Top 5 Vertical Jump Exercises
For this exercise you may use a squat rack (make sure you have a spotter) or you may use a squat machine or leg press machine. Let me explain my official position on squat vs leg press before we begin, as this is a HIGHLY misunderstood area.
So here is a quick rant about squat vs leg press before we get into this… The squat and the leg press are best used together when possible. You will find in forums and others all over the internet saying that the leg press is completely worthless. Most of them are repeating simply what others have told them. Others still say that the squat is greater for the “tiny stabilizer muscles” in the knees and joints.
The truth about this is that there are no “tiny stabilizer muscles” in the joints. This is a myth. The truth is that main muscles like quads, and hams act as stabilizers in different movements. At best there are GTOs (golgi tendon organs), proprioceptive nerves, and muscle spindles within the muscle that increase proprioception and thus help provide a better sense of stability and balance. However, on the contrary to focusing on stability, fairly conclusive studies have been done (email me for source) showing that a focus on stability via UST (unstable surface training) greatly REDUCES the results of a training program in regard to vertical jump.
This was a very interesting study where they all did the same program but an experiment group had additional stability work which although stability was increased, vertical jump increase was significantly lower. Interesting information to consider, especially if you are implementing an unstable environment in even a small portion of your vertical training regimen. The squat definitely requires more balance, form, and stability but fortunately it is still an effective method for increasing vertical jump (if not the best).
If one had to choose one or the other, squat would be the choice. Fortunately, we don’t have to make that choice and a training method of both squat and leg press will yield higher results than either method alone. Squat involves core, and lower back more than a leg press does. Leg press in some studies has shown to provide more hypertrophy in the quads, and is often the choice for speed skaters, whose legs are extremely explosive. It is clear to me that a squat complimented by a leg press is the best solution for overall leg strength core stability, and development of explosiveness.
The ability to focus solely on strength via the leg press allows an incredible focused intensity which results in greater neural amplitude (determinant of contraction strength) in the muscle recruitment. My recommendation is to start with the squat, and end with the leg press each workout session. Anyone saying that there is no benefit to the leg press is saying that based on dogma that is being reverberated throughout the internet, and not a statement validated by actual experience of proper usage with real clients and is not backed by results of a WELL documented scientific evidence where the leg press is properly implemented. If they are saying that the leg press is not as good as the squat, in that I could agree, but as stated before, we can use both.
Lastly, for those who cannot bear weight on the spine, of which I have had quite a few clients, there are great variations of the leg press minimize load on the spine. I have used with these clients the leg press alone and produced significant increases in vertical jump. I would actually gladly jump on the squat nazi boat if I thought it was a reflection of the truth. However, the argument for squats against leg press is usually overstated, and leaves out many potential uses of the leg press. The question I believe is not simply “squat vs leg press.” Rant over… Load enough weight so that you can do no more than 8 reps. WARNING: This is very heavy. If you have not squatted before I highly recommend doing 15 reps for your first workout to avoid injury.
If you do not know how much weight you need err on the light side for a warm up set and judge how much weight you need to add. Keep your feet as high up as possible and away from your body. Allow the weight to rest mostly on your heals. Smoothly and slowly lower the weight (you should never feel that the weight is falling, it should always be under control.) When your knees reach your chest EXPLODE back to a starting position with the intensity of a jump. Repeat this 7 more times. If you are able to do more than 8 you need to adjust the weight DO NOT DO MORE REPS.
Make the necessary adjustments.. but do not do extra reps. Give yourself 2 minutes or more to completely recover so you can do it with just as much intensity. Stretch you muscles during the interim. Repeat for another set. On the forth set add more weight than normal and ask a spotter to help you. If you are using a leg press machine you can push your own legs to spot yourself. Repeat this exercise with the heavier weight and the same intensity. On you 4th set lower the weight considerably and do 8 slow and steady reps. Do not allow the weight to either fall or get thrown up as before. Feel the weight pushing down during the entire contraction.
The 5th set you will want a partner, or move very quickly. During this set we are going to completely fatigue the muscles so we can strain every last fiber of the muscle. Do the first 8 reps as before… if you can do more go to complete failure. As soon as you are finished take off a little weight off each side and do 8 more set or to complete failure as before. As soon as you finish take off more weight from both sides and go to failure… then have your spotter help your force out 3-4 more reps. Your legs should be completely toasted after this workout. Remember the muscle burn you feel during this will be different from the HIGH repetition exercises that are less effective for training explosion. It may feel counter-intuitive… and it is.