Step 3. Land squarely on the floor on both feet (again, around hip-width apart) and immediately jump as high as you can, straight up in the air. It’s important that you spend as little time as possible with your feet on the floor before the jump—it should be a split-second reaction. Don’t lower down into a squat before leaving your feet. Just let your hips and knees dip naturally, then extend them explosively to launch upward. Drive your arms straight up as you do so.
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Each time you land, spring immediately back up. Don’t hesitate. The single beat that typically happens after we hit the ground is a natural reflex, and we may not even realize we’re doing it. But that extra pause has to go if we’re looking for a way to jump higher. Check the mirror or watch videos of yourself as you hit the ground. The momentary pause you may see between one vertical jump and the next may be holding you back. For more detail on how this works, visit the plyometrics section of our website.
Many models have been constructed to identify the most important muscles in the vertical jump, with some conflicting results. Some have suggested that movement is governed by the gluteus maximus and quadriceps, while others have proposed that the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles are key. Importantly, no model has yet explored the role of the adductor magnus, which is the primary hip extensor in the barbell squat. This is relevant, as many studies have found that the squat is an ideal exercise for improving jump height, and maximum back squat strength is closely associated with vertical jump performance among athletes.
An important component of maximizing height in a vertical jump is attributed to the use of counter-movements of the legs and arm swings prior to take off, as both of these actions have been shown to significantly increase the body’s center of mass rise. The counter-movement of the legs, a quick bend of the knees which lowers the center of mass prior to springing upwards, has been shown to improve jump height by 12% compared to jumping without the counter-movement. This is attributed to the stretch shortening cycle of the leg muscles enabling the muscles to create more contractile energy. Furthermore, jump height can be increased another 10% by executing arm swings during the take off phase of the jump compared to if no arm swings are utilized. This involves lowering the arms distally and posteriorly during the leg counter-movements, and powerfully thrusting the arms up and over the head as the leg extension phase begins. As the arms complete the swinging movement they pull up on the lower body causing the lower musculature to contract more rapidly, hence aiding in greater jump height. Despite these increases due to technical adjustments, it appears as if optimizing both the force producing and elastic properties of the musculotendinous system in the lower limbs is largely determined by genetics and partially mutable through resistance exercise training.