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jumping exercises

How Jumping Exercises Can Strengthen Your Legs And Improve Your Vertical Leap

I first became interested in jumping exercises when I started playing basketball in High School. I wasn't very athletic to begin with and my vertical was non-existant. Typical white guy. For me to jump over a foul line was tough. I remember in practice one time we were performing some kind of jumping / conditioning drill. My coach observed me and my pathetic vertical and assumed I wasn't working very hard. The truth is I was. Jumping a few centimeters at the time was simply the best I could do.

The Art and Science of Jumping

Julius Erving DunksWhat explains this? Why is it that some people (like me at the time) have a tough time getting off the ground, whereas others can seemingly soar through the air? What's more if you were not born with natural jumping ability is there a way to improve it? I didn't have the answers at the time but I was determined to find out. After all who doesn't want to soar through the air and dunk a basketball like Dr. J or Michael Jordan.

All Muscle is not Created Equal

I read a lot on the subject and here's what I learned. All of us possess muscles that help move our body. However did you know that not all of our muscles are the same? That there are different types of muscles? You can in fact break down the different muscle types in many different categories. For our purposes related to jumping exercises we only need to worry about two: Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers and Slow Twitch.

Slow Twitch

Slow Twitch muscle fibers are, well, slow. They tend to lack any kind of explosive nature. However they do possess a great deal of endurance. Slow Twitch muscle fibers are slow and steady. People who run marathons typically have a higher proportion of slow twitch muscle fibers than most people and it serves them well. If you want to jump - not so much.

Fast Twitch

Fast Twitch muscle fibers are, as you might think, extremely fast and explosive. When you perform activities like running or throwing a baseball you are using fast twitch muscles. People who can jump or sprint fast tend to have a higher percentage of fast twitch muscle fibers in their bodies. The only negative is that fast twitch muscles will tire out much more quickly than the slow twitch variety.

White Meat and Dark Meat

Think of a chicken. The breast meat, which is used to flap the winds, is white. The reason it is white and sweeter to the taste is due to the presence of a sugar like substance called glycogen. The glycogen is required in order for the wings to beat rapidly. The leg muscles which are used for walking, much more of an endurance activity, are dark. These are slow twitch muscles and do not require the presence of glycogen.

The Science of Plyometrics

OK. So what do you do if you want to jump high but you're not blessed with a high percentage of fast twitch muscle fibers? Well, as it turns out there is a bit of a miracle cure. They are a series of jumping exercises based on the science of plyometrics.

Tricking Slow Twitch Fibers to act like Fast Twitch

jumping exercisesPlyometrics were originally developed by the Soviets/East Germans (when the USSR and East Germany were still around) to allow their athletes to perform better in events requiring speed and / or jumping ability. It is based on the principle that if a muscle is stretched prior to firing the subsequent contraction will be more rapid and more powerful. Essentially it tricks the slow twitch fibers to behave more like their fast twitch cousins. Done correctly it can be extremely effective. One of the most popular jumping exercises to use this technique is called "depth jumping". This is how you do it.

Depth Jumping

Stand on a stable box or platform about 5 inches off the ground. Now with all of your might jump upwards and a little bit forwards so that you clear the box. When you hit the ground (5 inches deeper then where you started) jump again with all of your might. Step backwards back onto the box and repeat this process between 300 to 500 times.

It Worked for Me

This is one of the simplest jumping exercises there is, but it's quite effective. I used to do them in the back yard every night. By doing them my legs became much more explosive. They also become much sleeker in appearance. I was never able to honestly dunk a basketball, but my vertical did improve markedly. I could stand under the basket and touch the rim at least. This is a huge improvement for someone who couldn't jump over the foul line before.

Advanced Plyometrics

If you are interested in jumping exercises that improve your vertical leap you will definitely want to try the exercise above. If you are interested in trying more advanced exercises based on plyometrics you will want to try out Luke Lowrey's Jump Training Program. I haven't tried it myself (my basketball playing days are in the past now) but I've heard great things about it. Luke is actually willing to pay you $100 cash if it doesn't help you! He obviously has confidence in his program and I know he's helped a lot of people. Check it out today.

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