So You Want to Increase Your Vertical...

How many times have you been told “Coach I want/need to increase my vertical”? I know I have heard this many times and very often in my population our athletes barely know how to land correctly let alone jump correctly. The first thing I want to do is stress the importance of progressing an athlete properly. We must always learn to land before we jump! With that said I read a great Journal article today that discussed the relationship between strength qualities and performance in vertical jumping. The part I wanted to make sure coaches out there understand is that maximal strength work alone will not improve your athletes vertical. Yes it might for the untrained athletes or athletes with a young training age but let’s face it you could have them do P90X and improve! What Young and Wilson found was that speed-strength test correlated significantly with both jump types (standing counter movement jump, and run-up vertical jumps), but maximum strength did not.

Think about that last line speed-strength test correlated and maximum strength did not. Yes in a Study by Young and Bilby, the correlation was significant when maximum strength was expressed relative to body weight but no in absolute terms. So the old adage that if you can squat 1.5 times your body weight only them you can jump higher is somewhat true but what Young and Wilson are saying is that speed-strength is actually more important. This to me points out that while athletes need max strength work we need to realize that there is more to building athletes than max strength.  Lyttle et al. compared the effects of training with squat jumps and a training program that consisted of squats and drop jumps (DJ). The squat jump group attained an improvement in VJ by 5.8% while the combined group improved 10.2%. Much research has shown that DJ training is useful for improving VJ performance due to its ability to effectively train the stretch shorting cycle (SSC). It is important to remember Schmidtbleicher’s research that anything lasting over 250 ms are strongly influenced by maximum strength and not speed-strength.

My advice is if you want to truly reach your potential to jump higher than train the SSC. What I mean is spend some time working in speed strength to speed ranges on the velocity curve to help develop those fast twitch fibers. Also teach your athletes how to land properly, then jump and take them through plyometrics that are actually plyometrics (less than 250 ms or less). A great plyometric exercise to increase your vertical is the DJ that was discussed earlier.  Drop jumps from heights of 20-40 cm according to Young et al. have the highest rate of force development (RFD). These heights may seem low but remember you want the athlete to get off the ground in 250 ms or less, the higher the box the longer the time needed to decelerate and land. Combine this training with some max strength training and you will have your athlete’s verticals going through the roof!


  • Lyttle, AD, GJ Wilson, and KJ Ostrowski. "Enhancing perfromance: maximal power versus combined weights and plyometrics training." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 10.3 (1996): 173-179. Print.
  • Schmidtbleicher, D. "Training for power events." Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications 1 (1992): 381-395. Print.
  • Young, WB, and GE Bilby. "The effect of voluntary effort to influence speed of contaction on strength, muscular power, and hypertrophy develoment." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 7.3 (1993): 172-178. Print.
  • Young, Warren, G. Wilson, and C. Byrne. "Relationship Between Strength Qualities and Performance in Standing and Run-up Vertical Jumps." Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 39 (1999): 285-293. Print.