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 so you can increase your vertical jump height fast

Don't forget to enroll in our free Rapid Vert Gainz Course to start jumping higher in hours.


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I am sure retro jump programs such as the once popular but now super outdated Air Alert contributed to the myth that the calves are the most important muscles for vertical jumping.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 the best jump programs such as Vert Shock (ranked #1) and The Jump Manual (ranked #2) provide a much more effective and holistic approach to vertical jump development.

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.

Jump training equipment such as the popular Jump Soles work on developing this component of the vertical jump and do so quite effectively.

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

muscles used in vertical jumping

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.

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 vertical jumping 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.


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.


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.

Never underestimate the power of weight training for vertical jump development.

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. 

If you really want to max out your vertical jump you should take the time to learn as much about the concepts of plyometric training as you can.

TIP: If you goal is to dunk a basketball you should start doing "plyo's" today!


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 optimize your jumping ability.

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 stabilize 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.

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 for sport specific reasons such as vertical jump for basketball.


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 going to produce 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 dunk training trick that may just help you add those extra couple of inches you need to throw down your first dunk.

About the author 

Vertical Jump World

Vertical Jump World is the #1 online vertical jump training hub. Our team strive to continue to provide our valued readers with the best vertical jump related information, honest and comprehensive jump program reviews plus access to market leading jump training resources.

  • What is the best exercise for increasing your vertical as much as you can?

  • The article says that isolation exercises should not be done for hamstrings. Does this apply to the quads as well? Also, is it counterintuitive or does it simply not help?

  • What value do you give upper strength / power to the overall outcome of the jump? I don’t believe there is any research on the topic but seems apparent to me that a vertical or broad jump would also be a decent indicator of upper body power.

    • When it comes to the impact of upper body strength and power on the outcome of a jump, there isn’t a ton of research available yet. Most studies focus on lower body strength and power since that’s the main source of propulsion in a jump.

      However, it’s possible that the upper body does contribute somewhat to generating force during the take-off phase, which could impact the height and distance of the jump. That being said, there isn’t a clear consensus on this topic, and more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between upper body strength and power and jumping performance.

      One thing to keep in mind is that having a lot of muscle mass, especially in the upper body, may actually inhibit jump height. This is because extra weight can make it more difficult to get off the ground and reduce the overall speed of the jump. So while upper body strength and power may be important to some degree, it’s also important to consider the impact of overall body composition and weight on jumping ability.

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