2% Tougher: How to Jump Higher and Crush Every Obstacle

2% Tougher: How to Jump Higher and Crush Every Obstacle

Small gains can make a huge difference. In 2% Tougher, a Spartan Fit franchise, we ask our industry-leading experts to share their approaches to getting incrementally fitter. Every gain matters! Next up: adding inches to your jumps.

Being able to jump well can save you a whole lot of extra work in a Spartan race, particularly when faced with a giant wall to get over. “The higher you are able to jump, the less you have to pull with your arms,” says Jeff Godin, Ph.D., CSCS, and the Head of Fitness Education for Spartan. And if you’re a shorter athlete, you can make up for your height disadvantage by improving your jump.

When it comes to getting more air time, strength and technique are the two main factors, says Godin. Here’s how to optimize both.

Squat (and Squat Heavy!)

If you’re not doing heavy back squats, start there. A study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research split subjects into two training groups and a control group for eight weeks. The training groups performed either squats or leg presses. The athletes in the training group that performed squats saw an approximate increase of 12% in their vertical jump compared to the leg press group, which saw little improvement.

In addition to the squat, Godin also recommends any multi-joint exercise for the lower extremities, like the deadlift. However, the key is to program specifically for strength. "A lot of people get into doing 12 to 15 reps," he says, "trying to make it more metabolic conditioning, or to get more sweaty and sore.” Instead, shoot for five sets of five repetitions, with long recoveries, to make sure you can complete all of the reps and sets with equal quality.

More 2% Tougher: Follow This 10-Week Plan to Shave Time Off Your 1-Mile Run

Consider Contrast Training

how to jump higher

This advanced technique is proven to boost your jump, says Godin. Here’s how it works: Perform a weighted strength exercise (like the back squat) with a lighter or unweighted power movement that’s similar to the strength exercise (like the vertical jump). For example, do one set of squats for 3-5 reps, followed by a three-minute rest. Then, perform three vertical jumps for maximum height. Rest for three minutes, then repeat the whole thing once more.

The effectiveness of this methodology comes from something called, “post-activation potentiation,” says Godin. This means that the ability of force that a muscle can exert is higher after it’s been previously contracted. So, after a set of back squats, your legs will have more power to jump.

Do Your Plyometrics

how to jump higher

To improve your jumps, you do need to actually jump, too. Godin recommends working in plyometrics three times a week. “Jumps tend to be stressful, not just on the body, but also on the central nervous system,” Godin says. So, instead of doing as many box jumps as possible for time (which is conditioning), slow it down. Do fewer jumps and take more recovery. You could do three sets of three with a higher box so on the third rep, you just barely make it. “And really, make it a hard effort, a big jump,” Godin says. Recover for two minutes in between sets. 

In addition to box jumps, you could also work in vertical jumps, broad jumps, or trap-bar jumps (weighted to ~20% of your squat, 1 rep max). Elites can throw on a weighted vest.

Related: 7-Day Up-Level: Add These 4 Bucket Kit Moves to Push Your Limits

Polish Your Form

how to jump higher

You can’t rely on strength and power alone. Technique can make or break performance. Godin shares the following three cues when working on your vertical jump:

  1. Stand up tall with your arms overhead. The biggest mistake Godin sees is people doing the opposite, starting with the arms down. 
  2. Snap the arms down as you lower into a quarter squat as quickly as possible. The faster the lowering phase, the better force production.
  3. Throw the arms up explosively as you jump.

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