The ability to jump is extremely important in many sports. It’s easy to see how it affects the games of basketball and volleyball, but other sports, such as football and soccer have realized the importance of the ability to jump high, because of its relationship to an athlete’s ability to produce power. Most of the great sprinters in the world have an incredible vertical jump as well.
Act of Jumping
There are 4 main phases of jumping:
- Loading Phase: This is when you lower your center of gravity by squatting slightly just prior to jumping. This part of the a jump is designed to “load” the muscles in your legs which produce power by stretching them slightly and storing energy within the glutes, quads, and calf muscles. You want to keep your feet flat with your weight shifting towards your heels and drive your elbows back as far as you can. Also make sure that you keep your knees in line with your toes and hips and do not allow them to move inward during this part of the movement.
- Triple Extension: This is the most important part of the jump. This is when you use all of the energy stored in your muscles during the loading phase to push off of the ground as hard as you can and leave the ground. The triple extension is named so because if you do it correctly, your hips will be extended, your knees will be straight, and your toes pointed while in the air. Your hands should also be high, near or above your head.
- Landing: The landing is oftentimes overlooked by athletes and coaches. The landing is very important for injury prevention and preparing for the next jump. When you land, you want to come down with your feet flat and hips out behind you as if you are going to sit in a chair. Trying to land as softly as possible is also important so that you can minimize the wear and tear on your ankles, knees, hips and low back. You want to make sure that your knees are apart and in line with your feet and hips, just as in the loading phase.
- Re-Load: If you are landing correctly, the re-load position is not much different from your landing. The re-load should look very similar to the initial loading phase. You want to land softly with your feet flat, then throw your elbows back with your hips out and get ready to triple extend again. If you happen to land with your knees straight and over your toes, you will have to squat into a loading position before initiating the Triple Extension.
Factors that Affect Jumping
- Jumping Technique: By focusing on the specific phases discussed above, you will improve your ability to jump. Specific areas where athletes need to concentrate on while jumping is their arms, knee position, hip position, foot position, and ability to land and absorb force.
- Strength: Vertical jump is a measurement of your ability to produce power. If you go back to your basic physics lessons, you may remember that power is a measurement of work done over time. Thus, the more work (in this case, work is measured by your ability to move your body weight) you get done in a short amount of time, the greater the power output (and the higher you jump). So, if you want to jump higher, you need to increase your ability to perform work (strength), your ability to move more quickly, or both. Strength is a basic fundamental component that is needed to jump higher.
- Nervous system control: The nervous system is what is responsible for contracting your muscles quickly. The nervous system can be trained to contract more quickly by performing repetitive quick, short hops in order to gain more control on your ability to contract and relax the specific muscles responsible for jumping.
- Flexibility: If you have tight muscles in your calves, hamstrings, or hip flexors, you will have difficulty fully reaching triple extension, thus limiting your ability to jump by not allowing the primary muscles which move you to work as efficiently as possible.
- Core: The core is the foundation for athletic movement. If you have an unstable core, you will not possess the ability to stabilize your hips. If your hips are not stable and are allowed to move excessively while jumping or running, you will lose valuable energy and force. You can have very strong legs, but without a solid surface to push against, you will always get out jumped by an athlete with a stable core and pelvis.