Are you concerned that all the running or jogging you’ve been doing is costing you precious vertical jump inches?
I grew up thinking cardio was a death sentence for your vertical jump, but is that really the case?
In almost all cases, running will not help you jump higher and it’s usually better to avoid running for long periods of time if you’re concerned about increasing your vertical jump.
Thankfully, unless regularly running extremely long distances, you don’t have to worry about jogging decreasing your vertical jump either.
In the rest of this article, I’ll go over why running isn’t particularly helpful for your vertical jump, the rare times it can be beneficial, how much running is safe without risking your vertical, as well as some vertical jump friendly cardio tips.
Why Running Won’t Help You Jump Higher
There are several reasons why running or jogging won’t do your vertical jump much good…
Running = Slow Twitch, Jumping = Fast Twitch
The main reason running is not going to help you jump higher is because it activates mostly slow twitch muscle fibers.
Jumping is an explosive movement which relies on fast twitch fibers.
If you want to improve your vertical, you need to do movements that stimulate your fast twitch fibers.
Heavy back squats and explosive plyometrics, for example, are both going to target these fibers.
Jogging, on the other hand, is a slow, non-explosive movement.
The reason you can jog for long periods of time is because your slow twitch fibers are designed for endurance.
Jogging also engages an entirely different, aerobic energy system.
The vertical jump and all of its training components rely instead on the anaerobic energy system.
Running Isn’t Jump Specific
While you can improve your vertical by doing non-jumping movements, generally speaking the closer a movement mirrors the vertical jump, the more carryover that exercise will have to vertical jump gains.
Jogging is a unilateral movement which involves unrelated ground contact times, a non-jump-specific stretch shortening cycle, and minimal power output…
In many ways, jogging is one of the most foreign movements with regard to the vertical jump.
You’re basically doing the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve!
Jumping rope is an example of a cardio exercise which is far more similar to the vertical jump, which is why I much prefer it to jogging.
Will Running DECREASE Your Vertical?
So was my childhood fear of running long distances justified?
Research Suggests That It Won’t!
I found an interesting paper which looked at the correlation between jump performance and distance running over varying distances (60m, 100m, 200m, 800m, 3km, 5km).
Note that they used horizontal/long jump performance and not vertical jump performance here, but I think the findings are still interesting…
Significant correlations were observed between jumping performance and running performance for all distances.
The strength of the correlations, in general, were strongest to weakest based on event distance from the shortest distance to the longest distance.1https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233880166_Relationship_Between_Jumping_Ability_and_Running_Performance_in_Events_of_Varying_Distance
What this tells us is that the athletes who were faster runners, even with respect to the longer distances, were better at jumping also.
If you were regularly training as a 5k runner and running did have a negative impact on vertical jump, we would not see these results.
So it would seem there really isn’t much to worry about here after all!
The Dose Makes The Poison
Now that doesn’t mean you should do crazy amounts of running each week…
If you’re running 20+ miles a week, your vertical jump might well be suffering as a result.
There’s a couple reasons this might cause your vertical jump to actually go down.
- Reduced cross-sectional area of muscle – Fast twitch fibers are big; slow twitch fibers are small. When your training involves excessive jogging, you may actually lose muscle mass. This is why marathoners look nothing like sprinters! Having less muscle mass will cause a lower vertical jump.
- Reduced capacity for recovery – If you are still lifting heavy 2-3 times a week, while doing huge amounts of running, it’s impossible for your legs to get the rest they need to recover.
I’m not saying you can’t run.
If you’re a basketballer, you absolutely have to get your conditioning in.
Cardiovascular endurance is a big part of that sport and you absolutely have to be fit enough to get up and down the court without passing out.
My advice to the basketballers out there is to do enough cardio to fulfill your role as a player (different positions will require more fitness than others), and don’t worry about whether it’s affecting your vertical jump.
It’s an unavoidable reality of the sport: there’s a lot of running and you need to be really fit to play at a high level!
If achieving that degree of fitness somehow has a negative impact on your vertical jump, I imagine it would be extremely small – and in fact we’ll look at some research shortly that suggests it might have a positive effect!
Regardless, cardio is unavoidable and not something you should be losing sleep over if you’re a basketballer.
If you’re a volleyballer, you’re lucky and don’t have to do any running if you don’t want to!
How Running MAY Increase Your Vertical Jump
If done properly, running can actually be a good thing for your vertical jump!
Sprinting Is Better Than Jogging
This should be pretty obvious.
Sprinting is a completely different beast than jogging.
Sprinting can be seen as a plyometric exercise and short sprints are one of the best ways to increase your lower body explosiveness.
Sprinting is an anaerobic exercise that excites the CNS and allows for massive power output using a fast stretch shortening cycle.
It checks way more of the boxes when it comes to jump-specificity than jogging does.
There’s a good amount of research that links sprinting with vertical jump gains as well.2https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290197333_The_effect_of_sprint_training_on_running_performance_and_vertical_jumping_in_pre-adolescent_boys
Running Reduces Body Fat
As you know, fat is completely non-functional body tissue when it comes to the vertical jump.
The less fat you have, the higher you will jump.
Jogging is a really simple way to shed some fat and get in shape.
If you’re a volleyball player who could stand to lose 10lbs, if you simply started running three times a week until that fat was gone, your vertical jump would absolutely be higher.
It’s just basic math.
Best Cardio For Vertical Jump
Suppose you play a sport like basketball which requires a high degree of cardiovascular endurance as well as explosiveness.
How do we reconcile these two?
Jump Rope To Get Fit & Preserve Your Vertical
My recommendation is to jump rope.
As I mentioned earlier, jumping rope is a lot more jump-specific than jogging is.
You’re literally jumping.
To an extent, this helps condition the joints and tendons to become more familiar with jumping, which you’ll want if you’re a vertical jump aspiring athlete.
Jumping rope also helps develop jump-specific coordination and improves ankle stiffness, which develops the jump-focused stretch shortening cycle.
About 20 minutes of jumping rope is going to be way better for your cardiovascular endurance than 30 minutes of jogging will be, and it’ll have a better overall effect on your vertical jump.
While you likely can’t replace all of your cardio with jumping rope, I would swap out as much of the jogging for the jump rope as possible!
Sprints & HIIT
Instead of jogging for five miles, how about doing a 150-300 yard dash, walking back, then rinse and repeating a few times?
High intensity interval training like this is still going to develop your cardiovascular endurance and probably has a far superior carryover to the sport of basketball.
You might even increase your vertical doing this!
Running isn’t anywhere near as poisonous to your vertical jump as we used to think it was.
Unless you’re doing crazy big mileage every week, running really isn’t going to negatively impact your vertical jump whatsoever.
It’s really not something you should be too concerned about at all.
For many sports like basketball, it’s simply a necessary evil.
You have to be fit in order to perform as an athlete.
I would bet you the top guards in the NBA are running a lot more than most of you are and they can probably jump higher too!
Anyone who thinks doing tons of jogging is going to increase their vertical jump, however, is delusional.
Unless that person stands to lose a ton of weight, in which case the reduction in body fat may indeed lead to a higher jump.
It’s also important not to conflate running or jogging with sprinting.
Sprinting is magnificent for your vertical jump!
Jogging, not so much.