Sadly, it never happened. But now, the skills I tried so desperately to hone when I was a kid seem to have come in handy, because jumping can help supplement every other aspect of your fitness routine. "Jumping—whether you’re doing high knees or jumping rope—helps increase the elasticity and resiliency of lower-leg muscles, helping to reduce lower leg injuries," says Joel Okaah, CPT, the field and support director with D1 Training. "Plus, it helps with balance, making it a great exercise to incorporate for longevity."
To help you achieve the great heights that I used to strive for, I spoke to fitness pros to find out their tips on how to jump higher.
The benefits of jumping higher
Jumping exercises, in general, pack their fair share of benefits. They expel a lot of energy, give you a great boost of cardio, and kick the muscles in your lower body into high gear. "When you jump higher, you’re increasing the height from which you’re falling, adding to the amount of plyometrics and muscles required to absorb the increased shock," says Okaah. "This leads to many benefits, like increased muscle definition."
How to prep yourself to jump higher
Do a proper warm-up
Warming up is important before any type of exercise, but when you're doing something explosive—like jumping—it's absolutely critical. Okaah suggests starting your workout with jumping jacks, which spike your heart rate and prime your leg muscles for jumping, and high tuck jumps, which get you moving vertically and prepare your legs to absorb more shock. You can also do some lighter, weight-bearing movements and plyometric movements, like air squats and small squat jumps, which will help prime your muscles for what's to come when you start jumping higher.
Integrate strength training
"Training to jump higher means that your muscle fibers are working together more efficiently and more powerfully," says Jennalyn Rush, an NSCF-certified personal trainer with Gold's Gym. She adds that when you first start training to jump higher, the gains you see are due to the fact that your central nervous system is working more powerfully and efficiently. To supplement this process, he suggests integrating strength training into your routine, because heavy lifting helps stimulate the fast-twitch muscle fibers you need for explosive movements. "Anything 80 percent or more of your max effort will require those quick-twitch muscle fibers that also help jumps go higher. An athlete who would like to lift heavier can superset a heavy lift, like a squat, with a set of five max height vertical jumps.
Build up explosive movements
"To jump higher, you’re going to want to develop the muscles that you use to jump," says Okaah, which means that you'll want to double down on jump-based strength exercises like burpees, squat jumps, and forward jumps. Then, you can build up to jumping on top of a box or elevated surface. "Focus on form first and then shift to focus on height to reduce injury. As you jump more, you’ll get into a flow of using other body parts for momentum, like your arms," says Okaah.
Focus on landing mechanics
You'll also want to pay close attention to the landing in your jump. "Yes, many people with knee injuries or back injuries could be afraid to jump, but the technique in learning to land from a jump is crucial to the training process as well," says Rush. "Learning to absorb the impact by landing correctly and using core strength to control the impact helps your future training as well." According to Okaah, you'll want to be sure you land softly, absorb the shock, and equally distribute the weight throughout your feet to avoid injury as you try to jump higher.
Exercises that will help you jump higher
1. Kettlebell swings
Similar to jumps, the power in kettlebell swings comes from your lower body and will help kick those muscles into gear. "The kettlebell swing uses a quick pop of the hips by recruiting those quick-twitch posterior chain muscles to propel the kettlebell forward," says Rush. "As you get the hang of the movement and want to increase the weight, you must pop your hips forward more quickly to get the kettlebell to the same height." So the heavier you go, theoretically the higher you'll be able to jump.
2. Broad jumps
If you want to learn how to jump, you're going to have to, well, jump. "This is a great movement to help with explosiveness," says Rush. "If you want to increase the load to require even more muscle recruitment, you can tether a band to a fixed post and place the other portion around your hips. The band will be pulling your hips backward and you will need to jump more explosively." To track your progress, mark a line on the floor of where you're able to jump to, and try to get further in the next round.
3. Weighted deadlifts
"Deadlifts are a great way to increase the quick-twitch muscle fibers that help with jumping higher," says Rush, adding that weighted squats will have the same effect. Plan to use a heavier weight with lower reps (to really activate those fast-twitch fibers), and aim for five reps for five rounds with two to three minutes of rest in between.
Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no denying that burpees will help give you a boost in both strength and explosiveness. Start in a high plank position, and jump your feet up to your hands into a squat position. Then, place your hands on the floor with your knees wider than your elbows, and jump back into plank position. Lower down into a push-up, straighten your arms back into a high plank position, then do it again.
5. Split squat jumps
Build up to a bigger jump with these baby jumps—also known as jump lunges. Starting in your classic lunge position, explode upwards to switch your front and back feet. Be sure to keep your chest bent, your butt down low, and your knees over your toes.
For a jumping workout that's just plain fun, grab your rope and follow along with the video below.
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