HIGHER CALL­ING

Get your leap on and im­prove your ver­ti­cal with these moves and tech­niques.

Muscle & Performance - - Perform - BY MICHAEL BERG, NSCA-CPT

hen I was a kid, I wanted W to be like Mike: The ef­fort­less el­e­va­tion, the ma­jes­tic dunks, the iconic leap from the free-throw line to the bas­ket. A nick­name has never been so fit­ting as Air Jor­dan. Alas, it was not to be, and to­day I’m 5 feet 9 inches on a good day. As a recre­ational vol­ley­ball player, I strain for ev­ery inch when try­ing (mostly in vain) to get up over the net for the block. My ver­ti­cal is sadly much too hor­i­zon­tal.

That said, while I may for­ever look up at the six-foot­ers who pa­trol the front lines in my league, those of us who want to reach higher can do so — through the magic of ex­er­cise.

“To im­prove your ver­ti­cal leap, you need three things,” says Carla Sanchez, for­mer IFBB Fit­ness com­peti­tor and owner of Per­for­mance Ready Fit­ness Stu­dio in Lone Tree, Colorado. “You want to work on strong glutes, op­ti­mal hip ex­ten­sion and in­creased power.”

To ac­com­plish those goals, Sanchez sug­gests adding the fol­low­ing three com­po­nents to your reg­u­lar train­ing reg­i­men:

1) Stretch­ing

“If your hip flex­ors are tight, your glutes can’t fully ac­ti­vate, which means you’re not get­ting full hip ex­ten­sion,” Sanchez ex­plains. Ver­ti­cal Rx: Af­ter warm­ing up, do a hip flexor stretch. Get into a wide lunge with your back knee on the floor and your front foot over your heel, torso erect. Tuck your pelvis un­der and press your hips for­ward and hold 30 sec­onds on both legs.

2) Glute Strength

“Heavy back squats done be­low par­al­lel have been shown in re­search to be the best ex­er­cise for im­prov­ing ver­ti­cal leap,” Sanchez says. “Hip thrusts are also good for strength­en­ing the glutes and max­i­miz­ing hip ex­ten­sion.” Ver­ti­cal Rx: Per­form a bodyweight hip thrust once or twice per week, and pro­gram back squats first or sec­ond in your leg work­out when you’re at your strong­est.

3) Lower-body Power

“Olympic lifts, specif­i­cally power cleans and hang cleans, are ex­cel­lent for over­all lower-body power and ex­plo­sive­ness,” Sanchez ex­plains. “If you’re not fa­mil­iar with them, work with a strength coach to learn how to prop­erly ex­e­cute the lifts and how to de­sign a pe­ri­odized pro­gram for your par­tic­u­lar goals.” Ver­ti­cal Rx: Add an Olympic lift­ing day once a week, or insert the lifts in­di­vid­u­ally — clean and jerk, snatch, power clean and hang clean — into var­i­ous work­outs through­out the week. 

BAR­BELL BACK SQUAT: ptand with your feet shoul­der-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hold a bar across your up­per back, el­bows down. qhrust your hips back and bend your knees slowly, keep­ing your chest lifted. aescend un­til your hip crease comes be­low your knees or lower while main­tain­ing the nat­u­ral arch in your lower back. arive force­fully through your heels and ex­tend your legs and hips to re­turn to stand­ing.

BENCH HIP THRUST: Po­si­tion your shoul­der blades and up­per back across a flat bench and ex­tend your arms along the bench at your sides for bal­ance. vour feet should be flat on the floor, knees over your an­kles. 'rive your heels into the floor and lift your hips to align with your shoul­ders and knees, squeez­ing your glutes hard at the top be­fore low­er­ing back down.

POWER CLEAN: ptand be­hind a bar­bell so your shins are touch­ing the bar, feet hip-width apart. With your back flat, bend at the hips and knees to take an over­hand grip on the bar­bell just out­side shoul­der width, chest for­ward. heep your back straight as you lift the bar up­ward, ex­tend­ing your knees and hips at the same rate. Con­tinue lift­ing as you stand, shrug­ging and com­ing up onto your toes as the bar reaches chest height, then bend your knees and quickly drop down, flip­ping your el­bows un­der the bar and catch­ing it in the rack po­si­tion across your shoul­ders and up­per chest. oe­v­erse the steps to re­turn to the start.

HANG CLEAN: eold a bar­bell with an over­hand grip at mid-thigh, feet set just out­side shoul­der width. vour back should be straight and torso in­clined for­ward slightly. bx­tend your knees and press your hips for­ward as you pull the bar up­ward, shrug­ging as it comes to chest height, then drop­ping down and flip­ping your el­bows un­der­neath so the bar lands in the rack po­si­tion across your shoul­ders and up­per chest. bx­tend your legs, then re­verse the steps to re­turn to the start.

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