Here’s a promise for ya…if you follow this routine I guarantee that you’ll be able to develop ups like Adrian Wilson (Arizona Cardinals).
Ok, so I lied…maybe not that high, Adrian Wilson’s vertical leap is freakishly ridiculous.
What I can promise you though is that if you follow this routine once, or better yet twice a week in place of your leg workout, it’ll help you develop lower body power, explosiveness, and flexibility that’ll translate into a higher vertical leap. I’ve used this for about three months now and I’ve added over a foot to my vertical. A few months back I could barely touch the bottom of the backboard, now I can hit rim. Another three months and I’ll be dunking!
The first major component of the vertical leap routine is developing lower body flexibility. This means opening up your hip flexors, lengthening your hamstrings, and developing better range of motion in your quads, glutes, and calves. When your range of motion is limited, especially in the hips, it limits the amount of power you can generate with your lower body. Think about it, if you wanted to punch something as hard as humanly possible, I’m talking an angry punch, would you bend your arm only slightly and punch, or cock your elbow all the way back past your chest and explode forwards? I think the latter.
By increasing lower body flexibility you’ll increase your range of motion, squat lower, and explode upwards with a TON more force. As a means of increasing flexibility, I’m a big fan of combining static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is when you hold a stretch for 20-60 seconds. This type of stretching is advantageous in the long run because it allows muscles to plastically elongate, or remain permanently lengthened. Static stretching is ideal right after your workout when your muscles are warm and much more prone to stretching out permanently. Not only that, but static stretching post-workout can help reduce soreness.
Dynamic stretching is often known as an active warm-up, which involves short bursts of deep stretches that temporarily expand the body’s range of motion (e.g. high knees or walking lunges). Dynamic stretching is ideal as a warm-up as it decreases injury risk and increases the strength of muscular contractions. One noted study at Wichita State University concluded that dynamic stretching allowed athletes to jump significantly higher than those who stretched statically before their workout. On average participants jumped 56.70 cm when they stretched statically, whereas they jumped 61.48cm when they stretched dynamically. That’s pretty ridiculous…athletes jumped 8.5% higher just by changing the way they stretched!
Pre-workout Dynamic Stretching
1. High Knee Hugs – 60 seconds
2. Heel to Butts – 20 per side
3. Leg Cradle Walks – 20 per side
4. Spiderman Stretch – 10 per side
5. Inchworms – 10 reps
Post-Workout & Off Day Static Stretching (Do this after your leg routine, and on as many days as possible separate from your workouts)
1. Standing Quad Stretch – 2x per leg, hold for 30s
2. Standing Hamstring Stretch – 2x per leg, hold for 30s
3. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch – 2x per leg, hold for 40s
4. Lying Glute Stretch – 2x per leg, hold for 30s
2. Explosive Strength-Training and Plyometrics
If you want ups like MJ, developing explosive power is absolutely critical. One of the best ways to do that is through a combination of heavy strength training and plyometrics. I’m sure you’re familiar with strength-training, but plyometrics is a less well-known training technique.
Plyometrics, also known as “jump-training,” is a popular training technique used to improve sports performance, especially in basketball, soccer, and track & field, which focus on developing power, explosiveness, and acceleration. In plyometrics the muscles are stretched immediately before they contract concentrically (flexing a muscle is considered a concentric contraction, e.g. curling a dumbbell), which creates a faster, more forceful contraction.
Think of it like a spring–if you push a spring down as far as possible it’ll explode upwards with tremendous force and velocity…now apply that principle to your legs. By squatting down and immediately jumping up as high as possible, again and again, you generate a ton of force. As for the strength training component, each exercise should be performed with a heavy load. Lifting heavy is the #1 method for increasing muscular power, strength, and explosiveness. Here goes, get ready, it’s intense!
1. Barbell Squats
Lower slowly, explode upwards quickly.
2. Romanian Deadlifts
Make sure your knees are bent slightly, don’t let your back arch.
3. Weighted Wall Squats w. Ball
Hold dumbbells in your hands, your lower back should touch the exercise ball. Go parallel to the ground, get low!!
4. Standing Calf Raises
5. Leg Press
Don’t lock your knees.
6. Weighted Plyometric Jump Squats
Start with no weights until you learn the form, gradually make it more difficult by holding dumbbells and jumping.
7. Box/Step Jumps
If you have Step equipment start by raising the step up to a comfortable height. The goal is to keep progressing by gradually making the step higher and higher. If you don’t have access to a Step equipment you can use a bench or box (the step equipment is the colorful boxes + platform in the video below).
8. Lateral Box Jumps
Use a low step or box and move quickly from side to side.
20 reps total–10 per side
Your legs might hate you after this, but trust me, you’ll be well on your way to jumping much higher than you’ve ever been able to before. Even if you don’t care about increasing your vertical leap, this is still a kick-ass leg workout that’ll build your quads, hamstrings, calves, and butt, increase your flexibility, and shred off a ton of body fat.
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