Vertical Limit - How to Improve Jumping Height
By Adam Sinicki
A good vertical jump is a useful skill for traceurs, basket ball players, martial artists, athletes, climbers and kangaroos. It's also just a cool thing to be able to do. Infact as a kid my pulling technique consisted entirely of jumping onto high things then wiggling my eyebrows at girls and going 'eh?'. Perhaps unsurprisingly I didn t date much until I was... 20...
Anyway, they were all stupid whores because jumping is amazing (although I concede the eyebrow thing may have been creepy). To find out just how high your vertical jump is you will need a piece of chalk and a wall. Firstly stand flat-footed and mark on the wall the highest point you can reach. Then do a big jump and mark the highest point you can. Then tada! The distance between these points is your vertical leap.
Fortunately for the heavily gravity-effected among you there are several techniques and exercises you can use to increase this number and I m going to go through a few of them for you now.
'Whaaat?' you must be thinking, 'sunflower seeds will make me jump higher???'. Well it s not exactly how it sounds, and this is actually a technique allegedly used by ninjas. As you know ninjas are the coolest things there are so it's got to have some merit.
Basically as part of their training, ninjas would plant a sunflower seed and let it start to grow. Every day they would go out into the garden and jump over it several times. You see the sunflower would be slowly growing (and they can get pretty darn big) so each day they would be jumping a millimetre higher. No big deal in itself but eventually they could be hurdling up to five foot.
I used a similar principle in my garden during my formative years where I built a hurdle out of sticks (I was a special child (it s probably to do with that 'no girlfriend' thing)). I just used the wooden sticks you buy from garden centres, stabbed two into the ground and tied the third one across the top with string. Each day I increased the height slightly. Now I m amazing.
Squats are regularly practiced by those who want to jump higher as they are essentially slow weighted jumps. Perform in an explosive manner in order to build the type of explosive power you need to leap high into the air. These work both quads and hamstrings which are both used in jumping.
An interesting variation on the squat is the sissy squat which is essentially like limbo. You don t require any additional weight as the difficulty comes from the awkward angle of the move which involves leaning back and bending your knees while on tiptoes limbo-style. You will most likely need to hold onto something to keep your balance. A great quads workout.
Another good variation is the one-legged squat (your other leg should be extended infront of you). Again this requires no additional weight for most people and you may need to support yourself against a wall.
Improve your Calves:
Calves are involved in the last stage of a jump as you push yourself off the ground with the tips of your toes. Strong calves then can add significantly to your maximum height.
Obviously calf raises are good for development here, either weighted or on one leg. A good form of incidental training for the calves however is to try walking on tip toes for a while. You should fairly soon begin to feel the burn.
Stretching the Achilles Tendon has been said to improve jump height. This can be achieved with toe curls or touching your toes while sat on the ground. Be careful though, you do not want to tear the tendon. That is not cool.
For the uninitiated, plyometric training is training that uses short bursts of strength from muscles thus working the fast-twitch fibres and improving speed in the area. An example of a plyometric exercise for the upper body is clapping press ups, as it requires that short sharp burst of energy to launch yourself off the ground.
The astute among you will already have made the connection realising that the same kind of power is used for jumping. 'Box jumps' are a plyometric exercise for the legs that are very much like they sound and involve jumping up onto then back off a box repeatedly.
'Speedsoles' are squidgey insoles that you place in your shoes to give yourself a bit of extra bounce. Apparently the extra comfort for the soles of your feet helps to speed up the electric impulses in your body and thus improve your vibration frequency . This in turn should allow you to draw more energy from your body for running, jumping and lifting. So now you know...
While you shouldn t expect flubber I have found that they do at least give you a bit of a spring in your step and have the added bonus of combating shin splints and other running-related pains.
Obviously if your jumping technique is no good then you are limiting your potential. Here we are talking about vertical jump which is best performed in two jumps: a small preceding bounce and the large main thrust. Consider the first hop to be like loading the spring, during the second thrust you are unleashing that coiled energy and pushing through the ground launching off the balls of your feet. Marginal extra height can be added by swinging up your legs and your arms.
Vertical jump though is fairly boring. It's almost useful unless you are playing basket ball. The coolest use of jumping you see is to jump over stuff. That's what I'm pretty good at and I think it's time I shared with you my awesome hurdling technique. Yes, I think you re ready...
For hurdling you will want a slightly different technique. Good hurdles are a bit like scissor kicks and you will be swinging one leg up while launching off the other.
Start off with a run and as you approach the obstacle make sure you're putting down your good leg about a metre away (this may require an ungraceful little shuffle until you develop a feel for the distance). Now as you bring your next leg up, swing it into the air as high as you can so that it is almost already over. As you follow through you should push off of your good foot, again from tip, launching yourself both forward and up. As you cross over the object you need to bring up the launch foot and tuck it as close up under your other thigh as possible which requires a certain amount of flexibility. You should sail over looking almost like you're performing a flying kick (which is well cool for photos). Simply unfold your bottom leg and bring the other one down when you re safely on the other side.
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