“Don’t lift weights! It’s only gonna make you slower and throw your game off!”
Ah yes! How many times have you heard that one before? If you’re like me and you do any sort of weight training while playing sports at the same time, you’ve probably heard something similar from your teammates and friends. Maybe even from your coach!
So then, is it true? When it comes to weight training for vertical jump, is it a good or bad thing? Does weight training HELP or HURT your vertical jump? These are some of the same questions I had swirling in my head in my early days of training. Besides, everyone knew that to jump higher you needed to perform countless ankle jumps, step-up jumps, and other plyometrics. Duh! Right?
The truth is, weight training is NOT bad for your vertical jump, nor does it slow you down. In fact, it’s a crucial component of any vertical jump training regimen and will go a long way in helping you gain inches in your vertical… as long as it’s done right, of course!
So why should you do it?
1 – It’s All Part of the Vertical Jump “Formula”
Vertical Jump (and athleticism in general) is measured by the product of two factors: speed and strength. You have to have great strength AND be able to apply it fast. Think of a motorcycle as an example: A fast motorcycle packs two important factors, speed (lightweight body) and strength (powerful engine). These two factors combined make for a blazing fast machine. Same thing goes for our bodies: we need both speed and strength! So in order to gain strength, you need to train for it!
2 – “Bodybuilding” vs “Strength Training”
Keep in mind that strength training and bodybuilding are not the same thing. Bodybuilding programs (hypertrophy) are designed to do just that – build your body! Unfortunately, most programs are based on bodybuilding. You add weight (hopefully most of that weight is muscle), but this is NOT the goal of an athlete who is trying to jump higher. This is the type of weight training that will slow you down and have negative results on your vertical. It is also the type of training that most people immediately think of when they hear it. This will negatively slow you down, and that’s not what you want.
Weight training, on the other hand, is about increasing STRENGTH (not necessarily size) that is useful for athletic performance and a higher jump. This is what we want. Sure, you will gain some size as you do this type of program, but this is usually lean muscle mass that will make you stronger and tighter – perfect ingredients to increase vertical jump!
3 – Good news!
Your greatest potential for raising your vertical jump lies in strength! As we have already mentioned, vertical jump comes down to two important variables: SPEED and STRENGTH. And while both of these are crucial, strength has the MOST room for improvement. Our limit to increase our speed is lower than our limit to increase strength. What exactly does this mean? It means that while we may be genetically limited to significantly increase speed, we can make up for these limitations by increasing strength! That’s nothing but good news, if you ask me!
4 – A Word on Bodyweight Strength Training
Personally, I think using only bodyweight is GREAT and has several benefits that don’t come with weight training. For example, I prefer to train using bodyweight when I’m recovering from an injury. I also prefer to use it for endurance types of exercises (such as static holds), which can be dangerous if done with weights. It’s also great for when I’m traveling, as it allows me to stay in shape without the inconvenience of carrying weights. So yes, you WILL gain strength just by using your bodyweight, but…
You’re putting a cap on your own potential! Bodyweight will only get you so far. Eventually, you will want to start lifting weights so you can significantly increase strength and break through your strength “plateau.” Don’t limit yourself!
5 – Used by Professional Athletes
Professional athletes nowadays are much more stronger and bigger while also managing to be faster than ever before! The pros in FIFA, NBA, NFL, NHL – you name it – realize the benefit that weight training has on their performance. Believe it or not, Michael Jordan didn’t lift weights until mid-way through his NBA career because of the age-old fear and misconception that weight lifting would his ruin his game. Instead, he was able to use this type of training and come back faster, stronger, and more lethal than ever before. Now every serious athlete lifts weights.
So, as you can see, the correct method of weight training is very important for increasing vertical jump and athleticism. After many years of experience, it remains to be MY main focus because I know that this is what’s giving me the most results. Just make sure that you’re lifting weights for strength, not size!
To find out more on HOW to lift weights for vertical jump training, check my post on Weight Training for Vertical Jump.
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