1) Front Grip Reverse Lunge
Why it improves performance: During the "Jump" phase, your upper body needs to maintain a perfect neutral posture, no forward or backward lean. This not only reinforces correct upper body posture but does so while you are required to explode off of one leg, very much like you are required to do at times throughout the game.
Why it improves health: This movement integrates both Glute and Vastus Medialis (VMO) activity. The VMO is a muscle on the inside of your knee that is the first to deteriorate with any sign of knee pain. You are also required to stabilize in a single leg position and display proper core function to keep your upper body rigid.
2) Conventional Deadlift
Why it improves performance: The deadlift is an exercise that has stood the test of time and has multiple benefits. This exercise overloads the posterior chain, which is the engine of the vertical jump. It also can be used to teach explosive triple extension of the hips, knees and glutes.
Why it improves health: Proper execution of this movement forces the glutes to fire correctly, which is necessary for back pain prevention. When you observe the upper body, you see that your shoulder blade retractors need to display sufficient strength. Improving shoulder blade health is essential to improving your ability to "reach" toward the goal.
3) Psoas Stretch
Why it improves performance: As I noted earlier, the restriction from psoas tightness is the inability to properly extend your legs and upper body. By actively stretching this muscle, you increase the ability of your glutes to fire when you need them to.
Why it improves health: The psoas has attachments onto your lumbar spine. As this muscle tightens, it pulls your spine forward. This causes compensation patterns on joints above and under your lumbar spine, but also puts increased strain on your lumbar discs and intrinsic joints.
Why it improves performance: Another classic exercise that still benefits athletes, chin-ups provide a multi-joint, multiple muscle challenge as well as a maximum effort alternative for those who may not be able to perform chest pressing exercise because of injury. Lack of upper back strength is a direct link to lack of bench press strength. This is often overlooked, but my clients who undertook a chin-up improvement cycle all significantly increased their bench press numbers.
Why it improves health: Under developed upper back musculature is related to shoulder pain and injury. While you need to include more rowing exercise as well, improving chin-up performance will balance out your shoulder blade to elevation to depression ratio. The majority of individuals with shoulder problems present with elevated shoulder blades. This also limits your ability to reach up toward the goal.
5) Glute Bridges
Why it improves performance: Your ability to recruit your glutes sets off a chain reaction down the rest of your lower body that either helps or hinders your efforts at a high leap. Weakness in your glutes will impede your ability to display force during the "pre-jump" phase of your leap. It will give your leap a glass ceiling.
Why it improves health: Due to its ability to exert a downward pull on your pelvis, it needs to be strengthened to maintain proper hip balance. Your glutes also protect your low back during walking and when lifting heavy objects. The more you activate your glutes, the less you activate your low back.
Putting it all together
We can see that to get the biggest improvement in our vertical leap, we have to focus on both movement and strength work. These exercises not only build the strength to leap higher but they also ensure we are healthy enough to take full advantage of our new hops.
About the author
Jimmy Smith, CSCS, is a performance enhancement coach who has helped individuals and athletes of all levels from high school to the top collegiate and national ranks in reaching their elite performance and body enhancement goals. Although Jimmy is well versed in several bodies of knowledge, he specializes in performance and body enhancement as well as biomechanics as it relates to injury rehabilitation and human movement. In addition, Jimmy is currently advancing his education as a master's degree student in Human Movement. Visit Jimmy's website www.jimmysmithtraining.com to sign up for his FREE newsletter that contains a FREE report with exclusive information where the fitness industries top names reveal never before seen fat-loss tips.