Growing up, my elementary school’s “field day” was the highlight of the year. Three-legged, wheelbarrow, and potato sack races all led up to the main event: The high jump. And every year, I told myself if I could just learn how to jump higher, I would finally take home the blue ribbon.
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. He 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…