T Nation

Increasing Vertical?

I am a 5’ 7’’ guy who plays a good bit of basketball. I can already grab the rim but I’m looking for that edge to get my first dunk. Any specific exercises I should be doing to increase my vertical other than the general calf workout?

You should be working your quads, glutes, hamstrings and lower back more than your calves. Your calves are not the dominant force in a better vertical leap.

Also, you need to get stronger. Check out this six-week vertical jump program by Joe DeFranco:


By the way, here’s a good answer about vertical jump and calves by Joe DeFranco:

[quote]Big calves have about as much to do with how high you can jump as the color of your hair. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with doing some calf raises in your training routine, but they shouldn’t be the focus of the routine.

As I’ve said time and time again, the “posterior chain” (spinal erectors, gluteals and hamstrings) makes up around 70% of the musculature that is responsible for your jumping ability. Squat and deadlift variations, Olympic lifts and good mornings will give you the best “bang for your buck” with regards to improving your vertical jump in the weight room.

There is another very interesting factor that plays a large role in how high you can jump. I’ve had the pleasure of working with over 2-dozen athletes who can jump over 35" and, besides being very strong in the posterior chain, they had something else in common. The one thing they all had in common are what I call �??high cut�?? calves.

What I mean by this is that the calves have an insertion point very high on the lower leg. This usually means a longer Achilles tendon. A longer Achilles tendon can store more elastic energy, which translates into more explosive jumps.

Think about this: have you ever seen a kangaroo with big calves? Of course not! The reason they can jump so well lies in the length of their Achilles tendons. Kangaroos have the longest Achilles tendon of any animal on earth. They also spring off the ground better than any other animal on earth. Unfortunately, you can’t increase the length of your Achilles tendon �?? it’s genetic. You have your parents to thank for that.[/quote]

One word: plyometrics.

Along with strength, you also want to increase the velocity and acceleration of your force. The whole basis of plyometrics is to pre-stretch the muscle and then use the stretch to put the muscle into a more advantageous position to contract. It contracts harder because of the elastic force stored in the prestretch. The end result? More power in your jump.

There are too many plyo exercises to list here, and it is imperative that you learn the proper mechanics behind these maneuvers. I don’t know if Joe Defranco’s article includes plyos but I expect it does.

I must say though, I am 6’3" and have what nate dogg would call “low cut” calves. I would definately say my vertical suffered because of it, because I consider myself pretty athletic and strong and I still can’t duck consistently!! and I have 8 inches on you!!

If you:

  1. Are strong relative to your bodyweight
  2. Are lean
  3. Practice jumping a lot

You will jump high. It’s not too much more complicated than that. Plyometrics can help but also are very overrated in my opinion.

Anybody who tries to make it a whole lot more complicated than that is probably trying to sell you something.


Probably trying to sell you something dumb like Jumpsole shoes.

Stick with what works - getting stronger, staying lean and practicing jumping!

Getting much stronger with all the lower body stuff relative to your weight. Along with jump training, give your body a reason to be more effective at jumping ~ remember you are fighting vs gravity.