Vertical jump training is all about understanding what things actually get results.
For years now, the vertical jump training industry has been riddled with gimmicks, bad science, and bad information.
Firstly, I’m going to go over a short list of training equipment, aids, and tools that are actually going to make a real difference in your training.
After that I’m going to explain to you what the key things you should be focusing on are and why these items are an important part of the equation.
Lastly, we’ll take a look at some of the nonsense vertical jump training recommendations on the market and what things you should stay away from.
The tibialis bar is my number 1 most important piece of vertical jump training equipment for 2022. Any athlete serious about developing their ability to produce and absorb large amounts of force with their legs must be training their tibs religiously!
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Why The Tib Bar Is An Essential Piece Of Vertical Jump Training Equipment
Your body will only let you jump 40 inches in the air if it thinks you’re capable of landing from that height without injuring yourself.
The best jumpers in the world are therefore the best at absorbing landing forces efficiently.
The tibialis anterior is the muscle on the front of your shin which is your body’s the first point of contact when it comes to absorbing landing forces from jumping.
Basketballers will often find themselves landing on one leg which puts immense pressure on the knee joint.
Bulletproofing your tibialis anterior is the single best way to develop ankle and knee integrity, prevent jumper’s knee, and improve your athletic capacity immeasurably.
Be sure to check out this article for a full list of the benefits of training your tibialis anterior.
A tib bar is definitely the most efficient way of training this muscle.
It’s super simple to use.
You simply sit with your feet over the edge of a bench with the desired weight on the bar and dorsiflex toes in towards your knees.
You should feel an epic burn in your shins doing this exercise.
I’ve created a full tib bar buyers guide for anyone interested in doing a little more research as there’s a number of really decent products on the market.
I’ve also been given an exclusive 10% discount for the Shogun X Mr. 1NF1N1TY Tib Crusher as shown above, making this particular tib bar the most affordable premium quality tib bar on the market.
Click on the link below to get one and be sure to use the code “JUMPSTRONGER” at checkout!
- Basketballers. Every sport that involves sprinting and/or jumping requires strong tibs, but basketballers benefit more than most. Landing from layups/dunks on one foot (or even on 2 feet) sends a ton of force into your lower leg that will damage your joints unless you develop this muscle!
- Athletes with jumper’s knee or shin splints. Anyone who has any chronic overuse injuries of the leg will really benefit from strengthening their tibialis anterior.
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#2 Most Important
The training sled, otherwise known as a prowler, has become extremely popular in recent times mainly due to the ‘Knees Over Toes’ training approach which prioritizes strengthening the knees and ankles, developing the tendons, and increasing range of motion and mobility in the lower leg. Regular sled work will increase your vertical jump by developing ankle mobility, increasing Achilles tendon and foot strength, as well as bulletproofing your knee joint.
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Why You Need To Be Using A Training Sled To Jump Higher
When it comes to vertical jump training, the best way to use a sled is to drag it while walking backwards, focusing on keeping a slow and steady pace and driving through the quadriceps.
The reason this is hyper effective is because it trains the knee joint at the opposite angle to how it’s normally overloaded (like during a squat).
In a squat, the load is above the knee, in a backwards sled drag, the load is below the knee so it strengthens that joint in a way most of us completely neglect.
It’s not only the ultimate knee rehabilitation exercise for anyone with tendinopathy, but it is an excellent way to bulletproof that knee joint and to make the connective tissue more resilient to deal with the huge amount of stress we put on this joint when doing vertical jump training.
A typical sled workout will be done as either a warm up or finisher. I love doing sled work at the start of a leg session because you get an insane quad pump and tons of blood flowing into that joint.
I also love doing this at the end of a brutal leg session as a hypertrophy exercise to develop size in my VMO.
Simply drag the sled backwards about 10 meters and then push it forward back to your starting position – any location or surface is usually going to be fine. You should start to feel the burn after 3-4 sets.
If you think this exercise looks easy, think again. By the end of it your legs will be absolutely on fire!
When you’re pushing the sled forwards, you’re doing a ton of deep ankle flexion, stimulating your Achilles tendon in a way that is really hard to replicate with any other exercise.
So not only is this a brilliant movement for the knee joint, but it’s also one of the best things you can do for tendon development and ankle mobility.
There’s good reason the training sled is right at the top of my list of knees over toes training equipment!
Who Should Use A Training Sled?
Any athlete of any age can start doing sled work.
It’s particularly effective for basketballers, volleyballers, and track athletes who are looking to develop their knee and tendon health.
If you’re at all interested in increasing your vertical jump, this is simply one of the best things you can be doing to promote longevity and avoid injury while simultaneously developing strong quads.
Be sure to check out my top 4 sleds for vertical jump training to find out which one is right for you.
I’ve linked to the Home Gym Guys’ BP-Sled in this article because I consider it to be, by far, the best sled for the purpose of vertical jump training.
It’s extremely affordable and does everything you need it to!
- Very affordable. At around $300, even when you factor in the $60 to ship it to the US, this is still going to be significantly cheaper than the Rogue sleds.
- Comes with waist strap. Unlike Rogue, HGG understand the importance of having a waist strap for training sleds!
- Very high quality materials and design. HGG only makes top quality products. The stylish branded design, matte black finish, stainless steel weight sleeve, and high quality welds are what separates HGG from the rest.
- Smart, compact design. This sled is a lot more portable than others on this list, meaning you can take it with you to the gym. They also nailed all the small things like putting the upright poles on the right side relative to the sled strap attachment (you wouldn’t believe how many sleds get this stuff wrong).
- Low upright poles. This was unavoidable when they decided to go for a compact design, but it means my lanky ass will have to bend down quite low to push this thing!
- Narrow unit. I can’t quite tell but it looks as though the uprights are not even shoulder width apart which might make this slightly awkward to push heavier loads on.
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#3 Most Important
A slant board is one of the most versatile pieces of vertical jump training equipment you can get. They’re ideal for improving ankle mobility, lengthening and strengthening the Achilles tendon, as well as developing huge, strong, explosive quads.
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How A Slant Board Can Improve Your Vertical Jump
The vertical jump is all about triple extension which is where your ankles, knees, and hips all work together to generate force.
Most athletes have very poor ankle mobility which limits the explosive energy they can produce with their calves and Achilles tendon.
A slant board is by far the most effective way to develop flexibility through the Achilles and calves.
You can also do squats on the slant board which will send your VMO muscle into overdrive.
Your VMO is the most explosive/fast twitch muscle in your leg and so you should be doing everything in your power to develop this muscle where possible if you’re a jumper!
The slant board allows for greater depth in squats which requires massive VMO activation.
Be sure to check out my review of the top 6 slant boards on the market so you can decide which one to get.
I’ve linked above and below to the Mr. 1NF1N1TY X Shogun slant board because it’s one of the highest quality steel slant boards and is very affordable with our exclusive 10% discount!
- All but the most flexible athletes. Increasing your ankle mobility has been directly linked to a higher vertical jump!1https://www.mdpi.com/2411-5142/6/1/14/pdf
- Athletes who want to develop stronger quads. It is impossible to squat on a slant board without getting crazy quad activation. This deep squat is unquestionably the best way to build the VMO for jumping.
*USE DISCOUNT CODE “JUMPSTRONGER” FOR 10% OFF!
#4 Most Important
Plyo Boxes Produce Massive Vertical Jump Gains
Plyometrics are a fundamental component of vertical jump training.
This is where we’re focusing on developing explosiveness, speed, and reactive strength.
You want to jump higher? Do lots of jumping!
How To Use A Plyometric Box For Vertical Jump Training?
There’s a number of exercises you can perform with a variety of plyometrics boxes.
Use A Plyometric Box For Box Jumps
This one’s pretty simple. Pick a box height that’s not too low but not too high, 18-36″ is usually going to do the trick but advanced athletes can go considerably higher.
The reason box jumps work well is because you remove the concentric or ‘landing force’ from the jumping movement. Doing tons of jumping can be brutal on your joints, mainly because the force applied to your joints when landing is considerably higher than during the takeoff.
Box jumps are a great way to get jump volume in while giving your joints a rest. You’re still performing jumps, but at significantly less cost to your body by reducing the concentric force.
I like to program them in during my plyometrics-focused phase when I’m feeling particularly tired and feel my body needs to take it easy, but isn’t yet ready for a proper deload.
Use A Plyometric Box For Depth Jumps
Depth jumps are a more advanced exercise which are arguably the single most effective way to develop reactive strength. Reactive strength refers to your overall springiness.
To perform a depth jump, drop down off one plyometric box and absorb the landing force before springing up onto another plyo box in one smooth motion.
Your ground contact time should mimic that used in your preferred sport which means for most athletes there’s no requirement to minimize how long you spend on the ground.
You can do 3-4 sets of about 5-6 reps once or twice a week, or 2-3 times a week if your training focus is on reactive strength.
The JFIT plyo boxes are the bee’s knees of plyo boxes and are definitely going to be the best option for advanced athletes.
Having one box is good, but having a set of four is significantly better because it allows you to perform so many more exercises.
If you’re a serious athlete looking for the single best vertical jump exercise to develop reactive and explosive quickness, then depth jumps are going to have to feature in your workouts regularly.
These are by far the best option for doing depth jumps because they allow you to do consecutive reps, forcing your muscles to adapt to this reactive overload.
- Ultra sturdy – These things are deceptively heavy and there’s absolutely no concerns with toppling when jumping onto even the 30″ box.
Non-slip surface – Super comfortable to land on, really safe for using outdoors.
- Best option for consecutive depth jumps – As mentioned, doing multiple consecutive depth jumps is quite possibly the single best plyometrics exercise you can do as a vertical jump aspiring athlete. Having multiple plyo boxes is mandatory for this.
- Reasonably priced – The 30″ box set comes with a 12″, 18″, 24″, and 30″ box. That’s 4 plyo boxes for around the $200 mark. Considering you’d pay significantly more if you were to get 3 or 4 separate wooden or foam boxes, I think this set is super well priced.
- It’s a fair investment. A quality set of plyo boxes aren’t cheap, which makes them less affordable for some athletes. Not cheap, but definitely worthwhile if you’re a serious jumper!
#5 Most Important
Heavy Duty Foam Roller
A foam roller is a vital piece of equipment for any athlete, but they’re particularly useful for athletes engaged in vertical jump training, which can be brutal on your lower body.
Why Jumpers Need A Quality Foam Roller
We use foam rollers as a form of myofascial release – essentially a way to decompress and stretch the muscle out.
Not too long ago I wrote an article discussing the significance of foam rolling on vertical jump training. Be sure to check that out if you want more information.
Studies have shown muscle soreness to significantly decrease if athletes regularly foam roll after their workouts.2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4299735/#:~:text=After%20an%20intense%20bout%20of,the%20recovery%20of%20muscular%20performance.
I’m a massive proponent of consistency, longevity, and recovery when it comes to vertical jump training.
It’s so easy to beat your body down when regularly doing heavy squats and plyometrics.
If you want to optimize for performance, you need to optimize for recovery.
How To Use A Foam Roller For Vertical Jump Training?
Simply take 20 minutes to roll out your quads, ITB, hamstrings, Achilles tendons, glutes and hips at the end of any training session.
Find the point in the muscle where it hurts the most and hold it there for 10-15 seconds before rolling out the rest of the muscle and moving onto the next muscle group.
Who Should Use A Foam Roller?
Any athlete who cares about their performance should be doing this every day.
An athlete without a foam roller is like a baseball player with no bat. It just doesn’t make sense.
This isn’t some “nice to have” luxury, I think of it as an absolutely essential tool for any athlete. They’re cheap and last forever, so there’s no reason not to have one!
What Are The Best Foam Rollers For Vertical Jump Athletes?
You can get soft foam rollers that don’t hurt when you use them and then there’s super solid ones that will almost bring a grown man to tears. You need to use the latter.
The soft foam rollers literally don’t do anything. You need to go heavy duty. Yes, it’ll hurt a little more, but that’s how you know it’s working!
This is the foam roller I currently use every day. It’s super solid and stimulates the muscles really well.
I prefer the thin foam coating over the spikey options. Super practical and effective.
- Extra firmness. The Grid X rollers are 50% tougher than the normal Grid rollers which means they can get deeper into your muscles and give you a better overall stimulus. The main thing you’re looking for in a foam roller is hardness. The harder and more brutal it is, the better. The ultimate foam roller is just a PVC pipe, but they aren’t commercially available. This is the next best thing!
- Portable. This one is 13″ long and fits nicely into most gym bags. The really long foam rollers are quite annoying to transport.
- Slightly more expensive. Personally, I’m happy spending $15 more on a foam roller that is going to get me better results. This is something I’m using every single day, so quality is important. I’ve had foam rollers in the past that have cracked/broken under the pressure of me sitting on it. These things will last forever!
Each of these items have found their way into my short list of vertical jump equipment that are actually worthwhile in 2022.
A tib bar is the best way to develop one of the most important vertical jump muscles in the body: the tibialis anterior.
If you’re not actively training your tibs, you are doing yourself a serious disservice.
The training sled is another item I can’t live without. The benefits of being able to hit your feet, Achilles, and VMO in a single movement simply cannot be simulated with any other exercise.
When it comes time to get some plyometrics in, having access to a sturdy set of boxes is the ultimate way to develop explosiveness quickly.
Being able to drill consecutive depth jumps is, in my opinion, easily the most effective plyometric drill known to science.
Using a slant board to develop ankle mobility as well as VMO strength is another personal favorite of mine.
As someone who has struggled with tightness and mobility issues, this tool has made me infinitely more athletic!
And finally, every athlete needs to be keeping themselves in good nick which is where the foam roller comes in.
Taking 20 minutes to roll out after a tough leg session will dramatically reduce soreness/DOMS and maintain the mobility you need to be truly athletic.
How Do I Know Why This Equipment Is Worthwhile?
After having trained full time in an elite volleyball development academy as part of the Australian national team for 3 years, with access to top tier strength and conditioning coaches and world class facilities and equipment, I have first hand experience using all sorts of different vertical jump training tools.
As international-level volleyballers, our sole objective during S&C sessions was to improve our vertical jump. We had a huge budget and access to every piece of equipment under the sun.
All of the products I’ve discussed today I have first hand experience with. Unlike most product reviews where authors have never actually used the physical product, I have used them all extensively and know what’s good and what’s not.
All of the products I’m mentioning in this article I highly recommend but my objective here is to help you decide which of them are a good fit for you.
Prioritize The Most Important Things
Firstly understand that you don’t have to spend a dime to get real results in your vertical jump training. I’d say the first thing you should spend money on is a gym membership, but if you’re a serious athlete, you likely already have access to a decent gym.
The reality is, you can get results at home with almost no equipment. But if you want really significant progress, you’ll probably have to pick up a few things along the way.
#1 Educate Yourself About The Science Of Vertical Jump Training
Knowledge is by far the most valuable training tool you can get to improve your vertical jump. It’s the reason I created this blog.
An athlete or coach who really understands what exercises are best, what training frequency is best, what ratio of jumping to weights is optimal, etc. is going to have infinitely more success than someone who has all the gismos and gadgets but no idea what they’re doing.
This is why I constantly preach the importance of learning and actually understanding why certain things are more effective than others as opposed to just blindly following some jump program in the hopes that it’ll work.
#2 Focus On The 20% Of Things Which Generate 80% Of The Results
As with anything in life, you should focus all your time, effort, and money on the things that really move the needle. Do the important things first.
Below is a list of the most important focus areas when it comes to improving your vertical jump.
Heavy Lower Body Compound Movements
As we know, improving your vertical jump is about simultaneously improving your strength and your speed.
We increase strength by doing heavy squats which are the most effective exercise because of how closely they replicate the triple extension motion in the vertical jump.
The back squat alone is enough to cover the strength component of the vertical jump.
Jump A Lot
Jumping and plyometrics help us increase the speed or explosiveness component of the vertical jump formula.
It makes sense that if you want to increase your vertical jump, you’re going to have to actually practice that movement.
How often you should be jumping, and your overall volume of jumping is determined by your current training focus.
This all comes back to the education side of things.
Is it smart to jump every day and lift weights every day? Probably not. How much of each should you do? Well, it depends.
Building on that, learning about training volume and frequency is a big part of getting efficient results.
Most athletes are overtraining without even knowing it!
The biggest obstacle to consistently improving your vertical jump over the long run is getting injured.
Jumpers suffer from all sorts of ailments like tendinopathy, meniscus tears, sprains, and stress fractures.
Learning how to bulletproof your ankles and knees is a big part of being able to perform consistently and is an aspect of training often overlooked.
#3 Nail The Small Stuff
Ironically, I’m putting diet and sleep into the category of ‘small stuff’, but you could argue these two things combined are far more important than any amount of heavy lifting or plyometrics will ever be!
The simple fact is, if you’re not getting 8 hours of sleep each night, you are leaving results on the table.
If you’re not eating clean food with adequate protein, you are leaving results on the table.
If you’re not training consistently or are going out and partying too often, you’re leaving results on the table.
If you’re a serious athlete who wants serious results, you simply have to master these intangibles and consistently execute to see solid progress.
#4 Avoid Spending Time & Money On Gimmicks
Towards the end of the article, we’ll examine exactly what products you shouldn’t buy, but generally speaking you should be very selective when it comes to vertical jump training equipment.
I could sit here and write a really long article recommending 50+ training products, which would probably earn me a decent commission, but the reality is the vast majority of them simply aren’t going to help you in the least.
The products I’ve discussed today were selected based on how effective they are at getting results.
Other Essentials For Vertical Jump Training
There’s a few other things you’ll need access to if you’re going to start taking your vertical jump training seriously.
Access To A Gym
This one’s a no brainer. You can get access to most of the equipment I’ve recommended above just by joining a decent gym. Having access to barbells, platforms, squat and power racks is really valuable.
If a gym isn’t an option, you should be able to get by with the equipment I’ve mentioned in this article, with the addition of a squat rack.
In terms of things that will move the needle when it comes to your vertical jump training, you can have all the bells and whistles you like, but a super solid diet is going to do significantly more for you than any fancy piece of equipment.
There’s no point paying hundreds of dollars for any training tool if you’re messing up your diet.
Spend an extra $30 a week for premium grade meat, get some quality fruit and fish occasionally, make sure you’re eating enough of the right stuff.
What Vertical Jump Products NOT To Buy?
Before we come to an end, let’s quickly run through some stuff not to buy.
Why I Don’t Recommend Buying Vertical Jump Programs
Vertical jump training programs aren’t necessarily bad, but I think your money is often better spent elsewhere.
Training programs usually give out canned prescriptions for exercises that are not specific to your needs as an athlete.
They don’t take into account how much existing training volume you’re doing and they can’t evaluate things like your explosive strength deficit and therefore can’t cater to your preexisting strengths and weaknesses.
Instead, I recommend reading and learning about the science of vertical jump training. That’s why I created this website.
If you’re able to learn and understand on a deep level why we recommend doing certain things, then eventually you’ll be able to craft your own program that’ll be infinitely more effective than an off-the-shelf solution.
My article discussing 25+ vertical jump training tips is a great place to start.