Whether it’s a basketball slam-dunk, volleyball spike, soccer header or tennis jump serve, a vertical leap is a key skill for many athletes.

An improved vertical leap will help young athletes elevate for jump shots over opponents. Good jumping ability will also help them get their hands above the volleyball net for blocking shots. Heading a soccer ball is less dangerous when one child can get higher than another. And a jump serve helps create more racquet acceleration for a more powerful tennis serve.

You can help a young athlete improve his vertical leap with a variety of simple drills and exercises that can be done at home. Practice the following jumping activities three times each week and you’ll help your child score more points, serve more aces and block more shots.


Start your exercise sessions with a dynamic warmup (not static stretching). A dynamic warmup consists of moderately intense movements, such as jogging in place, skipping with the knees high and jumping jacks. Static stretching (stretch-and-hold) actually decreases power and vertical leap for up to 20 minutes and should be left until after any game, match or workout.

Vertical jump technique

To ensure your athlete gets the most power, be sure they practice their vertival jumping with proper technique.

1. Standing vertical jumps

At the start of your first session, have your child stand next to a wall with a piece of chalk in one hand and jump as high as they can, making a mark on the wall to show their maximum vertical leap. Re-test this every week to see how he is progressing. If you don’t want to write on the wall, use a piece of tape to mark his highest reach.

Practice vertical leaps each session by having your child stand with her feet about shoulder width apart, bending down, then jumping up as high as he can. Have him practice six of these jumps before moving to the next exercise.

2. Box jumps

Have your child stand in front of a stable box, bench, bleacher or other platform that’s about knee height. Have him jump onto the box with both feet and then jump off. Practice this for 30 seconds. Increase the height of the platform each week as his performance improves. Stand behind your child during the initial learning process in case he falls backward after the first jump or two.

3. Depth jumps

Reverse the box jump exercise by having your child start by standing on a box that’s about equal to his standing vertical jump. Have him jump off the box, land on both feet, and then jump up as high as he can as soon as his feet touch the ground. Practice this six times.

4. 1-2-3 jumps

If you can practice outdoors or in a room with some running area, have your child take two large walking or running steps, then jump as high as he can on the third step. Have him walk back and repeat. After repeating this exercise six times, have your child repeat the exercise, starting on the opposite foot.

5. Shock jumps

Similar to depth jumps, shock jumps require your child to stand on a box and then jump off. With this exercise, your child will try to “stick” a landing like a gymnast, jumping off the box and landing on the balls of his feet without moving after he lands. Practice this six times.

6. Jump squats

Have your child cross his arms in front of him, standing with his feet about shoulder width apart. Have him lower himself by bending his knees and moving his buttocks backward, keeping his back straight, eyes ahead and knees over his toes. When he gets into a sitting position, have him jump straight up. Practice this six times. Alternately, try jump squats, which consist of a lower squat and rhythmic jumps (video below).

7. Split squat jumps

Have your child start in a deep lunge. Have him forcefully jump up as high as he can switching legs in the air. Practice six times with each leg.

8. Box squats

Have your child sit on a box, then stand up quickly. Use hand heights, barbells or resistance bands, practicing very slowly the first time he uses any weights or resistance to avoid back strain or injury. Practice this six times.

9. Standing broad jumps

This is the Olympic exercise (also called a long jump) you see where athletes jump from a squatting position into a sand pit. You can do this on any flat surface, measuring your child’s results once each week to mark improvement. Practice this six times.

Post-workout stretching

Your jumping practice can consist of trying each exercise as one circuit of six reps, or repeat the circuits two or three times each. Once you’re done with your workout, have your child static stretch, performing a variety of lunges and other stretches for 20 to 30 seconds each.

RELATED: Explosive power: what it is, and how you train for it

Steve Milano

Steve Milano has been writing and lecturing on youth sports for more than 25 years. He ... View Full Bio

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