The Top 10 Mistakes When Training For Vertical Jump

Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when training or vertical jump. You will find each mistake represented by a common personality associated with each mistake.

The All or Nothing Guy: If you go to any health club at the beginning of each year you’ll see an entire gym full of all or nothing types. The first couple of weeks they're full of motivation and energy, but as soon as they get overly fatigued from their overly intensive training schedule and rabbit food diet they fall off the wagon and you won't see them again until the next year. Their problem is they are overly extreme in their approach.

Plenty of all or nothing types choose vertical jump training as their endeavor of choice. The prime characteristic of the all or nothing type is they will have many occasions over a period of time where they embark on a rigorous program only to stop a few weeks later. Instead of taking small steps and starting out with a program they can handle, they take on a program that might work for a pro athlete with 15 years of experience and invariably burn themselves out inside of 3 weeks.

It takes 21 days to form a new habit and make training something you do unconsciously. Thus, it's much more effective to take small steps that you can easily incorporate rather than make complete lifestyle overhauls that you may or may not be able to keep up with. Instead of going from zero hours of activity per week to 10 hours a week of activity start with an hour every other day.

Many people also have the mindset that the slightest slip up or a single missed workout will prevent them from success. They miss one workout and freak out and proceed to miss the next 2 weeks. The reality is life happens sometimes. If you fall off the wagon dust yourself off and get right back on.

The Program Hopper: This cat jumps from program to program following each gimmick that comes along. He often does train semi-consistently but without any rhyme, reason, or any emphasis on following any established principles with quality work. He thinks he can train for a month, increase his vert by 10 inches, move on to the next gimmick, and increase another 10 inches. He’s the type of guy that will special order a jump squat machine for use in his basement. He'll train on it for a while but inside of a month he'll have given that up and will be out running with a parachute. The next month he'll be using some electronic gadget, the next month might be rubber bands, and the following month he'll be fooling with a high priced EMS unit. He might get lucky and stumble upon something that actually gives him some results. When he does he will absolutely swear by it.

There are quite a few training methods, but only a few basic principles all successful effective vertical jump protocols share in common. You should learn how to "train" and not just "do programs". Make training a part of what you do and not just haphazardly do something for 6 weeks before moving on to the next magical gimmick.

The Overanalyzer: Although many people have a problem with not doing enough thinking, there is another group of people who have the opposite problem. Overanalyzers tend to be book smart and their natural tendency is to dig into minutia. They tend to live in books and theories rather than the real world and common sense. They will spend 98% of their energy worrying about things that might only give them 2% of the results. A typical overanalyzer who wants to get stronger will think they need to be doing specific exercises for eccentric strength, concentric strength, and isometric strength, failing to see how powerlifters get strong incorporating regular full range movements that naturally incorporate all 3. They do this with just about everything. Their main problem is failing to see the big picture.

Honestly, few, if any, revolutionary training methods have taken place in the training world in 40 years. The majority of “Russian Secrets” we all hear about have been around since the 70's. Just because we now have high tech equipment that can determine the precise point on a force velocity curve that maximum power out put occurs doesn’t change the human response to various training methods. They can all be narrowed down to getting stronger, expressing strength better, or moving better. Lift heavy to get strong. Perform rapid exercises like jump squats, Olympic lifts, and plyometrics to express strength quicker, and perform your sport specific movements, various other drills, as well as complementary work like stretching to move better. Some overanalyzers will eventually recognize their overthinking and begin to simplify things and make gains. The reality is training is not rocket science.

The Navy Seal: This guy tries to turn every workout into an all out pukefest. His mantra is you’re not training hard unless your muscles are about to fall off at the end of your workout. The Navy Seal wants and expects to leave each workout utterly exhausted. Anything less is not real training. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to break a Navy Seal of his intense need for pain and torture. They can make progress, but the inherent slow pace characteristic of pure proper speed-strength training tends not to satisfy their urge for blood, sweat, and tears.

The truth is, training in a state of exhaustion offers few positives. Many people turn plyometric workouts into conditioning workouts with endless repetitions. You can train often but you need to stay fresh. Treat each set like you’re being evaluated on your performance. One of the things athletes with a boot camp background often tell me is that when they're doing proper power training they don't feel like they're really working out. It's about quality of effort not volume of effort. Think what you would do if you were gonna go out and establish a maximal single jump, a sprint, a bench press or throw. It really wouldn’t even feel like a "workout". You'd go out and get loose and then do maximal effort jumps with lots of rest in between efforts. This is basically what proper vertical jump training workouts are like. Weights should be lifted for fairly low reps with either high load or high speed and enough recovery between sets so that you can put forth a high quality effort. Plyometrics and sprints should be performed over short distances with full recovery with an emphasis on performing at 90% of your best each and every set. If you're used to running around to the point of exhaustion this may feel lazy. But this is about QUALITY of effort, not VOLUME of effort. If you want to feel worn out each session take up something like marathon running.

The Overtrainer: The overtrainer can often be mistaken for the Navy Seal, the main difference is the overtrainer can and often does train correctly and is usually willing to make positive changes. He tends to be a very dedicated overachiever and for that reason alone he often tends to do too much and is averse to giving his body a break. He’s the type who works on his game 2 hours per day 7 days per week. The overtrainer rarely takes days off. It’s not uncommon for him to go an entire year without a training break. When you add up the weekly volume of the overtrainer he will often be training with enough volume for 3 people. Overtrainers are often some of the easiest athletes to work with simply because there dedication and desire for progress is so immense. When the overtrainer wises up and allows his body to recover he will usually be handsomely rewarded.

There is this myth that simply doing more and more will get you better and better results. The media likes to give the impression that you can get superior results by simply doing more than the other guy. If you’re training an hour a day and topped out bump it up to 2 hours. If that doesn’t work bump it up to 3 hours. If that still doesn’t work bump it up to 4 hours. If that doesn’t work go 5 hours. This is all well and good and is somewhat true if we're talking about acquiring skills - the more you practice your jump shot the better your jump shot is gonna get. But this is not true when it comes to sports training and actually improving motor skills. You don't necessarily get better results training harder with more and more volume, you get better results training smarter with higher quality training.

The Plyo King: This guy loves his plyos but folds like a tin can when faced with the prospect of a productive squat workout. This guy tends to have some of the same characteristics as the Navy Seal and overtrainer but he seems to have a REALLY low pain threshold and simply doesn’t like strength training. I don’t know if it’s a physical or a mental thing but some strength coaches actually shy away from taking basketball players on as clients due to this reason. The plyo king will have no trouble spending hour upon hour on the court working on his skills or engaging in various plyo drills, but proper strength work is repulsive for him. The key for a plyo king is to make sure he has a good supporting cast around him. He can train effectively if he has a group of people to train with or a coach who can motivate him. Left to his own devices he struggles conjuring up the intestinal fortitude to get it done in the weight room. Interestingly enough, I have seen few girls of this type. Many girls will put guys to shame in the training department.

Big Tex: Most athletes go wrong in that they don’t do enough strength training. This guy has the opposite problem. Big Tex is strong, tough, and proud of it. He has strength that rivals that of powerlifters but he has a love affair with the squat rack and will have a big time aversion towards getting away from it more than a few days at a time.

Strength training boosts up your ability to jump but in order to fully express that ability you SOMETIMES need to cut back on the heavy loading for a while. Nothing stimulates all the muscle fibers in your legs like performing a full squat. However, that stimulation can sometimes induce a chronic low grade state of fatigue in your legs. That fatigue can mask explosiveness. This isn’t usually much of an issue for a guy squatting 200 pounds, but if you're in the 2x BW squat range it can be an issue. After several weeks or months of consistent strength work it often helps to back off on it and engage in more explosive work in order to fully display the explosiveness you’ve gained.

The "What have you done for me lately" guy: This guy evaluates every aspect of training by what it’s doing for him right now. He expects every single training session to be the ultimate “secret.” In an effort to shed 30 pounds this guy might switch to eating 1 egg and 1 apple for breakfast in addition to jogging 20 minutes every other day. Upon shedding 30 pounds and noting an increase in jump height, he would credit the combination of jogging and a breakfast of an egg and apple to be the ultimate vertical jump training secret. He fails to see the value of a properly planned training program and the value of building a foundation.

I knew a guy who lifted hard for 3 months and increased his strength substantially but his vert hadn’t improved that much. So he cut back and began doing more plyos. Within 3 weeks his vert shot up 4 inches. Logically, being a "what have you done for me lately" type of guy, he thinks strength training was a waste of time and plyos are magical. What he failed to realize is that his gains actually came from the strength work – he simply needed to allow his legs to recover a bit and express his newfound strength. Strength work increases your foundation and builds potential horsepower. Plyometrics and other explosive training methods help you express that horsepower better. Plyometric work brings gains quickly and levels off just as quickly. In contrast, increases in strength take longer.

The Husband (or Wife): This guy is married to training and lets it rule his life. He’s like a guy married to an overbearing wife, - eventually he has to get away. The only problem is it’s entirely his fault. These people will spend 20 hours a day obsessing over things related to training. They will find it about impossible to follow any given program for more than 2 weeks before they make wholesale changes. Most will eventually end up quitting because they feel that their athletic pursuit is ruling their life. A common report from this type is something along the lines of, "I just don't have the time or energy to devout to training anymore so I am going back to a normal lifestyle. Even though they may have only been training 4 or 5 hours per week, in their mind they were doing it 100 hours per week.

The Worry-Wort: This is the guy who worries that squats are going to stunt his growth, worries that any sort of anaerobic training will make his heart explode, or that creatine is going to make him grow a 3rd testicle. Rest assured he will soon know about any other outrageous myths tossed around in the training world. He is also the type that will ditch a routine after one bad workout and is extremely paranoid about very miniscule details of his workout. He “wants” to do everything perfect. If a routine calls for 4 sets of 5 reps and he got 5 reps on the first 2 sets and only 3 reps on the last 2 he’ll want to come back the next day to make up for the missed reps. His biggest fault seems to be an inability to step back, relax, and use common sense.

The Talker: The talker really doesn’t represent any bad habits common athletes have, but he does often misinform them. This is the guy who takes a half truth, blows it up about 10 fold, adds his own little unique twist to it, and repeats it to anyone who will listen. Invariably, these guys seem to be attracted to hanging out around gyms. They typically love to socialize. As long as you don’t call them out on their bull they always have a lot of interesting stories to tell. Just yesterday I heard a talker tell me that he had to spend 30 minutes per day in the sauna to “sweat off” all that creatine induced water weight to reduce the strain from it on his kidneys. Last week I hear another talker try to tell me that he was a coach for the armed forces Olympic team and that some of their shotputters could high jump 8 feet. The majority of stuff the general public thinks about vertical jump can be credited to the combination of talkers and gimmicks. It’s generally not a good idea to listen to these folks and for god sakes please don’t become one.

Doctor Von Keiser:A close cousin of the overanalyzer, this guy can quote Russian Secret training books word for word and isn’t shy about letting you know how much he knows or what he would do in any given training situation. A few Von Keiser’s are actual coaches which gives them a legitimate reason for their apparent knowledge on the topic, however, many of them don’t have any aspirations of coaching they simply like to give advice and let everyone know how much they know. If you didn’t know better you might think this guy was a Soviet sports science researcher. The problem with the Van Keiser’s of the world is they usually spend all their time learning about training and not actually training. Because of that, they can make opening a door seem more complicated than an advanced calculus equation. Dr. Von Keiser has the same problem as the overanlyzer in that he learns so much that he often ends up hurting and overcomplicating training for both himself and others. You may actually get where you want to be listening to the Von Keiser’s of the world, but chances are you’re going to have to go through a lot of royal confusion to do so.

The Functional Trainer: The functional trainer attempts to turn every training session into a rehab session any physical therapist would be proud of. His maxim is you can never be too balanced, too mobile, have tissue that is too good, or be too prepared for the inevitable injury. The functional guy loves to study anatomy, movement, and stretching books and it'll often take him 45 minutes just to warm-up for a workout. Some of these types take it to such an extreme that their entire workout ends up looking like something that might be appropriate for someone involved in the circus.

There is nothing wrong with prehab and the like when it's done in balance with solid basic programming. Ten minutes of mobility, foam rolling, muscle activation and a couple of prehab movements each workout is fine, just don't forget that training is about getting stronger and more explosive and don't think you're going to get that spending your entire workout on a swiss ball using movements from a rehab textbook.

The reality is improper activation patterns and muscle balances among average folks are often overblown by people who are used to looking at people with chronic injuries. If you have pain or think you may have major movement impairment issues don't try to train through them, but it's best to get yourself evaluated by someone qualified to do the evaluation.


I know this was article was supposed to be about the top 10 mistakes when training for vertical jump, but in case you didn't notice, I overshot the original number by 3, so you're left with 13. You might see yourself in some of these people or maybe many of them. If so, it’s not too late to get on the right track. Read the information on this site and take a look at my Vertical Jump Bible and NO Bull Speed Development Manual

Remember, methods are many principles are few. Don’t get distracted off your path.