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The height of your vertical jump reflects your ability to generate the maximum amount of force in the shortest period of time. Jumping requires use of the stretch-shortening contraction of the muscle-tendon unit. Think of your body as a spring. The farther down you can compress a spring, the higher it will shoot up upon release. By stretching your legs and hips, you can build explosive power and jump higher.
How It Works
When stretched, your muscles store energy. By performing a countermovement, or bending down, before a jump, you increase the stored elastic energy in the muscles that are being stretched. Your body then uses that energy to jump higher. Perform an experiment in which you complete two vertical jumps. On the first jump, hold a static position with knees bent for a few seconds and then jump. Measure the height of the jump. Before you execute the second jump, do a countermovement. Bend your knees slightly and drop the center of your body mass to the ground. From that position, explode immediately into a vertical jump. Compare the heights of both jumps. The second jump will probably be a few inches higher.
Stretching to Warm Up
A typical warmup consists of a low-level aerobic activity and stretching. While an aerobic activity boosts metabolism, stretching increases your joints and muscles' range of motion and also raises muscle temperature. Two types of stretching, static and dynamic, are used for warming up. Static stretching involves slowly pushing a limb to the end point of its range of motion and holding it. While static stretches are effective in reducing joint stiffness and maximizing knee extension for vertical jumping, they can negatively impact your velocity and power, according to Jeffrey Christopher Murphy's вЂњEffect of Acute Dynamic and Static Stretching on Maximal Muscular Power in a Sample of College Age Recreational Athletes.вЂќ If static stretches are done just prior to an event, such as the high jump, they can lower the recoil forces of your muscles. In contrast, dynamic stretching, in which limbs are moved through their range of motion by progressively increasing speed and distance, can increase your power on a jump.
Examples of Dynamic Stretches
Dynamic warm-up stretches can improve your ability to move in an explosive way and jump higher. Common injuries related to jumping are groin and hamstring pulls, so concentrate on stretching those areas. An example of a dynamic stretch to loosen your hamstrings is a leg swing. Stand laterally to a wall with your feet together. Place one hand on the wall for support. Swing the leg nearest to the wall forward and backward. Begin with a short leg swing and gradually lift the leg higher on each swing. Face the wall and do lateral leg swings, in which you cross the swinging leg in front of your supporting leg, then lift it sideways. Deep squats can help increase range of motion for your ankles, knees and hips. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and drop your body weight between your legs.
Plyometric Exercises for Jumping
Plyometrics are exercises that stretch and shorten the muscle to speed up your body motion. Since the early 1970s, track and field coaches have been incorporating plyometrics in training regimens to boost their athletes' power in competition. In these stretch-shortening exercises, your muscles are quickly stretched, such as in the countermovement before a jump, and then shortened to launch your body upward. Plyometric drills work the stretch-shortening reflex and can improve the height of your jumps. Examples of drills include standing jumps done over or onto boxes and drop jumps in which you jump down from a height and immediately rebound with a vertical jump.