The VERT 5….
The vertical jump. We’ve seen it in almost every assessment to test athletes across the board. From the NFL, MLB, NHL, soccer, track and field all the way to martial arts. Why is it such a staple of reference and importance to athletes to develop? What are its benefits? How do we improve it in the quickest amount of time as possible? These are just some of the consistent questions that revolve around coaches and athletes alike.
First let’s look at the movement as a whole and then go in-depth on exercises that will vastly improve it. A vertical jump or vertical leap is the act of raising one’s center of gravity higher in the vertical plane, solely with the use of one’s own muscles; it is a measure of how high an individual or athlete can elevate off the ground (jump) from a standstill. (Wikipedia)
Now that we’ve defined it as a movement, what are it’s benefits to athletes and weekend warriors alike?
- Higher Jumping
- Explosive power
- Sprinting faster
- Increased dynamic strength
Not bad side effects to just being able to get off the ground higher!
Now lets get into the fun part of adding some surefire ingredients to your programs, and reaping some of these side effects. Torn straight from some of my own sessions with my coaches here are what I call my VERT 5.
5 exercises to improve vertical jumps.
#1 – Box Squats – This exercise is most beneficial for athletes for several reasons. It teaches athletes to squat properly, recruiting the oh-so-important hamstrings necessary to sprint fast. Also, it forces the athlete to start from a complete eccentric position and exploding out of it. This is the direct movement mimicking the down motion of your jump, in return correlating to sprinters jumping out of the blocks and linemen exploding off the snap of a ball. Focus on the down motion and coming back up as fast as possible, maintaining a strong and stable midsection and base.
#2 – Reverse Hyperextensions – If you haven’t ever used one of these or even seen it, chances are the gym’s you are training in are a little too prissy and you need to find one where real hard working athletes are getting it done! Why is this on my fab 5 list? Glad you asked! Simple- there is no other machine that targets your hamstrings, gluteus and spinal erectors in one fluid motion, building out that center from which all explosive power is derived.
#3 – Dumbell Swings – I’m sure you’ve seen some shape or form of this exercise, but used with no purpose in so many programs. Take a dumbbell gripping it long ways by interlacing your fingers. Come down in a squat position then exploding upward extending the hips keeping the arms locked out as they swing above your head. This is a direct mirror image of the vertical jump as a whole.
#4 – Bulgarian Split Squats – This movement is the same as a stationary lunge, only with your rear leg elevated on a bench. Take a dumbbell in each hand, driving the elevated leg knee down to the floor and exploding through the front heel on the way up. These will blow out your hamstrings, glutes and front inner quad of the power leg, all while giving your hip flexors a much needed stretch.
#5 – Trap Bar Dead Lifts – Opposed to a regular straight olympic bar, this bar is a diamond shape allow the athlete to stand in the center of it. It provides less stress on the lower back areas and a wider range of motion. These are great to develop the posterior chain and strong hamstrings needed for all explosive movements.
There you have it- my VERT 5, torn straight from pages of my own training log with my coaches. The vertical jump benefits not only your explosiveness off the ground but enhances your speed, as well as dynamic strength for athletes in any sport. Key areas of development are hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors and spinal erectors. Strengthen these and you’ll be a new athlete.
Lastly, look at the movement as a whole and how it relates to your sport, whether it’s jumping out of the blocks, reacting on the line of scrimmage or exploding through a front kick, your exercise should always try to mirror your sports movements most used. See you on the VERT side!