How To Increase Vertical Jump and Learn to Dunk

So you’ve always wanted to know how to increase vertical jump and learn how to dunk. Here are some proven techniques that have been scientifically shown to help people jump higher.

Below we’ve compiled 7 methods you can use individually or in combination in your training programs and workouts to get the most out of your vertical leap potential.


How to Jump Higher – 7 Proven Ways to Improve Your Vertical

1. Strength Training

Front Squat 1When it comes to jumping, the three prime movers are the quads (front thigh), hamstrings and glutes (butt). The calves then come later since it is a much smaller muscle compared to the other 3.

The best exercise when it comes to increasing vertical leap is the squat.

The Department of Kinesiology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas conducted a study to see if the squat, and its variations would help improve vertical jumping ability.

The participants were groups with one group asked to do a quarter squat and another group to do a half squat. In both squat groups, the vertical jumps of the participants increased.

When it comes to working the lower body, specifically the quads, glutes and hamstrings the following exercises have been shown to be among the most effective:

  • Sqaut
  • Deadlift
  • Trap Bar Deadlift
  • Glute Ham Raise

For more exercises see our top exercises to jump higher.

2. Improve Your Range of Motion & Flexibility

Flexibility 1Improving range of motion helps with flexibility. Doing so helps improve jump height.

When in comes to jumping proper mobility in the ankles and hips helps add inches when we jump. Also, making sure that you get proper stretching and warm up so that the calves along with the hips aren’t tight.

This way you are able to extend fully and all the muscles are able to accelerate at their peak during the jumping motion.

However, it is important to know how to stretch.

A research study conducted at Hokkaido University compared static stretching to dynamic stretching to see how 30 seconds of each affects leg extension power. The study results showed that dynamical stretching yielded greater increases in leg power compared to no stretching and static stretching.

Also, static stretching did not off any positive effects on performance.

When directly tested on basketball players and vertical jump:

Brigham Young University researchers in Utah, tested 4 types of pre-game warm-ups namely,

  • ballistic stretching,
  • static stretching,
  • sprinting,
  • basketball shooting

After 6 weeks, the first 3 groups showed improvements in flexibility. But only the ballistic stretching group showed increase in vertical jump after 20 minutes of basketball play, making it a better warm-up.

One exception to static stretching would be stretching the hip flexors which have shown to improve jumping ability because it is often very tight in most athletes and increasing its mobility helps let the muscles fire better.

3. Add Plyometrics to Your Workouts

Plyometric Exercises 1Plyometric drills when put in the context of basketball and jumping higher are meant to train the spring-like movement that allows the jumper to go up explosively.

Most plyometric drills are divided into different types including jumps, single leg exercises, hops and bounces.

One thing that has been shown is that plyometric training is effective when it comes to improving vertical. This is one reason most jump training programs include a plyometric section in their workouts.

Compiled studies of different researches that performed tests on the relationship between plyometric training and jump height have shown that improvement range from 5% to 9% in the vertical leap when plyometric training was used.

Among the effective plyometric drills for jumping higher include:

  • Depth jumps
  • Broad jumps
  • Frog jumps

For more drills, see our plyometric exercises for basketball and jump improvement here.

4. Electrostimulation (EMS)

Electrostimulation or Electrical Muscle Stimulation is a process when an electrical device is attached to different muscles through the use of pads. The device then sends electric impulses the make the muscles contract.

This process has been shown to improve muscle strength and performance, and one reason athletes use them.

In a study performed by the Marc Bloch University in France, elite rugby players were put through a 12 week electrostimulation training proram. By the end of the period, their strength, torque and vertical jumps increased significantly.

5. Improve Jumping Form & Technique

As much as making yourself stronger helps with jumping higher, knowing how to jump properly and using proper form and technique are equally important. This is one reason that jump training and regular jumping is still needed as practice.

Improving hip extension as well as arm swing movement are among the things that help add inches to one’s jump. Proper footwork also plays a role in allowing you to push off with all your energy.

As simple as it may sound, learning how to jump with good form is one of the ways to jump higher.

6. Dynamic Weight Training

As opposed to regular strength training, dynamic weight training consist of more complex movements that require power. Two of the most effective exercises for improving vertical leap are the Olympic lifts, namely the Clean & Jerk and the Snatch.

Compared to the more common strength training exercises like bench press, squat and deadlifts, Olympic lifts need to be executed with extreme power and speed. Otherwise you won’t be able to lift the weight up.

This builds power, speed and force which are all needed to improving jumping power.

Research done by the The College of New Jersey on NCAA football players compared Olympic lifting to traditional power lifting found that the Olympic lifting group showed significantly greater improvement in vertical jump compared to the traditional lifting group.

In another study:

High school athletes, 27 of them, were divided into 3 groups, one which did Olympic lifts, another group doing traditional resistance training and a control group. It showed that doing Olympic style lifts resulted in improved vertical leap for that group. Also, there was a high correlation between the Power Clean exercise and vertical jump.

Along with traditional strength training like squats, Olympic lifts like the power clean help improve jumping ability when properly incorporated into a jump training program.

7. Do Single Leg Training (Unilateral Exercises)

Split Squat 1For some sports, the need to be able to jump off one leg is an important skill. One example is basketball when jumping off one leg for a driving lay-up is quicker than setting up both legs for take-off.

To perform well during these one foot take off situations, training with unilateral (single leg) exercises is a good way to improve strength and power of that leg’s jumping ability.

A study conducted by Valdosta State University in Georgia compared the effects of unilateral (single leg) training with bilateral (both legs) resistance training. The participants trained with free weights for 8 weeks with 2 sessions per week.

The results showed that both unilateral and bilateral weight training improved leg power and vertical jump. However, the unilateral group improved more than the bilateral group when it came to one leg vertical leap and relative power.

So, like Olympic lifts, unilateral training helps complement the more traditional resistance training where both sides of the body are used together, like in the squat exercise.