The 5 Most Important Muscles for Vertical Jump

If you want to jump higher you must train for max explosion. But which muscles should you target in order to jump higher? In this article I will show you the 5 most important muscles for vertical jumping and the best ways to tune them for max jump height.

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Are The Calves Really The Most Important Jumping Muscles?

Most newcomers to vertical jump training believe that the calves are the most important muscles for vertical jump. In the past vertical jump training programs tended to have a large focus on calf development, incorporating hundreds of calf raises and skipping exercises.Calves are important but they are not the most important jumping muscle.

I am sure retro jump programs such as the once popular but now super outdated Air Alert contributed to the myth that the calves are the most important muscles for vertical jumping. These days top programs such as Vert Shock and The Jump Manual provide a much more effective and holistic approach to vertical jump development.


BY VERTICALJUMPWORLD, Last Updated 14 August 2017 10:45AM


You can undertake a simple test to prove that the calves play a relatively small role in overall jump development. Firstly, stand completely flat-footed and without bending your knees jump up as high as possible. Take note of how high you get.

This time bounce up and down on your toes without bending your knees. This style of jumping will isolate the calves. Take note of how high you jumped this time.

Chances are that when you isolated the calves you didn't jump much higher then when jumping with the knees bent right?

Sure the calves do play a role in helping you to jump but they contribute no more than 20% of leaping power.


The Calf Muscles Role In Ankle Extension & Stability

The approximate 20% of overall leaping power generated by the calves is a significant amount that definitely should not be neglected. The calves are by no means the most important jumping muscles. However, the calves do play an important role in stabilizing the lower limb and allowing for optimal transfer of force from the ankle joint up through the  kinetic chain.

The calves also play an important role in allowing maximal tension development in the achillies tendon. Products such as the popular Jump Soles work on developing this component of the vertical jump and do so quite effectively.

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Ultimately as the calves only contribute to around 20% of jump height you would be better served to developing the muscles that contribute to the other 80% of jumping power before spending time and energy isolating the calves.

The muscles of the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, and lower back), and the muscles of the quadriceps are responsible for 80% of your leaping power.

Let's take a closer look at these important jumping muscles and how you can fine tune them for optimal vertical jump performance.


Developing The Jumping Muscles Involved In Triple Extension

In order to jump higher you must optimize the muscles used in triple extension. By triple extension I am referring to the extension at the ankle, knee and hip joint upon takeoff.

The triple extension experienced upon takeoff is a complex movement that must be trained correctly in order to be developed.

All of the most effective jump programs on the market spend the majority of their time developing this concept.

During the triple extension there are a host of synergistic eccentric and concentric actions taking place. Therefore in order to develop this aspect of the vertical jump very specific exercises must be performed.

Remember, the development of the nuero-muscular pathways that are specific to jump technique play a huge role in determining  how high a person can jump.

Lets take a closer look at the muscles involved in triple extension.

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Jump Programs such as The Flight System Develop Triple Extension


 Developing The Hip Extensor Muscles To Jump Higher

The hip extensors provide the most power production of all muscles during a vertical jump. The role of these muscles is to extend the hip (stand up straight) after the initial squat. These muscles include the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings.

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In fact, the gluteus maximus is the most important muscle for jumping. One thing that athletic performance coaches look for when profiling for athletic potential is a big butt. Often big glutes equals excellent leg power and strength. Add some junk to your trunk with heavy load full range squats and deadlifts.

>> 7 Great Exercises For Vertical Jump

Once you have gained strength through these exercises that target hip extension begin to add plyometric exercises that really help boost the explosive capacity of the glutes. Programs #1 and #2 on this list do a brilliant job at prescribing effective jump specific exercise progressions in an easy to follow manner.

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The hamstrings are bi-articulate muscles meaning that they cross more than one joint. The hamstring play an important role in both extending the hip and flexing the knee.

It is very important that the hamstrings are trained in synergy to ensure that they work together with the other muscles used during the vertical jump.

Once again, compound exercises are best for development of the hamstrings in a jump specific manner. Some of my favorites are barbell squats, barbell deadlifts and dumbbell lunges. Don't use isolation exercises such a hamstring curls if you truly want to learn how to jump higher.

Bodybuilder style isolation exercises such a hamstring curls, or glute bridges provide a strong stimulus to one particular muscle group but break up the vital muscle synergy between the hip and knee extensor muscles.


 Develop The Knee Extensor Muscles To Jump Higher

The knee extensors provide the means to straighten and stabalise  the knee as you perform a vertical jump. The major muscle group responsible for knee extension is the quadriceps. During the vertical jump the quadriceps work synergistically with the glutes and hamstrings to provide a fluid powerful takeoff. 

The quadriceps consist of 4 muscles: the vastus medialis, lateralis and intermedius which are the most important quadricep muscles in the vertical jump.

The fourth quad muscle, the rectus femoris, is a bi-artculate muscle which also attaches to the hip where it is also responsible for hip flexion. As the vertical jump requires hip extension, and not hip flexion, the rectus femoris plays a limited role during the vertical jump takeoff.

However the hip flexors do play an important role in stabilizing the pelvis throughout the jump phases and a vast number of other important performance related functions.

>> How To Optimize Hip Flexor Form and Function For Better Health & Performance

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 Develop The Core Muscles To Jump Higher

Even if you optimise strength and power in the triple extension a weak core can leave you under done. The core links the upper and lower body during the vertical jump.

Author of best selling jump program The Jump Manual Jacob Hiller shows off the "Side Effects" of core specific jump training.

Optimizing core control is of great importance for those of you who want to jump higher to dunk.

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Any quality jump program will help you develop your core strength and stability in the early phases of the program.

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 Develop The Big Toe To Jump Higher!

Yes, you read correctly the big toe contains the muscle known as flexor hallucis longus which plays an important role in jumping.

This muscle isn't goint to dervice huge gains on your jump but it can help you add a few inches when trained correctly.

This "jumping muscle" runs from the lower part of the fibula and connects on the distal phalanx of the big toe.

Along with the calf muscles it helps to stabilize the foot and ankle and also flexes the big toe.

The best way to strengthen this muscle is to simply focus on stabilizing your foot with this muscle while squatting and deadliting and extending through the toe when doing exercises such a calf raises.

Whenever you attempt to jump you should ensure that you are driving through the big toe.

Think about pushing your foot "through the ground" as you take off.

It's a simple little trick that may just help you add those extra couple of inches you need to throw down your first dunk.

If you want to see a list of exercises that can help you train these muscles to jump higher you should definetly check out these 7 TOP JUMPING EXERCISES.

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