To all the vertically less endowed individuals: are we doomed to never touch the skies? Does the air up there belong only to our tall counterparts, or is there a way to somehow train up our jumps? This question is relevant not only to our pint-sized friends, but also to athletes of sports involving jumps.
A good vertical jump allows you to shoot baskets above defenders or block an opponent’s volleyballs better, and on a jump ball, that few centimeters can make all the difference. Today, we will discuss the science behind a good vertical jump and suggest ways you can train to improve it.
The Science Behind a Good Vertical Jump
Firstly, let us identify the muscle groups involved in making a vertical jump.The primary muscles need to jump are your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. The quadriceps extend the knees to set the jump in motion, the gluteus maximus works together with the hamstrings to extend the hips during take off, while the calf muscles contract to push your feet off the floor.
Although these muscles are the primary force generator for a powerful vertical jump, we cannot neglect the supporting muscles that aid the movement. In such a movement as a jump, energy is being stored, like a spring, at the lower half of the body but as it extends into the jump, that energy is transferred to your upper body that swings itself upward for further thrust. This transference of energy is mediated by your core muscles. A strong core holds the body together and allows for greater energy transference, therefore core training should not be disregarded when working to improve a vertical jump.
There are also 2 different types of muscles: fast and slow twitch. In this scenario, a powerful burst of motion such as the vertical jump utilises more of the fast twitch muscles. These explosive movements are trained by short but high intensity workouts as opposed to when training for muscular endurance where the key is to lower the intensity for a longer workout.
Now having known what muscles we need to work on and with what intensity we ought to be training them, what are some of the exercises we can do to improve our vertical jumps?
There are several exercises that work on the aforementioned muscles above. The most similar training to vertical jumping would be plyometric exercises.
As plyometric exercises work on explosive movements generated from the lower body, they involve all the muscles needed for a good vertical jump. Any power-training exercises working on the lower body, such as the deadlift or trap bar deadlift, would also be beneficial because it helps to generate more explosive force for the jump.
Of course, not to neglect our core muscles, a nice medicine ball throw works your core, simulates the movement of a jump, and can also help omits the landing impact on your knees.
Do remember that while vertical jumps are highly explosive, it also means that the landing is more stressful for your knees. Remember to prepare yourself by wearing proper shoes for shock-absorbance, and do not work with a pre-existing injury as the condition might worsen. As always, when you are in doubt or unsure, seek professional advice before trying out new workouts!
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