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The Absolute Best Way to Increase Your Vertical Leap - FREE Workout Advice
How to use weight training to allow you to jump like Jordan, Webb, and Manigualt

by Eric Augspurger / -- Copyright 2013

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Spud Webb DunkSo you want to be able to dunk a basketball on a regulation ten-foot rim but don't have any natural leaping ability like the greats who seemed to be born with it such as Julius Erving, David Thompson, Michael Jordan and Spud Webb.  Awhile back I watched an interview with Michael Jordan who was asked what the secret of his leaping ability was - he said he really didn't know.  This is typical of many great athletes who are born with abilities that us mere mortals can only dream about.  This article will NOT be about how great basketball players developed their vertical jump because all that most of them did was be lucky enough to be born to parents who gave them the right genetic makeup.. Instead I will show you the best way for YOU to achieve a high vertical jump (and it isn't by playing a lot of basketball).  The good news here is that the vertical jump is easy to improve if one knows the correct way to develop it.  Don't fret as you CAN train yourself to jump high enough to jam that ball on a regulation rim - and it is within the reach of most every average basketball player of at least average height - no kidding.  Read on and I will show you how.

Do a search on the internet for "the best way to increase your vertical jump" and your query will bring up thousands of bogus routines and gimmicks - everything from jumping off boxes (plyometrics) to wearing extra thick-soled shoes to stretch your Achilles tendons and all of it is just pure crap! None of that stuff is going to work and most of it will probably injure you and may even destroy your knee joints. Also, if you try to increase your vertical jump by simply doing a great deal of jumping, you will most definitely destroy your knees as nothing is more stressful on the joints. Why do people try to push this useless and often dangerous information and products on you?  FOR THE MONEY, plain and simple. They just come up with any kind of nonsense so they have something to sell to young, gullible Earl Manigault wannabes. If these companies just told the truth they wouldn't have anything to sell and the owner would probably have to go out and get a real job. When seeking out the truth, one should have a critical eye at all times, especially on the Internet - NEVER accept anything at face value when someone is angling to get your money.

As a gym owner, bodybuilder, and trainer for more than 30 years I am so sick of reading all the lies out there, it really does personally offend me. So here is a free article giving you the absolute truth; I am not trying to hype a workout program that I want to sell to you but rather am giving you the complete program exactly as it worked for me and so many other athletes so read on please.

What group of athletes has the highest average for the vertical jump? Is it NBA basketball players, volley ball players, or track athletes? The answer is NONE of the above. It is Olympic weightlifters - for real. Even the superheavyweights can really sky!  The stories are vertical jumpcommon of 300 pound-plus men who lift Olympic style being able to two-hand dunk a basketball on a 10 foot rim.  Remember Ken Patera, the professional wrestler from some years back?  Before he joined pro-wrestling he was an Olympic weightlifter and a good one who competed in the 1972 Olympics.  At 6'1" and 315 pounds he could easily dunk a basketball on a 10 foot rim.  So does this mean that you should take up Olympic weightlifting? No, as Olympic weightlifting takes too much skill, flexibility and time to try to learn to do the lifts properly. You aren't interested in all that as you just want to condition yourself to make some high hops on the playground.

Instead we will just pick out only the specific elements of their training that are important to increase your vertical jump - building the leg, hip, and lower back muscles and teaching them to explode upwards. That is exactly what I did more than thirty years ago Weightlifter vertical as it was my goal to dunk on the playgrounds and awe my friends. At a height of just 6 feet tall I was able to two hand dunk on the regulation 10 foot rim.  Before I started the program that I am about to explain below I could just barely touch the rim.  Despite all the BS that you will see posted on the internet, it is rare for a 6-footer to be able to consistently dunk.  The only reason dunking is such a rare skill is because almost no one knows how to train correctly for maximum vertical jumping ability.  What I am about to tell you really works, and this routine has worked for many people that I have trained over the past thirty years so pay attention here.

Weightlfiter JumpingThe routine that you follow will be performed entirely with an Olympic Barbell Set and it will be short, heavy, and oh so result producing. You will perform the routine all in one session and then rest for THREE DAYS, and then perform the same routine again. Now this may be the hard part for some of you - play basketball only on on the second rest day and no more often for maximum results from this routine.  This means you will be resting and doing NOTHING every other day.  Why?  Because playing basketball will detract from your recovery ability that you will need to grow strong from these weight training sessions.  Unless you were born with the genetics of a Michael Jordan, playing basketball will do very little to increase your vertical jump.  Basketball is primarily an endurance activity in the way that long distance running is and I can safely bet that there are NO marathon runners out there who can dunk a basketball.  Your goal here is to train like a sprinter with short and explosive workouts and plenty of rest in between.

Since there is no shortage of YouTube videos to show you proper form on the exercises listed below I won't waste my time going over extensive details of proper form.  My only advice regarding the performance of these exercises is to keep the form STRICT as to avoid injury. The program is listed below and DON'T add any exercises if your primary goal is to increase your vertical jump as adding volume will be detrimental to your results.  This is not a bodybuilder's program, forget basketball and dunking and concentrate on a full bodybuilding routine if building big arms and chest is what you are interested in.  While you will build plenty of muscle on this program, it is intended for those people who primarily want to increase their vertical jump for dunking.

TFull Squathe first exercise is the Barbell Full Squat.  There is no single movement better for building the hip and thigh muscles that are the prime movers in jumping - this is the granddaddy of all leg work.  It's best to do squats inside of a power rack for safety as you will want to work to near failure on your heavy sets.  Just be sure to do very strict and full-range squats, not parallel or half squats, to fully develop the hamstrings and glutes as well as the quadriceps.  Set the safety bars in the power rack to 1-2 inches below the barbell when you are at the bottom of a full squat.

calf raiseThe second exercise is the Barbell Standing Calf Raise and you're already set up for it after doing Barbell Squats. It is preferable to use the Olympic bar as opposed to a standing calf machine as use of the free weight will develop more balance.  While the calves are not a prime mover in a vertical jump, building a strong pair can add a couple of inches.  To get the most benefit from this exercise you should stand with just the balls of your feet on a 2"x6" board, raise up as high as you can and hold it for 2 seconds, then stretch back to the floor.  It is probable that you won't be able to use as much weight on this exercise as you used on the Full Squat and may need to take a few plates off the bar.

PowercleanThe third exercise is the Barbell Power Clean. This is the basic exercise (and it's variants) that gives the Olympic Weightlifters their high vertical jump.  Nothing develops jumping better than explosive pulling from the floor.  It's best to do heavy doubles here to develop explosive power.  The benefit you get from this exercise is that you will learn to use the muscle that you develop from doing the Barbell Full Squat. Absolutely nothing is better for training the body to explode upwards than the Power Clean.  Do not perform these with a hop but keep your feet on the floor the whole time as you drive the bar upward from a dead stop on the floor, straighten your legs, and raise up high on your toes as you pull - every inch of the pull will train your body for jumping.. Remember to keep the bar close to your body as you pull it all the way up and catch it at your shoulders.  PLEASE research this technique on YouTube as there are many good videos on the correct way to do the Powerclean.

Behind Neck PressWe add the Barbell Behind Neck Press as the fourth and final exercise because I understand that many of you want a total body routine with some upper body development. While this exercise will do nothing for your vertical jump it will make you stronger for easier outside shooting if you play basketball.  Nothing is better for increasing useable shoulder and triceps strength than the BNP.  This exercise may be done standing or seated if you are working out in a basement gym under a low ceiling.  One warm-up set with 50% of your working weight and one set of 8-12 reps done to failure will be more than sufficient to build some decent shoulder and arm strength.  This routine is complete so don't add anything to it or you will compromise the results.  If you insist on doing some aerobic work then you can add a few minutes of jumping rope at the end of this workout and nothing more.  Rope jumping is great for basketball players as it coordinates your hands and feet to work together.  If you have ever watched a boxer skip rope then you know what style I am taking about here.  If you have never jumped rope before you'll quickly discover what an uncoordinated klutz you are when you first attempt it.  However a few months of jumping rope will remedy this sad condition and you'll eventually be skipping along to music just like professional boxers do.

The full routine is listed below:

  1. Barbell Full Squats - 2-3 warm-up sets of 10-6 reps, 2 heavy sets of 5 reps
  2. Barbell Standing Calf Raise - 1 heavy set of 15-20 reps
  3. Barbell Power Clean - 2-3 warm-up sets of 4-2 reps, 5 heavy sets of 2 reps
  4. Barbell Behind Neck Press - 1 warm-up set of 8 reps, 1 heavy set of 8-12 reps
  5. Optional rope jumping - 5-10 minutes for aerobic conditioning and agility

Perform this routine no more often than twice every 8 days, your schedule will look like this over the 8-day cycle if you play basketball:...

Weights | Rest | Basketball | Rest | Weights | Rest | Basketball | Rest | Either Start cycle again or take an extra day's rest here if you feel you need it.  The key is to avoid overtraining and stay well rested when trying to develop explosive power.

If you can't get out to play basketball on the scheduled days then you can insert 10-15 minutes of rope jumping on those days for your aerobic and agility work.  Skipping rope is a great exercise to add a couple of inches to your vertical as long as you don't do it anymore often than the scheduled days in this 8 day cycle.  Remember that you want to train like a sprinter for explosiveness and not like a marathon runner so adequate rest time is as important as the workouts.

Remember that playing basketball everyday will be detrimental to developing your vertical jump unless you are a naturally gifted athlete like Michael Jordan.  For the rest of us mortals we need to have a lot more rest to recover from the workouts to make any progress.  Never try to compare your performance to a professional athlete nor imitate their workout schedule as they live in a different realm than you and I do.  On those days that you want to test your vertical jump take at least a full 2 days rest from any type of activity and you'll find that you will jump a lot higher than if you tried to test yourself the day after your weight training workout.  The single biggest reason that people fail when trying a routine like this to increase their vertical jump is that they fail to take the adequate number of rest days that I have recommended.  Working out too often, whether it be lifting weights or playing basketball, will result in little to no progress for the average person.

How long before you expect to see results from this routine? First, your goal for how much weight you can use on your heavy working sets on the Squat should be 50-100 Lbs. more than your bodyweight - the same for the Powerclean - nothing less will do.  You must constantly push to handle progressively heavier weights on this program as the increases in strength will equal increases in vertical jumping.  It's a very simple formula with no mysteriy involved here...

Lift heavier weights = Jump higher 

If you get to the point where you can handle those weights on the Squats & Powercleans, you will have the explosive power to propel your body upward high enough to dunk.. You should allow yourself at least a year to accomplish this and maybe longer.  If you stay with this EXACT routine religiously, no more or less than twice every 8-9 days while limiting other activities, including playing basketball, you should be jamming in that period of time.  If you're 18-30 years old, of average height or better, and already in reasonably good shape, one to two years of these workouts should allow you to stuff the ball over the rim.  Sorry, but there are no magic quick fixes or shortcuts - you will need to put in the time and effort here.  For some, you may only be getting close after that first year - don't be afraid to stick with this routine awhile longer until you are there.

As long as you want to keep improving your dunking, you will need to perform this routine with the weights mentioned and the frequency that I have suggested - when you quit these workouts the ability to jump high will leave you within a couple of months afterwards.  However you'll find you can maintain your vertical jump by simply performing this weight routine once per week after you achieve the vertical height that you are after.  The maintenance frequency of just once per week is also best used during the season if you play basketball for a team; then during the off-season lift weights twice every 8-9 days.  PLEASE remember, do NOT add any exercises or sets to this workout nor increase the frequency that I have outlined here as doing that will only hinder your progress.  Over-training is the ultimate sin that you can commit when you are trying to increase explosive strength. .

Can shorter guys below 6 ft. tall learn to dunk using this routine? The answer is yes but there are no guarantees.  Shorter athletes of 5'9" and below who learn to dunk are truly exceptional and if you achieve this you are very special indeed.  The best dunker I ever knew personally, regardless of height, was only 5'8" tall - Daryl "Bingo" Lily, and he could dunk anyway that you wanted him to.  He was an amazing  basketball player and high jump champion who led Peoria Woodruff High School to the Sweet Sixteen in 1971.  The only player to come along since Bingo who was of similar height and jumping skills was Spud Webb.  The majority of the world never heard from Bingo Lily though, as much like Earl Manigault, he got caught up in drugs and wasted his exceptional talent.  The last I heard, Bingo was thrown out of a seven-story high window and killed - someone told me that it was a drug-related incident but I call it a tragedy.  If you are gifted, then don't waste your talent and deny the world a chance to enjoy it along with you.

 Jacob TuckerOne of the most exhilarating feelings you will ever feel in your lifetime is being able to fly up over the rim and jam a basketball in front of an audience (or even just your girlfriend) - there is nothing else quite like it.  Even if you had all the money in the world you couldn't buy that experience.  The only way to achieve it is to work hard on the program that I have outlined above.  Again, I cannot stress enough that you search the internet for videos to show you the correct form for performing the 4 exercises that I have listed in this workout.  I have provided no direct links to any videos because they often disappear from YouTube after a time and I don't want to have to keep updating my links.  I will try to answer any questions you have regarding this workout and would also enjoy hearing your progress if you follow this routine and finally achieve your dream of dunking.  You can send me an email at

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