Jumping as high as possible is a skill. I’ve found it does not come naturally for almost everyone.
The overwhelming majority of athletes have technique deficiencies that if corrected would immediately result in a more efficient and higher vertical jump.
So while I talk about increasing strength and rate of force development as being the two major ingredients in the vertical jump, there’s actually a third which is improving jump mechanics.
In this article we’re going to go over the two foot approach jump and we’ll identify the key aspects of a perfect running vertical.
The man who I think explains jump mechanics better than anyone is Tyler Ray of Project Pure Athlete. He has a number of extremely useful biomechanical breakdowns of various jumpers, explaining in detail what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong.
These breakdowns are extremely valuable because after you’ve watched a few, you can record yourself jumping and should be able to identify what your deficiencies are.
I’ll quickly summarize the cues you need to be aware of but admittedly, watching the video will make this a whole lot more obvious.
When I say the approach, I’m referring to the running you do prior to the penultimate stride and actual jump.
It’s important you have constant acceleration through your approach. You should be accelerating in a smooth, connected, and relaxed manner.
Push Into Penultimate Step
After the approach comes the ‘push’ where you’re launching yourself into the penultimate step which is the stride directly prior to the plant.
You will want to cover a good deal of ground in the penultimate stride. The best jumpers typically cover much larger distances in their penultimate.
Less developed athletes will typically have shorter penultimate strides as it’s challenging to convert high amounts of horizontal force into vertical force unless you’re really strong and powerful.
At the end of the penultimate comes the plant sequence.
‘Punch’ The Block Foot
The final step of the plant sequence is our sideways block foot which is designed to help us stop/decelerate and transition upwards.
Tyler uses the phrase ‘punch’ the block which essentially means aggressively swinging the block foot out and into the ground to ensure we’re capturing force adequately.
Keys To Remember
This will become more obvious once you watch a breakdown video or two, but these are the most important things to be aware of when doing a two foot approach jump.
We need to keep our chest up so that we’re not ‘diving’ forward and losing our center of gravity out over the hips. If this happens, we leak a massive amount of force.
All throughout the penultimate and into the plant sequence, the torso should remain upright and above the hips.
Too much hip flexion (diving) is extremely common especially when athletes are focusing on covering a lot of horizontal distance in the air. Avoid doing this at all costs!
Neutral Head & Neck
One of the more common things you’ll see is during the plant sequence, people start hinging their head back which compresses the cervical spine and limits the range of motion through the upper back and shoulders, which can interfere with our arm swing.
Your head and neck should be kept fairly neutral all throughout the approach.
I’ve included three really excellent breakdown videos here that you should definitely watch to get a better idea of these concepts.
After familiarizing yourself with what a solid jump looks like, I’d suggest filming yourself doing an approach jump and attempting to do a breakdown of your own technique keeping the above cues in mind.
Chances are you’ll find something that you can rectify simply by being aware of it and focusing on altering it over the course of the following few jumps.
Big shout out to Ty of PPA for doing these breakdowns and I’d highly recommend subscribing to his channel!