When trying to improve your jump, it's easy to overlook stretching while focusing all your attention on strength and power exercises. A recent study by researchers at the Department of Physical Therapy at Wichita State University looked at the effects of stretching on the vertical jump performance of 34 adult males. The study found that performing dynamic stretches before jumping will improve your performance.
Dynamic stretching exercises stretch your muscles through slow and controlled movements, as opposed to static stretching where you hold a fixed position for an interval of time. Performing dynamic stretches for the muscles and joints utilized in jumping can improve mobility, flexibility, coordination and strength.
The scorpion stretch improves the mobility of your hip flexors while releasing tension in your lower back. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended out to your sides and your palms against the floor. Rest the right side of your head on the floor, and slowly lift your right leg off the ground. Carefully move the leg across your body behind you, placing your foot as close to the opposite hand as possible. Pull your knee toward the ceiling and exhale, deepening the stretch. Switch sides to stretch the left hip.
Ankle rolls loosen the ligaments in your feet and ankles so you can fully extend them during your jump. Stand with your feet hip-width apart on a soft surface. Slowly roll your right foot away from your body while keeping your heel on the ground. Continue to roll your ankle counterclockwise, curling your toes under your foot as you move. Lift your heel off the ground as you push off your toes to stretch out your foot. Finish by slowly lowering the heel back to the ground. Repeat with the left foot.
Leg Muscle Stretches
Stretch the muscles of your calves, hamstrings, glutes and quadriceps with walking knee lifts, lunges and straight-leg kicks. To perform knee lifts, drive your knee up as far as possible as you step forward while lifting your torso up onto the ball of your opposing foot. For lunges, take long steps and lower your hips until your front knee bends at a 90-degree angle for each step. To perform straight-leg kicks, hold your arms out in front of you, and keep your leg straight as you try to touch your toes to the opposite hand for each step.
Always warm up for five to ten minutes before stretching to prevent injury. The stretches should create tension in the muscles and joints but not pain. If you experience pain, stop the stretch immediately. Dynamic stretches involve movement, so you may be tempted to bounce in and out of the stretch, but doing so can cause muscle tension and injury. Perform each stretch at a slow and controlled pace.