Most athletes dream of having a 40-inch vertical leap that would enable them to spring from the ground and fly through the air like slam dunk champ Nate Robinson. When football players arrive at the NFL Combine in February, their vertical leaps will be measured, which might seem odd given that football is played mostly on the ground.
But for the most part, NFL scouts aren’t looking to see which players can jump the highest, though such a skill comes in handy for wide receivers, as well as for linemen looking to bat down passes, punts, and kicks. Instead, scouts are trying to determine the explosion and power players can generate from their lower bodies, which applies to any football position, as well as any athletic endeavor or everyday life.
“Jumping higher is not the concern so much as it is having muscles that stay really springy, protecting yourself from injury and making you more efficient at everything else you do,” says Athletes’ Performance founder Mark Verstegen.
If you’re ever called upon to perform a vertical jump, consider the advice of LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith: “The key is getting everything from your heels through your glutes firing,” he says. “Get a nice bend in your knees and explode as hard as you can through your heels and glutes.”
Here are a few drills to improve your explosiveness, and bring you closer to slam dunking in the process:
1. OVERHEAD SQUAT
This training staple is one of the best at generating explosive power. “When you think of what makes an athlete, the glutes and the hamstrings, the overhead squat is the best exercise in the weight room,” says Andy Barnett, who trains combine athletes at Athletes’ Performance in Gulf Breeze, Fla.. “Whether it’s with dumbbells or a light bar, you get great bang for your buck.”
2. SQUAT JUMP
Squats jumps and other “elasticity” exercises create explosive power in your hips and legs. Here’s how it works: Sit your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Your back is erect, tummy tight. Jump, exploding from the glutes and quads. Extend your ankles, knees, and hips in a straight line and land in an athletic position.
3. LATERAL BOUND
Another staple in Core Performance programs, the lateral bound will help you move more explosively from side to side. Squat slightly with your right leg, then use your leg and glutes to jump laterally. Extend your ankle, knee, and hip and land on the opposite leg only, maintaining your balance. Repeat to the other side. Hold for a three count on each side.