Written by Jack Woodrup for VerticalJumping.com
It is stating the obvious, but if you want to slam dunk a basketball you need to improve your running vertical jump. The 3 areas outlined below make up the key things you should focus on improving if you want to add some significant inches to your running vertical.
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Here at Verticaljumping.com you may have noticed that most of our vertical jump training articles are focused on unraveling the complexities of developing relative power as this is what drives our ability to jump high.
For the most part this is a good approach because with so many different methods of improving athletic power, and so many different training parameters to consider in your program, it can often be a bit overwhelming for athletes when they first start out.
But relative power isn't the only factor that determines how high you can jump. You also need to be able to apply that power efficiently through good jumping technique. Of course jumping technique is different depending on what your sport requires.
A standing vertical jump as used for many testing purposes is easier to master than one or two step jump such as used in volleyball spikes or basketball rebounding, and a one or two step jump is definitely easier to master than a maximum effort running jump such as used for track and field events (long jump, high jump and triple jump) or slam dunking a basketball.
As you can see the more movement involved in the type of jumping you are training for the harder it becomes to master and as such, the more time you will need to devote to improving your jumping technique. In this case the maximum effort running jump is the hardest of all to really get good at.
LEBRON JAMES IN FULL FLIGHT: The King seems to have the hang of it. I love this photo by the way.
So with that in mind, and with a certain awareness that many readers of this site are looking to improve this style of jump, I am going to let you know the 3 most important things that you should be focusing on to help you improve your maximum effort running jumps .
Tip 1: Work on Improving MCV
What is MCV? MCV stands for maximum controlled velocity. It basically means the maximum speed that you can run without losing control of your body. To give you an example have you ever seen a toddler start running and you watch them knowing full well that any moment they are about to lose it for no reason and face plant the foot path. If not you can watch pretty much any episode of funniest home videos and see this in action.
As we get older not only do we generally develop enough coordination so that we don't fall over whenever we run fast, but we also develop enough sense not to try and run faster than our bodies can handle.
But if you want to jump high off a run then you need to learn how to increase your MCV so that you can generate more speed on your approach to convert into vertical jump height.
One of the simplest ways to do this is by simply doing some regular short burst sprint training. Some short sprints will not only help you improve your speed and acceleration but will also help you get used to running fast.
Want To Add 6-12 Inches To Your Vertical Jump
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Tip 2: Work On Your Transition Footwork
The transition period of a running jump is probably the most important phase. If you cannot smoothly go from horizontal speed into vertical jump height you will never have a good running jump.
The key here is getting your footwork right and this means mastering the penultimate step. Here is what I have previously written about the penultimate step.
The penultimate step is simply the
second to last one before you take off and is a vital to obtaining maximum jump height. During the penultimate step you slightly lower your centre of gravity to put your body into a more advantageous position to convert your speed and momentum into vertical jump height.
Getting the footwork on this phase perfected gets harder the faster you are running in, but the better you get at it the more height you will get on your jump. Depending on what your running vertical jump is like now, spending time practicing work on this is could provide some significant gains of anywhere between 2-6 inches in pretty quick time.
Here is a terrific example from well know dunker T-Dub.
If you watch the video you will see his take off seems like a simple extension of his run up. There is no jump stop or loss of forward momentum and as a result you can see he gets some insane amount of height (and distance) on his jump.
Tip 3: Remember To Use Your Arms
I am yet to see anyone really pinpoint exactly how much of a role the upper body plays in developing maximum jump height but I have heard estimates ranging anywhere from 5% all the way up to (the extreme) 40%.
Some of questions that I get asked about arm swing and vertical jump height are things like does arm movement help the muscular function of the leg muscles or does it simply increases the momentum of the force produced, how much impact can training the upper body have, how much time should be spent training it, and what is the best way to train upper body for vertical jump improvement.
To all of those questions the answer will probably vary to a certain degree based on the individual athletes build, limb lengths, and jumping style. Depending on which coach you ask you will no doubt get a bunch of different responses in regards to the best approach.
Now, all that aside, there is one key fact that is not in dispute and that is regardless of the exact figure of arm contribution, if you do want to fully maximize your running vertical jump you will need to learn how to engage the arms and upper body properly to help throw your body into the air.
This point is so obvious but it is one that many people overlook. If you watch a lot of high level dunkers or elite track and field athletes perform their running jumps, you NEVER see them jump with their hands loosely by their sides. Always their arms are moving either to help increase approach speed or to generate more vertical force at take off.
In contrast, when you watch athletes with poor running jumps you will often see them use minimal arm swing as part of their approach and take off. Why? Because many lower level athletes don't know how to correctly control the arm swing motion so that it assists the jump so they end up minimizing the harm poor or ill timed arm swing can do by reducing the arms involvement altogether. This is a big mistake.
RUNNING JUMPS: Note those arms swinging like crazy for maximum jump height!
When you are practicing your running vertical jumps it is therefore very much worth learning to forcefully swing your arms to help generate more force and momentum. Actually if you watch the T-Dub video above once again watch the very fast and efficient manner in which he throws his arms back and then forward into the jump in order to help increase his jump height. If you are having trouble with your own running jump and getting the arms involved properly then it might be a good idea to film a few of your jump attempts. Watch them a few times and compare to an elite jumper. Note when they swing their arms back and how that compares to your own movements.
From my own experience and research, once you have developed the requisite relative jumping power then mastering your jumping technique is the next most important thing. These 3 tips cover a lot of the common areas most people need to focus on in order to really maximize your running vertical jumps and slam dunk a basketball.