to actually practice that movement.
How often you should be jumping, and your overall volume of jumping is determined by your current training focus.
This all comes back to the education side of things.
Is it smart to jump every day and lift weights every day? Probably not. How much of each should you do? Well, it depends.
Building on that, learning about training volume and frequency is a big part of getting efficient results.
Most athletes are overtraining without even knowing it!
The biggest obstacle to consistently improving your vertical jump over the long run is getting injured.
Jumpers suffer from all sorts of ailments like tendinopathy, meniscus tears, sprains, and stress fractures.
Learning how to bulletproof your ankles and knees is a big part of being able to perform consistently and is an aspect of training often overlooked.
#3 Nail The Small Stuff
Ironically, I’m putting diet and sleep into the category of ‘small stuff’, but you could argue these two things combined are far more important than any amount of heavy lifting or plyometrics will ever be!
The simple fact is, if you’re not getting 8 hours of sleep each night, you are leaving results on the table.
If you’re not eating clean food with adequate protein, you are leaving results on the table.
If you’re not training consistently or are going out and partying too often, you’re leaving results on the table.
If you’re a serious athlete who wants serious results, you simply have to master these intangibles and consistently execute to see solid progress.
#4 Avoid Spending Time & Money On Gimmicks
Towards the end of the article, we’ll examine exactly what products you shouldn’t buy, but generally speaking you should be very selective when it comes to vertical jump training equipment.
I could sit here and write a really long article recommending 50+ training products, which would probably earn me a decent commission, but the reality is the vast majority of them simply aren’t going to help you in the least.
The products I’ve discussed today were selected based on how effective they are at getting results.
Other Essentials For Vertical Jump Training
There’s a few other things you’ll need access to if you’re going to start taking your vertical jump training seriously.
Access To A Gym
This one’s a no brainer. You can get access to most of the equipment I’ve recommended above just by joining a decent gym. Having access to barbells, platforms, squat and power racks is really valuable.
If a gym isn’t an option, you should be able to get by with the equipment I’ve mentioned in this article, with the addition of a squat rack.
In terms of things that will move the needle when it comes to your vertical jump training, you can have all the bells and whistles you like, but a super solid diet is going to do significantly more for you than any fancy piece of equipment.
There’s no point paying hundreds of dollars for any training tool if you’re messing up your diet.
Spend an extra $30 a week for premium grade meat, get some quality fruit and fish occasionally, make sure you’re eating enough of the right stuff.