Over the past couple of years (basically since I started this blog) I’ve gotten a lot of questions about whether it’s better to use high reps or low reps when training your vertical jump. It’s amazing how much misinformation is out there about this topic, so hopefully I can help set the record straight. In short, I’m going to be emphasizing the importance of quality vs quantity. You can probably see where this is going…
I’ve used several vertical jump programs that employ the proper use of repetition ranges to add inches to your jump. I’ve also used some other programs that have pointed me in the wrong direction. The programs I’m talking about are the ones like Air Alert, for example. I’m not here to bash programs, but I want to explain why this methodology is incorrect and why you need to avoid high volume training. By high volume I mean anything over 30 reps. Some programs such as AA ask you to do over 1000 reps of an exercise! I’m going to explain why performing such high numbers of reps is a bad thing when training your vertical jump.
Endurance vs Explosion
One of the main problems with doing high numbers of repetitions is that you’re basically training your endurance rather than your explosion. This greatly decreases your ability to improve your vertical jump since you really need to be focusing on explosive movements if you want to jump higher. After all, the key to being an incredible jumper is becoming incredibly explosive. I’m not trying to say that endurance is a bad thing since you’ll definitely need it when you’re out on the court or field. However, if you really want to become a more powerful, higher-jumping athlete you need to train each exercise as explosively as possible.
When you really think about what a vertical jump is, you’ll realize that it is basically one powerful movement. Endurance really has nothing to do with being able to propel your body high into the air. Sure, it will help you in 4th quarter when you need to finish out a game, but it’s definitely not going to allow you to dunk over your opponents. If you don’t train explosively and with intensity you’ll never reach your vertical jump goals.
Quality vs Quantity
I know a lot of people talk about this, but not many people actually pay full attention to it. When it comes to improving vertical jump it’s all about quality. It doesn’t matter if you do 10,000 reps of an exercise and feel like you had a tremendous workout, because in reality your body isn’t developing anymore power or strength than it had before. In fact, at this point you’re seriously overtraining and doing more harm than good.
A serious, quality workout will consist of fewer reps at a higher intensity for each rep. With this setup you’ll be training your body to jump a lot higher rather than a lot longer. Your opponents aren’t going to be intimidated if you can do 1,000 ankle bounces. However, they will be intimidated if you can touch your elbow on the rim or jump 2 feet higher than them and intercept a pass. If you want to jump higher, you have to train like you mean it. Don’t just get into the gym and run through your exercises like it’s a boring 9-5 job. You have to take it seriously, and this means training like you actually want to jump higher by emphasizing the quality aspect of your workout rather than the quantity.
Emphasis on Proper Form
If you’re performing 1,000 reps of an exercise you’re going to seriously hurt your form. I remember trying to do 1,000 reps of the standing calf raise back in high school and by the time I got to about 300 my legs were so burnt out that I could hardly stand up straight. At this point I was sacrificing proper form just so I could get through the exercise. I thought that if I could just push through the reps and get it over with I’d be on my way to a 50 inch vertical. However, this is so far from the truth I can’t even begin to imagine why I tried to do stuff like that.
If you’re currently going through the motions for each exercise just to say you did it, you’re going about your training with the wrong attitude and approach. Each exercise should be performed with the best form you can muster. If this means you can only do 5 reps of an exercise with strict form, then that’s fine. Just focus on working your way up to higher reps, but don’t sacrifice good form just so you can say you did more repetitions. You’ll only be cheating yourself out of the potential gains you could have seen if only you had focused on the quality of each exercise.
I hope this article has helped clear up the difference between using high reps vs low reps and why you need to focus on low reps for vertical jump training. Some of you might have seen some initial success from using high rep routines, but this success usually plateaus rather quickly. If you want to take your jumping ability to the next level you need to focus on proper form, explosiveness, and the overall quality of your workout. This is achieved by utilizing lower reps to ensure that you’re not just training your endurance.
All of this information is based on my personal experiences as well as information I’ve learned from people like Jacob Hiller (jumpmanual.com) and Jack Woodrup over at verticaljumping.com. If you have any thoughts, comments, or questions please leave them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!