- Relative Strength
- From the Ground Up
- Balanced Between Sides
- Triple Extension and Triple Flexion
- Bulletproofing Reserve
- Jump Technique
- Body Composition
“To jump higher, increase your relative strength from the ground up. Make sure it’s balanced between both sides of your body for your triple extension and triple flexion, with adequate bulletproofing reserve. Study your jump technique, change your body composition as necessary, and realize your intent affects every one of those steps.”
- Relative strength means how much strength you have relative to your bodyweight. This is the foundation that makes it easier to lift your body into the air.
- While relative strength is an awesome term, we have to look at where this strength is built. The human body has four main joints that allow us to jump: ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders. Our ankles need to be able to handle the force produced by our knees. Our knees need to be able to handle the force produced by our hips. And our ankles-knees-hips have to be able to handle the weight of our upper bodies. If your strength is built from the ground up, you increase your chances of jumping higher while reducing your chances of injury.
- In working with struggling jumpers, I’ve seen that one knee is distinctly different from the other in the majority of cases. The ankles, hips and shoulders are often imbalanced as well, but the knee stands out from the crowd. When one knee is weaker than the other and you go to jump, not only are you not maximizing your true jump potential, you’re also at exponential risk of injury to the degree that you are imbalanced. So it’s not enough to improve relative strength from the ground up if we don’t ensure that strength is balanced between the left and right sides of the body.
- Increasing relative strength from the ground up with balance between sides has rarely been done. But even more rare is doing that with balance from the front to the back of each joint. For example, there’s no evidence of a previous jump program training the tibialis anterior as much as the calves. Your tibialis anterior is the muscle on the front of your shin, the antagonist (opposing) muscle to your calf muscles. In a basketball jump it’s your tibialis that has massive pressure on it before your calves. If you do I-II-III above but don’t train your tibialis, you may wonder why you have nasty shin splints and still get jumper’s knee, like I did. So you have ankle extension (calves) AND flexion (tibialis anterior). You have knee extension AND flexion. And you have hip extension AND flexion. This gives us six main zones and I pay equal attention to all. This sounds like common sense but I can’t find any evidence of this having been done before. “Triple extension” has been a common exercise science term for decades, but I’m working to make “triple flexion” a commonly known term as well. With six zones of strength and two sides of your body, you have 12 potential points where you could be leaking power in your jump or leaving yourself vulnerable to injury. So think of it this way: YOUR POTENTIAL IS PROBABLY GREATER THAN YOU KNOW.
The Tibialis Anterior
5. Pillars I-IV above indicate where strength is built, but not HOW. For example, when you squat below parallel it doesn’t look much like a jump so that would be an easy zone to skip. But the greatest jumper ever (in terms of how high he jumped and how much career longevity he had), Stefan Holm, had the deepest squat of anyone I could find in the sport of high jump. Hmmm… deepest squat and most longevity in his sport. Well, when you squat below parallel you preferentially develop your vastus medialis, which is the muscle most responsible for stabilizing your knee. It also happens to be the most fast-twitch of your four quad muscles. So for jumping, this muscle is a gold mine. And in my case, I had to apply Pillar III to this equation. It was an ass to grass split squat that rescued my knees, rebalanced my strength and mobility between sides, and allowed me to enjoy deep squats.
The Vastus Medialis
6. I had given up on dunking, believing I never would. But as I-V occurred for me, I found out I could dunk! As I continued, certain types of jumps and angles felt awkward. As someone who had gone over a decade as a terrible jumper, I had to study Michael Jordan in slow motion to realize how he was using his body vs. how I was using mine. That’s as far as my technique advice goes: Study your jump in slow motion compared to who you want to jump like, and you may observe some things to work on.
7. If you have too much body fat, it could bear down on you and prevent you from realizing how high you can truly jump. But BY FAR more often it’s the lack of muscle tissue in the right areas that I see preventing people from jumping higher. Usually, people struggling to jump higher have low enough body fat but not enough muscle. I-V above give you the training framework to develop the muscles needed to jump higher, but you may have to work on your diet to ensure you can grow muscle.
8. I-VII above reveal a lot of solutions, but they’re incomplete without acknowledging how much your intent affects every one of those steps. For example, my favorite exercise to jump higher, the Poliquin Step Up, doesn’t necessarily work if you don’t control the way down. If you just drop down, you’re not signaling to your body to increase your relative strength. Maybe you’ll perpetuate an imbalance, and you definitely won’t increase your bulletproofing reserve as much as you would working at the correct weight with the correct intent.
I reached age 20 having never once grabbed the rim.
At 31 I’m dunking easier than ever.
I do FEWER exercises per week than ever since beginning strength training!
I believe the closer we get to the truth, the simpler a subject becomes.
Let’s look at how I apply all this:
In a workout I pair one knee and one hip exercise for 5–10 rounds.
The next workout I pair one shoulder and one ankle exercise for 5–10 rounds.
That’s it! So the resulting volume is:
…while applying all Pillars I-V every week, and being observant of Pillars VI-VIII throughout the process.
I hope this article helps you to greater gains and less confusion on the subject of jumping higher!
Compared to traditional training, these same principles apply to my mom and dad in making them highly mobile for the rest of their lives.
Members can find my program on the site and app as “What Ben’s Doing.” You can even see how this applies to my parents in their 60s with “ATG For Longevity.”
Yours in Solutions,