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How To Jump Higher: A Step-By-Step Guide To Vertical Jump Training For Basketball Players

How To Jump Higher In Basketball With Vertical Jump Training

By Ball Till We Fall, Last Updated February 4, 2022

Category: Basketball Training Guides

Jump Higher This Basketball Season With Targeted Vertical Jump Training

You are about to learn how to extract the maximum vertical jump potential from your body using proven vertical jump training methods. Jumping is both a science and a skill. In this guide I am going to simplify the scientific process of jump training and teach you all the skills you need to obtain an impressive jumping ability. 

You are about to learn the 6 steps to vertical jump mastery including:

  1. How To Use Goal Setting To Ensure You Achieve The Jump Of Your Dreams
  2. How To Build A Foundation of Dynamic Stability & Mobility
  3. How To Use Strength Training To Increase Motor Unit Recruitment & Muscle Tension
  4. How To Add Power Training To Increase Rate Of Force Development & Explosive Power
  5. How To Add Plyometric Training To Enhance The Stretch Shortening Cycle & Bounce
  6. How To Establish Perfect One and Two Foot Jump Technique For Dunking A Basketball 
Breaking down one and two foot jump technique

In the last stage of this guide I will teach you how to jump off two feet (like Aaron Gordon) or off one foot (like Zac LaVine)

Once you finish reading this entire guide you can go and start to apply these actionable training tips today! 

After just a few weeks of following a well designed vertical jump training program you can expect to add around 4-12 inches to your jump height. You can then use these new found vertical leap gains to dominate the game of basketball.

To ensure we made this the best free vertical jumping training guide online we scoured the internet for weeks to compile the latest and greatest science based jump training research. We also collated shared knowledge from some of the worlds most experienced jump coaches such as Paul Fabritz @pjfperfomance, Overtime Athletes @overtimeathletes and Ben Patrick @kneesovertoesguy, just to name a few.

  •  This science based article has been fact checked for accuracy. Learn more
Vertical Jump Training Guide For Basketball Players

Fly Or Die Trying

Most basketball players will come to a point in their lives where they want to know how they can jump higher, and more specifically how to dunk a basketball.

You too have probably entertained this thought on many occasions.

Think about how a higher vertical jump would level up your game...

A more explosive version of yourself would block more shots, grab more rebounds and electrify the crowds with spectacular dunks.

Obtaining a significantly higher vertical leap is much more achievable than you may think. Sure it will take some serious physical effort, but the process need not be complicated.

Jumping high is not reserved for "the genetic freaks".

With the correctly prescribed vertical jump training protocol and dedication to mastering the art and science of the jump you too can add many inches to your vertical, in a matter of weeks.

> If you don't want to spend time "learning" how to jump higher and just want to get started on a "done for you" training program I suggest checking out our roundup list of the best vertical jump programs.

From An Average Joe To A High Flyer

Players with an impressive vertical jumping ability are always the first to get noticed on the court. 

It is the players who are able throw down dunks in warm-ups that often get the crowd talking.

Coaches and selectors also love athletes that possess above average jumping abilities.

Players who can jump higher are often selected over more skilled, but less athletic players. 

This is because many coaches know that they can teach skills and inherently believe that jumpers are born and not created.

This is simply a false assumption. 

There are countless real life examples of "average" athletes that became high flyers after following a correctly prescribed vertical jump training protocol.

For example check out these impressive success stories from the popular body weight only vertical leap training protocol Vert Shock.

The Secret Behind Obtaining A Higher Jump

Man With A Poor Vertical Jump Dunk Training

Don't worry if you are vertically challenged. We can help you fix that! That’s what we’re going to focus on in this jump guide.

You see every athlete has the potential to develop their vertical jumping ability.

Unfortunately, the majority of athletes never learn how to unlock the stored jumping potential within their muscles and tendons.

You are very fortunate for taking the time to read this guide today as you are about to learn a little secret that most athletes will never know...

You see, within our Achilles tendons we have what are called Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO) which are protective mechanisms that prevent us from expressing our highest vertical jump potential.

The Secret To Jumping Higher

The GTO's role is to sense changes in muscle tension and force your muscles to relax when they feel too much tension is applied to the muscles.

This process is great for reducing the likelihood of muscle strains, however this inhibitory process also limits the potential for muscles and tendons to store and transfer force into vertical jump height.

Over the past decade exercise scientists have discovered the best ways to down-regulate your GTO's and allow your muscles and tendons to produce more force and power during jumping activities.¹,²,³

The best way to level up your GTO function is by undertaking periodised and progressive jump specific strength training in combination with power and plyometric training.

The result is pure vertical explosion!

Get A More Explosive Vertical Jumping Ability With Training

There are people like Anthony Edwards who won the genetic lottery when it comes to leaping ability. The rest of us have to work hard for our vert gains

Which Muscles Are Used For Jumping?

The Major Muscles Uses In Jumping

A vertical jump requires a movement pattern known as triple extension. Triple extension is the simultaneous explosive extension of the hips, knees and ankles when moving from a squat to standing/jumping position.

These are the main muscles that make this movement possible:

  • The Glutes are used for hip extension (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius)
  • The Quadriceps are used for knee extension when rising from a squat position (vastus medialis, intermedius and intermedius, rectus femoris)
  • The Hamstrings are used for hip extension, knee flexion and as a shock absorber upon landing (Biceps Femoris, Semimembranosus and Semitendinosus)
  • The Calves are used in ankle extension, otherwise known as plantarflexion or standing on the "tippy toes" (gastrocnemius soleus)
  • The Abdominals provide trunk stability and also create kinetic chain link from the upper to lower limbs (transverse, rectus, and transverse abdominis)

Below you will learn exactly how to target each of these "jumping muscles" with exercises that can make them stronger, more powerful and reactive.

How Many Inches Can Jump Training Realistically Increase Jump Height By?

With the correct hybrid jump protocol (jump technique optimization + strength training + plyometric training) most athletes can add at least 4-12+ inches to their vertical jump over a 3 month period.

We have seen athletes improve their max vertical jump height by as much as 22 inches in only 12 weeks.

In fact, people following some of the most popular jump training systems such as Vert Shock (bodyweight only plyo) and The Jump Manual (resistance training + plyo) are achieving massive vert gains in only 8-12 weeks. 

Very impressive stuff!

Vert Shock Review

Read our full Vert Shock Review

The Ultimate Guide To The Jump Manual

Read our full Jump Manual Review

Let's take a look at how you can start training to add inches to your jump today...

How To Train To Jump High

How To Train To Jump Higher

In this guide we’re going to break down the exact jump training techniques that are used by the top National Basketball Association (NBA) trainers and players.

Related: Download NBA Strength & Conditioning Coaches Basketball Weight Training Program that has been used by over 100,000 athletes over the past 10+ years.

After reading this guide you will understand exactly how to train your muscles to create more tension and produce vertical propulsion. You are also about to learn how to jump with perfect technique.

We hope you find this guide helpful in allowing you to get one step closer to achieving your dreams of playing above the rim.

It's not going to be easy, but the payoff will be worth it.

If you really want to jump higher and are willing to put in the work required you will achieve a higher leaping ability. But to achieve your goals you will have to TAKE ACTION!


The 6 Steps To Vertical Jump Training Mastery and Higher Jump

Step 1. How To Use Goal Setting To Ensure You Achieve The Jump Of Your Dreams

The first question you should ask yourself is "why do I want to jump higher?"

Once you answer this question – formulate 3-5 goals for yourself.

Be as specific as possible when it comes to these goals and write them down so you can see them every day.

Be very specific. Visualize yourself achieving these goals. 

How would the ability to jump 10+ inches higher change your life?

I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.”

Michael Jordan

EXAMPLE GOAL SETTING - The Reasons Why I Want To Jump Higher Are:
  • To lead the team in rebounds this season
  • To get my first in game dunk
  • To impress the coach at next seasons tryouts
  • To impress the girls 😉

These goals will provide your motivation and keep you accountable as you train over the next few months. 

Now that you have your goals set the next step is to start your vertical jump training regime.

Vertical jump training is very different than any other basketball training you have done before.

I know you are keen to get into the training but please don't underestimate the importance of getting your mindset right. Setting goals will help you push through the more difficult moments to make a longer-lasting change.

Here is a great quick video that can help you learn more about how to set goals for long term training success:

Now, Lets take a look at exactly how you need to train to get a higher vertical jump.

Step 2. How To Build A Foundation of Dynamic Stability & Mobility

Before embarking on your journey to a higher vertical jump and begin intense jump training you must build a solid foundation of core strength and dynamic stability. There’s a delicate balance between the strength in the prime movers of a joint (eg. glutes, quads), and the strength of the underlying stabilising muscles involved in jumping. Research has shown that even a few weeks of stability training can improve performance and reduce injury risk.⁴ It is very tempting to skip this phase as the exercises can be quite mundane, but don't because it's a worthwhile investment.

Basically, if your stabilizing muscles can’t stabilise the joint appropriately, it’s going to be near impossible to produce maximal strength, power and vertical propulsion.

You don't want any leaks in the system. You're only as strong as your weakest link.

Most quality vertical jump programs always build in an early stability phase.

Stability can be gained by training the muscles with low load and high instability exercises.

Single leg lunges and other uni lateral exercises are excellent for this early phase of training.

Here is a great video by Chris Barnard of Overtime Athletes explaining how to build a stable foundation during early stage training:

Step 3. How To Use Strength Training To Increase Motor Unit Recruitment & Muscle Tension

Some basketball players overlook the importance of lower body strength and power for basketball dominance – don’t let that be you. It is common knowledge that you’ll need stronger legs to jump higher. The best way to get your legs stronger is by hitting the weight room and undertaking basketball specific strength training.

Basically, any quality jump program will initially aim to build leg strength and then turn that strength into pure explosive power and bounce with high velocity training (we will discuss this in greater detail shortly).

Strength training itself does not significantly improve the rate at which we can fire the muscles (rate coding), high velocity training is used for this.

Vertical jump specific strength training essentially raises the threshold of the potential gains we can derive from high velocity training such as power lifting and plyometrics.

The secret to jumping higher lies in the ability to recruit more motor units and fast twitch muscle fibers within the jumping muscles (calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes).

Heavy load strength training can increase tendon stiffness which can be a good and a bad thing. The tendons and muscles involved in jumping from squat position rely on compliance, so too much stiffness may be a hindrance.

Strength training can lead to muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) which can help increase ability to produce more force. However too much muscle can decrease force velocity.

More muscle also adds more weight. Unless you are Zion Williamson excess muscle bulk will likely hinder your vertical jump gains.

Weight management comes down to following a proper nutrition and diet plan more than any exercise training protocol. If you would like to learn exactly what and when to eat for basketball check out our ultimate guide to basketball nutrition.

Beginner strength trainers often experience rapid gains in strength. However the rate of improvement will diminish over time. It takes years to build serious strength. 

But how strong is strong enough?

There was a myth that you must be able to squat 2 x your body-weight before you should begin plyometric jump training. 

There is no evidence to support this claim.

Vertical jump training requires a multifaceted approach.

At the end of the day relative leg strength and efficiency and velocity of movement is more important than absolute strength and how much you can squat.

It is important to understand that strength training is most effective when sets of lower repetitions (1-8 reps) are used rather than sets of bodybuilding style higher rep workouts (8-15+ reps). 

However when starting a strength development program as a beginner it is best to start in the higher rep range to help establish correct technique. It would be a good idea to start by lifting around 50-60% of your maximum 1 rep.

Just keep in mind that it is vital to prioritize progressive increases in load lifted over time rather than increase volume over time.

After a solid foundation has been established, the athlete may gradually increase their load to 80-90% of 1 rep max for 1-5 reps

Always give yourself plenty of rest between sets to fully recover. For most people 3-5 minutes is the sweet spot.

Time under tension is crucial when training for maximum strength. To increase strength, it is important to have the right rep range and tempo. If you lift too fast or too slow, you won't get the hormonal response you need. This is because it alters the time under tension.

Top 3 Strength Exercises To Increase Vertical Jump:

Here are a few exercises that can help you jump higher. These are great exercises for both beginners and advanced trainers and can be progressed or regressed depending on level of experience. They can also all be progressed to speed strength movements for power development which is vital if you really want to jump as high as possible.

1. Trap Bar Deadlift

In first place we have the trap bar deadlift. This movement promotes leg drive and mimics the vertical jump movement better than most other strength training exercise. It is a great exercise for taller athletes as it as the higher handles align the body into more of a squat position, yet still reaps many of the rewards derived from conventional deadlift. It is a much easier movement to master than conventional deadlifts and it progressed to speed strength movements such as trap bar jumps with ease. Lift with feet hip width apart.

> Check Best Price On Trap Bars Now

Regression: Beginners can start with by placing a box under the weights on both ends of the trap bar or using the high handles to reduce range of motion. 

Progression: Advanced lifters can use lower handles to increase range of motion. Resistance bands can be applied to create more tension through a larger range of motion.Can also be progressed to speed strength movement for power development.

Check out the video below to learn how to do the perfect trap bar deadlift:

2. Squat Variations

Squats are often considered as the best exercise for building leg strength. Squats works most muscles of the lower body. There are many variations of squats to consider. You can use barbells, dumbbells etc. More force is produced in lower positions around 90 degrees of knee angle and below. Box squats can be used to improve concentric portion. It is also important to incorporate single leg squat variations into your training. This can help develop single leg jumping ability. Most people prefer to lift with feet hip width apart but you can experiment with foot placing.

> Check Best Price On Squat Racks Now

Regression: Beginners can start with bodyweight only and only squat to a depth that allows them to maintain correct posture in the squat position.

Progression: You can progress squats by first increasing range of motion and then by adding load. You can then try single leg variation and banded varieties. Can also be progressed to speed strength movement for power development.

Check out the video below to learn how to do the perfect squat:

3. Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlift (RDL) are a traditional barbell lifting exercise used to strengthen the posterior chain muscles. This is a great exercise for developing the hinge extension movement that is used in jumping. If you lack strength in your glutes and hamstring then you are going to love this exercise. People who sit down all day tend to have poor glute activation. When these people start doing RDL's they will find that their vertical jump improves significantly just from waking up the posterior jumping muscles. Lift with feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent.

Regression: Beginners use barbell only or light dumbbells. Limit range of motion.

Progression: Increase load and range of motion. Can also be progressed to speed strength movement for power development.

Check out the video below to learn how to do the perfect Romanian deadlift:

Be sure to check out our ultimate guide to strength training to learn more about how to lift to increase jump height.

Step 4. How To Add Power Training To Increase Rate Of Force Development & Explosive Power

Once you have established a strong base of strength with the exercises listed above you can move onto the next phase which is focused on building explosive power. Power is developed by using exercises that exert the maximum amount of force in the shortest possible time. Increasing this rate of force development will help you jump higher.  In this phase you will focus on developing the speed of the lifting portion of the exercise known as the concentric movement. To train power we drop the weight and use moderate loads (from >30 to <70% of 1RM).  To build power do 3 to 5 sets with 1 to 5 reps and take around 2 to 4 minutes to rest between sets.

Top 3 Power Exercises To Increase Vertical Jump:
1.Trap Bar Jumps

Once you have established correct trap bar deadlift technique in the strength phase of your jump training you can move onto explosive trap bar jumps. Land softly and explode back up with force.

Here is a great video demonstrating how to do the trap bar jumps correctly:

2. Squat Jump Variations

Research has shown that loads on the lighter end (≤30% of 1RM) showed the highest peak power production in the jump squat. You can try a range of squat jump variations such as barbell and dumbbell squat jumps with feet hip width apart. Beginners can start with knees slightly bent however more force is produced in a lower squat positions around 90 degrees of knee angle and below. Our favorite is the single leg jump squat. Beginner athletes can use band assisted squat jumps to get the movement patterns under control. Advanced athletes can load this jump squat movement with a weighted vest, dumbbells or a barbell etc.

> Check Best Price On Weighted Vests Now

Here is a great video demonstrating how to do single leg squat jumps correctly:

3. Power Cleans

The power clean is a great power progression from the Romanian deadlift. It turns the glute and hamstring strength you developed in the RDL into explosive hip extension power. Research has shown that heavier loads (≥70% of 1RM) resulted in greater peak power production in the power clean movement. Be smart and perfect form before increasing load. 

Here is a great video demonstrating how to do power cleans correctly:

Step 5. How To Add Plyometric Training To Enhance The Stretch Shortening Cycle & Bounce

Plyometric training or shock training as it is often referred to uses exercises reprogram the neuromuscular system for maximal explosion and give your jump bounce. In this phase you will override the golgi tendon organ (GTO) inhibitive properties and unleash the stored elastic energy in your tendons and muscles. By first stretching
the muscles which eventually shorten and extend the ankle, knee, and hip joints, the muscles start at a higher tension level and are
capable of performing more work.This process is known as the stretch shortening cycle.

There is quite an art and science to correct shock training prescription. 

Shock training requires you to learn how to efficiently absorb force through deceleration and eccentrics. The shock of rapidly absorbing and then producing force provides the body with more reactive force levels, which helps to improve the elastic components. Once you can absorb force you can transfer this into a springy jump without any energy leaks.In plyometric we are aiming to spend as little time in contact with the ground as possible and trying to achieve a stretch shortening cycle of around 250 milliseconds. That's FAST! think the floor is on fire.

If we have optimal stiffness in the tendons leads to faster forces transmission, decreases electromechanical delay and we move explosive and faster.

It is during the plyometric phase of jump training that most people see significant improvement in their ability to jump.

It is always best to see a professional trainer or find a quality jump program to help you maximize your shock training results.

To learn more about shock training read our review of Vert Shock, the best selling plyo jump system.

Top 3 Plyometric Exercises To Increase Vertical Jump
1. Pogo Jumps

Pogo jumps (otherwise known as ankle) jumps are performed with knees slightly bent to prioritize the extension of the ankle and reactive abilities of the Achilles and calf muscles. This is a simple exercise is great introductory shock training exercise that can teach you how to land softly and build bounce.

Regression: Beginners can start with very small height jumps or skipping before moving on to higher bounds. A great progression for beginners is band assisted double leg pogo jumps progressing to banded single leg jumps.

Progression: Advanced athletes can increase the height of their banded and unassisted pogo jumps. Eventually athletes can move onto variations such as rear foot elevated pogo hops. These are great for people who want to be able to dunk off one foot.

Here is a great video demonstrating how to do pogo jumps correctly:

2. Depth Jumps

The depth jump is the "gold standard" plyometric exercises. It simply requires you to step off a box and land is a semi squat position and then jumping up from that position as fast as possible. The muscles are stretched by the impact of landing which causes a strong reflexive and shortening of muscle fibers leading into the jump portion of the movement. Depth jumps are a powerful movement and call for a reasonable large range of motion on the triple extension through the hips, knee and ankles. Land softly with feet hip width apart.

Regression:  This is a very high impact activity. Beginners should start with shock drops from a low box. Shock drops are basically isolating the landing portion of the depth jump movement. This is a great way to learn how land softly to absorb forces that can be later transfected to vertical propulsion in the depth jump movement. Beginners can use shock pause jumps before progressing to low depth jumps. It a a good guide to never move onto full depth jumps until you can complete a shock jump from a 24 inch box pain free and with good form.

Progression: Advanced athletes can increase the starting height of their drops and the target of their jumps. For example work up in 6 inch increments up to a box height of around 36 inches. A single leg depth jump variation can also be introduced by advanced athletes. Load can also be added in the form of dumbbells or a weighted vest. Once depth jumps are mastered you should progress to more basketball specific variations such as penultimate drop jumps. We will discuss this more when we talk about jump technique optimization.

Here is a great video demonstrating how to do a depth jump correctly:

3. Drop Jumps

Drop jumps are a very similar exercise to the depth jump with only minor difference in technique, particularly the range of motion in triple extension. Drop jumps are a faster movement which focus more on building muscle stiffness and not allow yourself to full into large ranges of knee and hip flexion. This exercise is very ankle dominant and therefore really works the calf and Achilles tendon. This is great exercise for working on reducing ground contact time and improving the efficiency of the stretch shortening cycle and activating the quick twitch muscle fibers.

Regression: This is a very high impact activity. Beginners can use drop jumps from a very low height and gradually progress.

Progression: Advanced athletes can increase the starting height of their drops and the target of their jumps. Single leg variations can also be introduced by advanced athletes.

Here is a great video demonstrating how to do drop jumps correctly:


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Step 6. How To Establish Perfect One and Two Foot Jump Technique For Dunking A Basketball

After you have increased your lower-body strength, power and reactive abilities through the training methods I mentioned above you can really start to dial in on your jump technique. If you want to become an explosive freak of nature on the basketball court you must learn how to jump with an efficient technique.

Jumping is just as much about skill and technique as it is about speed and power. 

As a basketball player it is vital that any techniques learned must remain specific to the movements used in basketball. Most often players want to optimize jump technique specific to the movement of dunking a basketball.

One Foot Vs Two Foot Jumping... Which Is Better?

There are many biomechanical variables that can affect vertical jump technique. It is important to understand that most athletes will self organize their jump patterns based on the body type they have so they can jump as efficiently as possible. You need to learn to work with what your body type is and what genetics you have, rather than fighting against them. Some people will naturally jump higher off one leg while others will be better off two.

To overgeneralize, stronger heavier players with a history of weight training tend to prefer to jump off two feet from a squat position with a dominance for strength over speed in the jump movement. An example of this type of jumper is Aaron Gordan.

Lighter faster players often prefer single leg jumping as it allows them to use their speed generated while running horizontally and transfer it into vertical propulsion. An example of this type of jumper is Zach Levine.

There are also hybrid jumpers who display characteristics of both types of jumpers. Examples of this type of jumper is Vince Carter, Lebron James and Ja Morant.

Research shows that on average, there is virtually no difference (< 1 cm) in the overall height which could be attained between one­ foot and two ­foot jumps.

One foot jumps benefited from an increased takeoff height, largely attributable to approach speed and the elevation of the free swinging leg. Two­ foot jumps, with about twice the available leg musculature, tend to produce greater vertical velocities at takeoff and greater elevations of the center of mass during the flight phase.

Although the average jump and reach heights of one-foot and two-foot jumps are comparable, the strategies used to achieve optimal results can be quite different. 

You probably already know what type of jumper you are, so here are some tips that can help you work on your preferred technique.

Just remember, regardless if you are a natural one legged or two legged jumper it is vital that you jump with EXPLOSIVE INTENT on each and every attempt.

Two Foot Jumping Technique: How To Jump Higher To Dunk Off Two Feet With Or Without A Basketball In Hand

Let's take a look at the most effective way to perform a two foot approach jump (running two legged jump) by breaking down this dunk by NBA star Aaron Gordan.

Step 1: Begin The Run Up
First Step Of 2 Foot Jump

Start in a standing position looking at the target with a slight forward trunk lean and one foot in front of the other.  The 3 point line is a typical starting point for those training to dunk. Greater starting distances can be used to generate more horizontal speed. The dunkers approach speed is proportional to the desired flight distance. More speed is used for a long distance dunk and less speed is used for a short dunk runup. 

Step 2: Begin To Build Speed and Power On The Approach
Second Step Of 2 Foot Jump

Take a small balanced step and begin to build consistent acceleration with exponentially longer strides as you approach the target. An adult dunker usually takes 3-5 steps from the 3 point line. A slight forward lean helps to generate horizontal power, speed and greater stride distance. The runup should be fast, but not quite maximal speed. On the third last step, the hips begin to drop slightly as we are getting ready to setup for the penultimate step and push for the penultimate stride.

Step 3: Enter Penultimate Step With Max Power and Speed
Third Penultimate Step Of 2 Foot Jump

The 2nd last step prior to jumping is known as the penultimate step. It is a very long and low step. However, it should not be so long at the detriment to carry speed into the jump. If this stride is too long it will slow you down due to deceleration as the leg muscles elongate. You will need to find the sweet spot. The penultimate step's goal is to lower the hips, center of mass and prepare for the takeoff. This lowering the center of mass and increases the vertical impulse.

As you enter the penultimate stride the torso is much more upright and perpendicular to the floor. Too much forward lean will increase ground contact time which is not ideal. The foot dorsi flexes to around 30 degrees and then the heel slams into ground creating a breaking force which quickly rolls into a flat foot. The foot should be turned 30 to 45 degrees of external rotation upon planting. If you finish your jump with right to left foot work then your last 2 steps should be turned toward your right. If you finish your jump with left to right foot work then your last 2 steps should be turned toward your left.

Jumping with a basketball makes the jump less efficient than it would be with free hands.  The max knee angle on this approach step is around 90-110 degrees. If he didn't have a basketball his arms this would be the stage that his arms would extend back behind him.

Step 4: The Plant Use A Block Step To Transfer Horizontal Forces To Vertical Forces
Final Takeoff Step Of 2 Foot Jump

Once the foot has planted on the penultimate step the opposite leg then whips through in a semi circle action resulting in internally rotated hips with the width of the feet slightly wider than the jumpers shoulder. At this point the ankles, knees, hips and chest should be stacked vertically in a semi squat position.

In this final plant step often only the ball of the foot will contact the floor for a split second. Your plant foot should be internally rotated to around 45 to 90 degrees. If you feet are facing forward you will travel forward. Turning the hips, knees and ankles creates a block. This movement is known as "punching the block". You must train to punch the block hard. The block foot (right foot in example above) creates a break and store of horizontal energy ready to be transferred into max vertical propulsion.  

As you punch the block the arms are also thrown down into the floor. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction so this arm movement will generate some more stored energy that can be used during takeoff. The knee angle on this final step is significantly less at approximately 120-130 degrees but much stiffer than the last step. These angles optimize the stretch shortening cycle.

Arm Swing Action During 2 Foot Jump
Arm Drive Used On A 2 Foot Jump

Jumping performance is enhanced by a coordinated and vigorous arm swing. Back swing should be at around peak height (full extension) when the heel lands on the penultimate step. Arm swing should not exceed shoulder height. The arms are then thrown down into the ground as you "punch the block" on the final plant step to create more stored energy in the jumping muscles. As these muscles explode into a powerful contraction the arms continue their natural path and are thrown up vertically toward the target help boost propulsion from a squat position with the knees slightly bent. This provide anti-gravity forces that help you jump.

Obviously holding a basketball in the hands limits arm swing range of motion. Regardless, the basic principles of force generation timing remain. 

One Legged Jumping Technique: How To Jump Higher To Dunk Off One Foot With Or Without A Basketball In Hand

To get good at single leg jumps you must learn how to jump up and out. One foot jumps generally use much faster approach speeds and quicker ground contact times than two leg jumps. One foot jumps should be made with attention to the actions of the non-support leg.

Here are a few qualities you must have to jump higher off one foot:

Strong Feet and Ankles

First, the foot and ankle must be strong and resistant to deformity when force is applied. You must be able to absorb and release energy efficiently. Athletes who leak power through their feet and ankles are in serious trouble. 

Strong Glutes and Hip Control

Athletes must also have good control of their hips and glutes. This does not necessarily mean strength. Prior to foot plant to takeoff, the glutes (adductor/ glute medias / quadratuslumborum ) begin to contract, providing instant control to the leg and rigidity when it hits the ground.

The glute provides a sling mechanism that will transfer force to compensating muscles if they are "late" in contracting. This can cause a lot of force transfer during the jump to be lost. It is also more difficult for an athlete to place their foot ahead of the center mass (required to create the rigid lever that transfers force upwards), because the muscle control won't exist in this position. 

Quad and Knee Extensor Strength

Quad and knee extensor strength are important for controlling deceleration in the shin and stabilizing the knee. They also help maintain the leg as a rigid lever during takeoff. The posterior chain is often emphasized in single-leg jumping. However, it is important to remember that jumping is impossible without a lot of tension through the patellar tendon. 

Now let's take a look at the most effective way to perform a one foot approach jump (running single leg jump) by breaking down this dunk by Zach Levine.

Step 1: Begin The Run Up Approach
First Step Of Single Leg Jump

Start in a standing position with a slight forward lean and one foot in front of the other. Take a small balanced step. Create a balanced rhythmic acceleration. A longer distance approach (approx 10 or more steps) is ideal to allow for greater generation of horizontal speed and thus maximal height and flight distance. Generally the higher the speed the higher the jump height. Find a distance that works for you and practice with high reps. Look at you target on approach.

Step 2: Quickly Accelerate & Build Speed and Power
Start to increase stride length as approaching takeoff

Begin to jog with a little more pace and distance. Most dunkers will  make a slight arc as they approach the basket. Turning inward as they approach the basket. A  slight forward lean helps create power, speed  and greater stride distance. 

Step 3: Enter Penultimate Step With Close To Max Speed
The Single Leg Penultimate Step

The penultimate step is the last step before jumping. Unlike the 2 foot jump the penultimate is often shorter than the step before. The penultimate step's goal is to lower the hips, center of mass and prepare for the takeoff. As you enter the penultimate stride the torso is upright and perpendicular to the floor. The heel slams into ground (at around 30 degrees of dorsiflexion) creating a breaking force.

Although unlike the 2 foot plant it shouldn't feel like a hard block, however if this breaking moment isn't powerful enough you will continue to carry forward. Ground contact times should be very short and it should feel as though the momentum is upwards and forwards. If you finish your jump with right to left foot work then your last 2 steps should be turned toward your right. If you finish your jump with left to right foot work then your last 2 steps should be turned toward your left.

One Leg Jump Foot Position During Takeoff
Analysis Of NBA Player Zach Levine Foot Angle Prior To Jump
Step 4: Strong plant foot transfers horizontal to verticlal forces. 
Pressing Off Calf During Jump Propulsion

The plant often crosses the body allowing the free leg to get more rotation and lift. Notice that in one foot jump, the centre of mass never lowers during the ground support phase of the jump. A slight backwards lean knee bend is minimal. A stiff leg at takeoff is vital for transferring horizontal to vertical motion. A powerful knee drive is used by many dunkers to maximise vertical impulse in combination with arm drive. The angle of the upper leg is close to parallel to the floor. Typical takeoff is around the charge circle.

Arm Swing During Single Leg Jump
Proper Arm Swing Technique For Single Leg Vertical Jump

In a single leg takeoff the hands start out front up as entering penultimate step. The arms then drive back behind as the foot places for the takeoff plant. The arms then swing back through in a powerful upward motion in sync with free leg drive.

This dunk contest routine is a favorite of many. This is the ultimate example of an athlete who can jump well from a one leg takeoff (Zach Levine) and another who has mastered the two foot takeoff (Aaron Gordan).

Vertical Jump Training F.A.Q

How Does An Improved Vertical Jumping Ability Make You A Better Basketball Player?

  • Get more rebounds! By jumping higher, you’ll be closer to the rim and ready to rebound those missed shots. It also means you’ll be able to get those rebounds that use to be just out of your reach. Remember when you’d lose a rebound because someone could jump higher than you?
  • Block more shots! Now that you’ve got those extra inches in your vertical you’ll be able to get your hand on more shots. This will do wonders on the defensive end because even if you can’t get a hand on every shot – the other team will have to work around your shot blocking ability allowing you to shut down your opponent.
  • Create more turnovers! Or in other words steal the ball more. You’ll be able to jump up and steal those passes that teams try to make over you. This will allow your team to create more turnovers which means more offensive possessions for your team that can lead to more points.
  • Better scoring percentage! Like I said all these things you’re able to increase on the defensive end (rebounding, blocking, stealing) leads to more opportunities on the other end of the court. Not only that, but now you’re able to play around the rim which should increase your ability to score and make you a scoring threat at all times.
  • Increase your confidence! There’s something to be said about being able to have a solid vertical – it gives you a confidence that comes through in all aspects of your game. It makes you stand out on the court and be able to do more for your team.

What Are The Most Common Jumping Mistakes?

1. Lack Of Rest

If you overtrain you will experience a decrease in your vertical jumping ability. Often athletes think more is better, however you must learn to train smarter and not necessarily harder. You'll notice real improvement when you give your body time to recover and rebuild. Jump training can really tax the nervous system and cause central fatigue. Rest for as long as you need after a prolonged period of training. (e.g. 3-6 days). Light stretching and low intensity active range of motion exercises are great to increase blood flow to your muscles, and speed up recovery on rest days.

2. Imbalanced Training

A lack of balance in training is also a common mistake in beginner jump trainers. Many athletes think that lifting weights only will maximise jump height and others will focus solely on plyometrics. As you now know from reading the guide above a combination of weight training and plyometric training is key. However, jump technique training is probably the most overlooked aspect to novice athletes. Jumping more makes you a better jumper, so do plenty of it!

3. Giving Up

Many people lose faith and give up on their jump goals when they hit a plateau in their progress. Plateaus and even regressions in jump height are very common in jump training. Some times you will go backwards and then after a few days the body will super-compensate and you will come back and jump higher than ever before. Hang in their and work hard. Good things come to those who persist.  

How To Jump Higher Instantly?

Before you start any jump training or basketball activity it is vital that you warm up and stretch the muscles correctly

A proper dynamic warm up will not only help reduce the chance of acquiring an injury but will also let you jump higher. 

Tight muscles such as the hip flexors can greatly limit hip extension range of motion which plays a major role in jumping.

Tight muscles are weak muscles and can't fully maximize muscle activation. 

Research has shown that the hip flexors play a major role in jumping.

It is very important to elongate and activate these muscles to ensure you optimize training capacity and long term results.

Loosening up your hip flexors prior to a jump session can give you an instant inch or two in vertical jump height.

How To Increase Vertical Leap At Home

The best way to increase your vertical jump at home is to begin plyometric training which only requires bodyweight. Simple squat jumps depth jumps and bounding can add many inches to your vertical jump without the need for expensive gym equipment. If you would like a home based bodyweight only jump program to follow I highly suggest checking out Vert Shock

What Is The Best Way To Warm Up For Vertical Jump Training?

Static stretching should be avoided by athletes prior to training for jumps. For best results, athletes should concentrate on dynamic stretching and a weighted resistance heat up to improve their vertical jump performance. Small rtange squat jumps

Does Jumping Rope and Skipping Help You Jump Higher?

Jumping Rope is a great way to not only warm up but to also start working on your jumping. 

Jumping rope has you jumping quickly and focusing on getting up and down to make sure you’re over the rope.

Mix it up by adding a heavy jump rope – this will add to your ability to jump because the added weight makes you jump in a more explosive manner.

However, be aware that vertical jump results derived from jumping rope are often short lived. 

By doing lots of small jumps, you will get good at doing lots of small jumps.

That's not what you want. 

You want maximum explosion!

Novice athletes will gain the most from jumping rope as this exercise will quickly strengthen the muscles, ligaments and tendons around the ankle and knee joint.

Jump rope is the perfect jump training warm up exercise as it primes the muscles and tendons for the demands of jump training.

Remember, for experienced basketball players who already do a lot of in game/training jumping, the results derived from jump rope will be minimal.

How Can I Best Prepare My Mind For The Demands Of Jump Training?

If you really want to learn how to jump higher you must also learn how to prime your mind for vertical jump success. 

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Focus On Proper Mechanics and Form: For all the training you are doing, keep yourself accountable to using perfect form for every single rep. If you aren’t doing it the right way then you’re wasting your own time and energy. The only way to get better is by doing it the right way. The best ballers are obsessed with the details, the form, and the technique because they want perfection. That should be your goal too as you’re doing these different workouts and drills.
  • Use Visualization: The entire time you’re training to increase your vertical, start visualize how high you want to jump. Think about your steps, your form, your arms, and how high you’re going to be able to jump with all the hard work you’re doing. Being able to visualize yourself jumping higher is a great tool while you’re training.
  • Have Confidence In Yourself: Not only do you need to have confidence in yourself but also have confidence in the process. All of the time you’re putting into the physical and mental training will pay off – and you need to have confidence in that.
  • Perseverance is The Key To Success:  You won’t be able to jump out of the gym after one week of training – it will take time, effort, and endless repetitions. You have to be willing to put in the work – and some days that might not be easy. Your results may not show every day or every work out. You have to be able to look past that and keep on doing work.

Is Jumping High Genetic?

Your genetics do play a large role in your potential to jump high. Muscle fiber type and CNS efficiency are genetic traits that are often optimized in gifted athletes. Often these are athletes with a 40+ inch vertical. However a correctly prescribed vertical jump training plan can take a average joe and turn them into a high flyer. At the end of the day the biggest difference is an average joe will have to work for every inch of jump height. A genetic freak just had to choose the correct parents 😉

What Muscles are Used In A Vertical Leap?

The vertical jump uses the muscles in your lower body, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. It also recruits the muscles in your core and upper body for power and stabilization.

How Can I Jump Higher In A Week?

It is possible to jump higher instantly with the correct activation and mobilization exercises. You can learn about this in our free basketball training course.

How can I jump higher without weights at home?

Yes you can jump higher without lifting weights. To jump higher without lifting weights you will have to focus on what is known as speed strength. You can do this by undertaking a well prescribed plyometric "shock" training protocol. 

What vertical do I need to dunk??

The average standing reach for a 6 ft male basketball player is 8 ft. Therefore this athlete would require a vertical leap of 24 inches to touch the rim.

Given that the average vertical jump for a male athlete is between 16-20 inches in this example this player would need to add an extra 4 inches to get a rim touch.

To dunk a basketball the player would need a vertical jump height enough to get him a rim clearance of 4 inches. Therefor a 28 inch vertical would be required. This is the average vertical jump height of an NBA player.

If this player wanted to throw down a spectacular windmill or 360 degree dunk a 30+ inch vertical would be required.

Will 1000 calf raises increase vertical?

Doing 1000 calf raises a day will help add a few inches of jump height in absolute beginner athletes. However it is important to remember that the calves only play a relatively small role in vertical jumping. Try jumping without bending your knees, use your calves muscles only and see how high can you jump. Not very high right? Don't get me wrong, calf training is very important. However, the calves should be trained using proven jump training principles and not low load high repetition training. To get better at jumping higher you want to train with explosive max effort exercises and strength exercises that develop rate of force production.

What helps you jump higher more than any other thing?

If you could do only one thing to improve your vertical jump you would want to choose to simply jump more often. High repetition jumps improve jump technique. The more you jump the more efficient you become at that particular movement pattern. Of course you will get much more significant jump gains from correctly prescribed jump training which incorporates strength training and plyometrics.

What is a good vertical jump height for an athlete?

The table below highlights the standing vertical jump height scale for males and females. The average vertical jump height for an NBA player is 28 inches. Any vertical jump height above 28 inches is considered excellent. Of course there are some athlete that break the "elite" 40 inch vertical jump barrier.

Table 1: Vertical Jump Height Rating Scale For Male & Female Athletes


Male (inches)

Male (cm)

Female (Inches)

Female (cm)


 > 40

> 40

> 24

> 60

Very Good



> 24

> 60

Above Average










Below Average






< 12

< 30

< 8

< 20

Can you train yourself to jump higher?

Any able bodied person can train themselves to jump higher. If you want to train yourself first thing you need to do is understand the principles of vertical jump training. This includes things such as optimizing the stretch shortening cycle, building general strength and improving the rate of force development. Our jump guide covers these topics in great detail. Once you learn these principles you can design your own jump training regime and reach new heights. 

Do abs and core training help you jump higher?

Everyone has abs. You can see some peoples abdominal muscles yet other peoples abs are covered by a layer of fat. When it comes to jumping higher it doesn't really matter if you can see your abs or not. Obviously a lower body fat level will reduce your power to weight ratio which can help you jump higher. The most important thing is that your abdominal and other core muscles are strong and provide stability. The core muscles are your link between the upper and lower body. Any weaknesses in the core will leak the power transferred from the upper to the lower body and back during the jump movement.

This Article Has Been Fact Checked: See References

At Ball Till We Fall, we strive to deliver objective content that is accurate and up-to-date. Our editorial team thoroughly reviews all published science based articles in order to ensure content quality. The sources cited below consist of evidence from peer-reviewed journals, respected medical organizations and academic associations. Although we strive to deliver accurate and up-to-date information, no guarantee to that effect is made.
  1. Jami L. Propriétés fonctionnelles des organes tendineux de Golgi [Functional properties of the Golgi tendon organs]. Arch Int Physiol Biochim. 1988 Sep;96(4):A363-78. French. PMID: 2463816.
  2. Król H, Mynarski W. A comparison of mechanical parameters between the counter movement jump and drop jump in biathletes. J Hum Kinet. 2012;34:59-68. doi:10.2478/v10078-012-0064-y
  3. Hunter, Joseph & Marshall, Robert. (2002). Effects of power and flexibility training on vertical jump technique. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 34. 478-86. 10.1097/00005768-200203000-00015.
  4. Garbenytė-Apolinskienė, T., Šiupšinskas, L., Salatkaitė, S. et al. The effect of integrated training program on functional movements patterns, dynamic stability, biomechanics, and muscle strength of lower limbs in elite young basketball players. Sport Sci Health 14, 245–250 (2018).

Overall, a well designed vertical jump training protocol that incorporates the methods mentioned above can help any basketball player add inches to their vertical jump height in a matter of weeks.

Try these tips and you will be jumping higher than you ever thought possible.

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  • J.B Racolis says:

    This is by far the best guide on how to jump higher for basketball online. I look forward to giving these methods a try. My goal is to dunk by next season. I have 6 months and need to gain around 6 inches on my jump height to be able to get a 2 hand 2 foot dunk. Do you think this is achievable?

    • Ball Till We Fall says:

      Hi J.B, yes your goals of jumping 6 inches higher in 6 months is very achievable. With hard work and consistent effort you will likely gain more than 6 inches over a 6 month period. Good luck with your journey. Let us know how you go!

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