What Muscles Do You Use on the Vertical Jump?

There are several sports that require participants to spend a lot of time airborne. Physical activities such as basketball, volleyball, high jump and gymnastics test your athleticism and ability to propel yourself upward, which is why knowing the jumping muscles used is so critical for success.

The vertical jump uses muscles in your legs. (Image: PeopleImages/E+/GettyImages)

Tip

The vertical jump uses the muscles in your lower body, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. It also recruits the muscles in your core and upper body for power and stabilization.

What Is a Vertical Jump?

Some people call it a test of athleticism and skill, while others say it can determine how good you will be at certain sports. But the reality is, the vertical jump simply helps to determine how high you can elevate yourself off the ground. Since this move requires lower-body strength and explosive power, it is considered a plyometric exercise.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association defines plyometric training as a series of explosive bodyweight resistance exercises using the stretch-shortening cycle of the muscle fiber to enhance physical capacity such as speed, strength and power. Most plyometric exercises include jumping, such as the vertical jump, squat jumps, box jumps and plyo lunges.

Including vertical jump training in an overall fitness routine is beneficial to both athletes and recreational gym-goers. Since minimal equipment is needed, you can incorporate the vertical jump into any strength-training workout to increase your heart rate and burn calories between sets or include it in a skill-specific plyometric routine.

Jumping Muscles Used

Without a doubt, the main muscles used when you execute a vertical jump are the quads, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. To get a better idea of how each of these muscle groups contributes to the progression of the vertical jump, you can divide them by the action they perform. For example, the muscles used to extend the knee are the quadriceps.

The gluteus maximums and hamstrings are hip extensor muscles that extend the hip when you stand up straight. When you point your toes before leaving the ground, you perform a motion known as plantar flexion. This requires the calf muscles, which are your gastrocnemius and soleus, to come into play.

But it's not just the lower-body muscles that do all the work. In fact, the muscles in your upper body work with your lower body to propel you up and off the ground. While their contribution is minimal compared to the glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves, the muscles in your shoulders, arms, back and chest do play a role in how high you can go.

And last, but certainly not least, your core muscles will get a fantastic workout when performing the vertical jump. Since power, athleticism and coordination is required to perform this move successfully, you will need to rely on your core muscles to generate explosive power to propel you upward while keeping your form and technique tight.

Testing, Safety and Precautions

Knowing the proper progression of this plyometric move is key to performing it correctly. If you're wondering how high you can jump, talk with a personal trainer, strength coach, athletic trainer or physical therapist about getting tested.

The vertical jump test is a quick and straightforward assessment that experts use to determine how high you can reach your fingertips to touch a fixed object while bringing both feet off the ground.

When done in a facility, the expert testing you will likely use is an adjustable vertical jump flag that you reach and touch with your fingertips. They will adjust the flag up or down depending on how high you can propel yourself up. The flag has measurements on it that determine your vertical jump reach.

But before you start jumping, keep in mind that this is considered a high-impact activity. Since this move requires high force, the American Council on Exercise recommends novice exercisers avoid plyometric jumps until they have an established workout and strength routine.

That said, if you are at an advanced level, but you have chronic pain or issues with your knees, hips, ankles or feet, you should talk with your doctor or physical therapist prior to starting plyometric exercises.

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