How to Jump Higher! Vertical Leap Secrets from the World’s Best Strength Coaches: Part 6

First of all make sure to check out parts 1 – 5

Here’s what was covered in these parts:

Part 1: Kettlebell exercises to jump higher
Part 2: Band training secrets to improve your vertical leap
Part 3: What to do the 22-23 hours outside of the gym to maximize your vertical jump
Part 4: What does speed have to do with jumping higher?
Part 5: Technique, weaknesses and mobility to maximize your vertical

Of course I could not write an article on vertical jump training without discussing stair exercises. After all they do call me “The Stairs Guy, The Stairs Guru, and even Step Daddy”! I was also fortunate enough to see first hand how valuable stair training can be when I served as strength coach the WNBA’s New York Liberty in 2002 & 2003. We actually found ourselves with out places to train. Can you imagine that? Well at the time the New York Knick’s training center was under construction and it really caused problems for us.

So why am so hung up on stair training for power development? The first reason is that stairs lend themselves great to plyometric training.

The exercises of choice are usually box jumping and bounding when it comes to plyometric training. Stairs can replace the need for a box and bounding actually requires no equipment. Another thing I like about stairs is that you can develop a rhythm which I believe to be very important. By this I mean you jump from stair to stair for the prescribe number of repetitions. You really can’t do this with a box which makes the stairs a better choice.

Another thing is I believe a hard surface works best when doing power development training. A harder surface gives you a better ground reaction force thus making you more powerful. Some trainers actually use sand training and I think this actually defeats the purpose of getting a forceful stretch-shortening reaction. Keep this in mind though as a hard surface can be hard on your joints. Stair work for power development should be done no more than 2 times a week. And if you are in season it should be done only once a week with very low volume or low level hops (1 or 2 steps at most) and a way to condition. Steve Cotter makes an excellent point in his talk on power development training: It’s like homeopathic medicine. You want a little bit of the poison so that you adapt to it and get stronger and more powerful. So only a little bit of power development training in stairs can go a long way. Just remember to work hard, be intense and don’t over do it! In fact our power development work in the stairs only takes up 15-25 minutes 1-2 times a week.

Stairs serve as excellent equipment for plyometric training for many reasons. You have steps which serve as indicators of improvement. When an athlete begins he/she may be able to hop up 1 step at a time. As the athlete improves they can hop up 2-3 or even 4 steps at a time showing marked improvement.

Actual plyometric training equipment can be very expensive and usually is not available to many athletes. This is not the case with stairs.

The next reason is because stairs are excellent for high end anaerobic conditioning and speed development. So what do I mean by high end conditioning. Simple: The conditioning that leaves you bent over and gasping for air. Getting in killer shape is important because jumping takes a lot of you. More importantly is that a great jump is just that a great jump. You want to also be able to have a great jump through out an entire basketball game. Don’t be the athlete that looks good in warm-ups when nothing is on the line. Be the athlete that can jump, block shots, get rebounds, dunk and make a difference in the 4th quarter.

On top of that is that running and hopping up stairs for conditioning will in fact improve strength and power. In fact even if you just adopt running up stairs for conditioning you’ll notice significant improvement in strength and power. The reason for this is because you are training to move your body against gravity and that inherently has a strength & power component. Even further is that in season you will want to curtail the heavy power development work because of all the jumping you are already doing. But you can still do the high end anaerobic conditioning (usually running up stairs) because it is time efficient and gives lots of bang for your buc (conditioning, strength & power).