You might be wondering whether all those lunges you’ve been doing are actually going to help you jump higher or not.
The real answer is yes and no but let me explain exactly why.
Lunges will increase your lower body strength, which will definitely help you jump higher, however lunges are not a particularly effective vertical jump training exercise mainly because of the lack of specificity.
This article will reveal exactly why lunges are suboptimal for increasing your vertical jump and will explain what makes other exercises superior.
Will Lunges Increase Your Vertical?
Undoubtedly, lunges will make you stronger.
As you know, strength is a major component of the vertical jump, so if we leave it at that, then yes, lunges are going to help you jump higher.
The reason why lunges aren’t amazing as a vertical jump strength exercise is because the movement doesn’t effectively simulate the triple extension mechanics of jumping, and it’s difficult to add enough load to develop maximum force output.
Let me explain those two reasons a little further.
Lunges Lack Triple Extension
Triple extension is simply the ankles, knees, and hips all working together to produce force as seen in the vertical jump.
In an ideal world, we want our vertical jump strength training exercises to be as reflective of triple extension as possible.
In the lunge, you’re not really doing any ankle extension and the hip extension is relatively minimal.
An easier way to think of this concept is if we compare two other strength exercises: the leg press, and the back squat.
A study was conducted where one group of athletes were told to do back squats for 8 weeks and the other group did leg press for 8 weeks.
The results were that the back squat group ended up increasing their vertical jump a lot more!1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5260589/
One of the major reasons for this is because of the way the back squat mimics triple extension.
Granted there isn’t much ankle extension in the squatting movement, but there’s extreme knee and hip extension, which is what really moves the needle.
In the leg press, there’s never really any ankle extension or hip extension because of how your hips and feet are stuck in a fixed position.
While the lunge does include a small amount of hip extension, it’s not quite an effective dosage, in my opinion, which leads me to my next point…
Lunges Don’t Produce Enough Force
If you really want to increase strength, you need to be producing massive amounts of force.
Think really heavy back squats or deadlifts.
Those exercises can be loaded up with plenty of weight as they allow your body to get into a position where it can produce massive force output.
Lunges, largely due to their unilateral nature, can’t be loaded up in quite the same way.
Don’t get me wrong, you can grab a couple of heavy dumbbells and do some brutal sets of lunges, but in terms of peak force output, it’s simply not going to support the kind of numbers we’re after.
So What Does Help You Jump Higher?
As we’ve discussed, basically anything that does a better job of mimicking triple extension as well as allowing us to generate large amounts of force.
Without getting into the realm of power or plyometric exercises, here are a few strength exercises that are superior to the lunge when it comes to vertical jump training.
1. Barbell Lunges Are Superior
If you wanted to do really heavy dumbbell lunges, chances are your grip strength would fail before your legs will.
So if you’ve got the space to do barbell lunges (you can even do them on the spot), this will at least allow you to really load up with weight.
Yeah, it’s still somewhat lacking from a specificity standpoint, but at least now you can generate some serious force.
2. Back Squats
This exercise looks a lot like a vertical jump and we can easily add plenty of weight to force those strength gains.
The back squat and different depth variations has long been considered the holy grail of vertical jump strength exercises.
3. Rear Foot Elevated Quarter Squats
Smith machine Bulgarian split quarter squats are actually somewhat similar to the lunge.
It’s a unilateral movement also except that you’re using your front leg for support instead of both legs.
We’re really hammering our VMO since our back leg is doing virtually no work, whereas in the lunge the load is distributed more evenly.
The reason this exercise is, in my opinion, superior to the lunge is because the smith machine stabilizes the movement allowing us to pile on the weight.
So even though neither movement mirrors triple extension, at least this exercise allows us to generate huge amounts of force.
3. Hip Thrusts
This movement doesn’t involve any knee or ankle extension at all, however I believe it’s still one of the most effective way to generate maximum force output from our hip extensors (glutes).
So whenever you’re planning on doing a lower body strength workout with the end goal of a bigger vertical jump, base your workouts around these three exercises instead of lunges!
Why It’s Still Fine To Do Lunges
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on lunges…
They’re a great exercise and honestly one of the toughest exercises you can do in the gym.
They absolutely will make you stronger so by all means do your lunges!
But if we’re simply optimizing for the vertical jump, lunges are not so high on my list.
I still do lunges regularly whenever I’m in a hypertrophy phase.
When I’m concerned with developing size as opposed to strength, I’m the first to start doing lunges.
They’re amazing for building size because of the time under tension and it’s also just a good idea to include some unilateral movements to fix up any muscle imbalances.
But as soon as the focus shifts from building size to increasing strength, I recommend putting the lunges on the backburner.
Explosive Lunges: Split Jumps
When we venture into the realm of plyometrics, there is an exercise that’s effectively just an explosive lunge that I 100% recommend doing!
The goal with this exercise is to explode upwards and into the air at the top of each lunge, remembering to use an aggressive arm swing.
The reason this exercise is way better than the typical lunge is because we’re training for explosiveness now which means we’re actually able to get a lot of power output from our hip and knee extensors.
It won’t make us much stronger, but it’ll increase our rate of force development for sure.
How Many Lunges Should I Do To Jump Higher?
By now you should understand why you’re better off picking a better strength exercise if your goal is to jump higher.
If you’re mixing in some lunges as part of some hypertrophy work, you can do any amount of lunges your heart pleases.
I like to do them til failure.
Remember to foam roll after doing lunges as this is one exercise that will leave you pretty sore in the morning!
Lunges are a great hypertrophy exercise best utilized to put on size.
They can also be used to develop strength and certainly will help you to jump higher.
However, they’re simply not the most optimal strength exercise to be doing to increase your vertical jump.
You’re better off selecting something that has higher jump specificity and can enable you to produce larger amounts of force, like back squats and hip thrusts.