Whether you want to dunk a basketball, kill a volleyball, or just grab that cereal off the top shelf, here are five ways to increase your vertical jump:
1) Jump. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but to become a better jumper, you need to jump. If you're a basketball player, stand under the hoop and jump five times in a row as high as you can. Rest a minute, and then do it again. If you're a volleyballer, jump at the net, many times, on many days. If you're a cereal shelf jumper -- well -- you get the idea.
2) Do Plyos. Plyos, short for plyometrics, are any form of exercise that involves quick bouts of explosive, repetitive activity, which literally teaches your muscles how to better store and quickly release elastic energy from the tendons. Plyometrics can include skipping, hopping, bounding, single leg jumps, double leg jumps, and anything which involves you landing on the ground and then reversing direction as quickly as possible. Try starting with one of my favorite plyo exercises: a box jump. Simply step off a box, land, and jump as high as you can. Here's a video that shows a box jump, along with some of my other favorite plyometric exercises.
3) Get Heavier. From weighted belts to weight vests to ankle weights, if you can put something on your body that makes jumping very hard, and then you remove that resistance when it's time to really jump high, you're going to notice a significant difference. You don't need much weight, just 5-10 pounds that you wear while jumping up stairs or jumping onto a box can make a huge difference. It shouldn't be forgotten that losing body fat or excessive muscle weight can certainly help your air time as well!
4) Get a Better Butt. There's a reason that most sprinters, volleyball players, basketball players, and other athletes who need to do lots of "extending at the hips" have well defined glutes. The glute muscles are responsible for hip extension. No butt means no hops. Squats, lunges and step-ups are a great place to start. Check out my favorite butt exercise routine.
5) Think Twice About Those Funky Jumping Shoes. Yes, you know the shoes -- the ones you see in the final pages of fitness magazines that promise you getting a 40 inch vertical within just a few months. They have big platforms under the toe and come with specific instructions on the exercises you should do while wearing the shoes, like single leg hops or walking up stairs. Guess what? It's the walking on your toes with your heels raised high off the ground (and performing the exercises that come with the shoes) that get you the calves and the fitness to jump 40 inches. It's not anything magical about those shoes.
So start jumping away, and enjoy the rest of the Olympics!
Ben Greenfield is the author of Get-Fit Guy's Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body -- A Workout Plan for Your Unique Shape.
For more by Ben Greenfield, click here.
For more on fitness and exercise, click here.