It is important to understand what a vertical jump is and what determines the height of a vertical leap before talking about the necessary training used to improve vertical jump. You have read or will read about the different methods involved to increase your vertical jump, like plyometric training, explosive lifting, and others, but it is important to go back to the basics and understand what contributes to your vertical leap so you can train correctly.
What is a vertical jump?
The vertical jump or vertical leap is the act of raising one’s center of gravity up from the ground in the vertical plane with the use of one’s own muscles. For our purposes, it is the display of moving one’s center of gravity from the ground to the highest as possible point in the air.
This vertical leap is divided into 2 more specific definitions:
- Standing vertical jump: This is when the person jumps as high as possible from a standstill, with no steps being involved at all.
- Running vertical jump: This is when the person uses an approach or run to help add energy in the effort of improving on the standing vertical jump.
What determines the height of a vertical jump?
There are many factors that come into play when determining the height of a vertical leap, but we can pick out 4 major contributors to this:
- Muscle fiber composition, bone structure, tendon length and form.
- Maximum muscular strength.
- Rate of force development (RFD or ROFD).
- Reactive strength (Plyometric).
The first point on the list is simply out of your control. It’s genetics, and other than making sure you’re eating right and resting enough, there’s nothing you can do about it.
How do the other points help improve vertical?
photo credit: Lcrward
Maximum muscular strength is simply how strong you are. Strength refers to a muscle’s ability to generate force against physical objects. For the purpose of vertical jump training, it is more specifically about your legs. It is a widely held belief that the ratio of your maximum full deep squat strength to your bodyweight is one of the greatest factors in determining your standing vertical jump.
The catch with this though is that maximum strength and more specifically squat strength can only take you so far. This is where “Rate of Force Development” comes into play. ROFD is more commonly referred to as “power”, and is simply the speed at which force can be produced. ROFD plays a big factor in determining your vertical leap as well.
If you time a person’s squat when they’re lifting their 1 repetition maximum, completing the lift can take anywhere between 3 and 6 or 8 seconds. On the other hand, if you time how long it takes for a vertical jump to be executed, or how long it takes you to get off the ground, it could be anywhere between 0.2 and 0.5 seconds. In relation to squats and vertical jumping ability, this means that the only part of the maximum squat you care about is how much of it you can produce in those 0.2 to 0.5 seconds.
The third and final factor in determining how high you jump is your reactive strength, otherwise known as plyometric strength, the basis for Plyometric training. This is defined as the ability to change quickly from an eccentric to a concentric contraction. It includes the utilization of the Stretch-Shorten Cycle (SSC), which, in simple terms, is the rubber band effect that your muscles and tendons produce during the planting of your feet portion of the jump. The SSC causes an increased activation of the muscle fibers, resulting in an increase in maximal force production.
While reactive strength is important for the standing vertical jump, it really shines when performing a running vertical jump that takes advantage of the SSC. A highly trained reactive system can lead to a 20-30% improvement on a person’s standing vertical jump.
The combination of these 3 factors is what helps you increase your vertical jump. With this, you have the information you need to understand what a vertical leap is and the facets you need to work on in your effort to improve vertical jump.
If you are serious about jumping higher and are looking for a customizable program that targets every facet I have talked about in my vertical jump training articles, then check out Vertical Mastery.