Being able to jump really high is one of the most sought after characteristics of elite level volleyball players.
At the highest level, volleyball is played way above the net. The most valuable players are usually taller, jump higher, and hit harder.
Being able to jump high in volleyball requires mastering technique, smart strength and conditioning, and a lot of consistent training over a number of years.
In this article I’m going to break down exactly what it takes to jump higher specifically for the sport of volleyball as well as give you some timeless vertical jump training advice.
We’ll also take a look at some of the best exercises you should be doing to increase your vertical jump for volleyball.
Do Volleyball Players Need To Jump High?
When we’re talking about middle blockers and wing hitters, the most sought after prospects are usually the athletes with really big spike heights.
Spike Height Is Extremely Valuable In Volleyball
Your spike height (AKA spike reach or spike touch) is your standing reach + your running vertical jump.
Basically, it’s the highest point at which you could feasibly spike a volleyball.
An athlete who has a superior spike height can,
- Spike a volleyball over the top of a block
- Attack the court with a wider range of angles
- Tool the ball off blocks with more success
- Jump serve more aces
- Get more kills
And the list goes on.
A player with a strong spike height will probably have a pretty high block jump as well, which means they’ll typically earn more stuff blocks and be a more valuable defender too.
An outside hitter with a 360cm spike reach is simply a lot more valuable than the equivalent athlete with a 340cm spike reach.
The former athlete will typically land more lucrative contracts or be recruited by more prestigious schools and clubs.
Volleyball Scouts Want Players Who Can Jump!
Years back, when I was training on the national team squad, we were told that one of the main things coaches were looking for in younger athletes was jumping ability.
As a result, it was something we worked very hard on in the gym.
Every time we stepped into the weight room, it was with the intention of improving our vertical jump.
Why I’m Qualified To Give Vertical Jump Advice To Volleyballers
I trained full time for 4 years in a national level elite volleyball development academy where our coaches made it very clear that our primary objective for strength and conditioning sessions was to increase our jumping ability.
I worked with some top strength coaches and exercise physiologists who specialized in vertical jump training and I was able to attain a 344cm spike reach (35″ vertical jump) at age 17.
I also have another blog called Jump Stronger where I have written extensively about vertical jump training!
So I’m just going to dive in and start discussing some things that I am positive will get you results.
1. Master The Volleyball Jump Technique
This is particularly important for younger players (anyone under the age of 20). All the time I see volleyballers with very poor understanding of how to jump.
And it’s not their fault.
Few coaches understand the biomechanics of efficient jumping and so it doesn’t get taught much.
The fastest way to increase your vertical jump in volleyball is to master the biomechanics of the two foot approach jump.
Below are the focus points you should constantly be thinking of when jumping in volleyball.
As you’re coming into the jump, you need to maintain a consistent acceleration that is smooth.
Try not to speed up or slow down too much as you push into your penultimate stride.
The best jumpers typically have quite a long penultimate stride where they’re covering quite a bit of horizontal distance.
You want to push out and into your penultimate stride to help generate force.
The key here is to punch your block foot down aggressively to help convert that horizontal momentum from the penultimate into vertical force.
Your torso needs to stay relatively upright throughout the entire movement.
Avoid creating excessive hip flexion or diving forward during the approach. This is really common especially in younger athletes and is a major cause of leaked energy.
Fixing this will often instantly increase your vertical jump.
Neutral Head & Neck
Quite often when coming into the plant sequence, volleyballers will hinge their neck back to look upwards and spot the ball.
This causes compression of the cervical vertebrae and reduces the power you can generate in your arm swing. So avoid cocking your head back too much.
Film Yourself Jumping
If you’re able to identify one or two tiny mistakes in your biomechanics, they can usually be fixed pretty quickly and you’ll immediately start jumping higher when playing volleyball!
2. To Jump Higher In Volleyball, You Need To Get Strong
The science of improving your vertical jump is actually pretty simple…
What it comes down to is horsepower X explosiveness.
The horsepower side of the equation refers to the total amount of force you can produce (mainly with your legs).
The Science Is Very Clear: Get Stronger!
The effects of weight training on vertical jump performance are extremely well documented.
One study measured participants vertical jumps before an eight week training program involving barbell back squats and then again after the program.
The squat training group exhibited a statistically significant increase in jump performance in squat jump (12.4%) and countermovement jump (12.0%).1https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26439782/#:~:text=The%20SQ%20exhibited%20a%20statistically,3.5%25%20and%20CMJ%200.5%25.
You simply need to be lifting weights consistently to increase your strength over time and to increase this vital aspect of the vertical jump.
There are numerous ways you can go about doing this, however the squat is considered to be the most effective exercise in developing lower body strength that converts really well to the vertical jump.
More on vertical jump exercises later.
3. To Increase Your Vertical, Do Volleyball Specific Plyometrics
Above we discussed the aspect of horsepower, which is about maximizing force production. The second half of the equation is about explosiveness or rate of force development (RFD).
This is about training your central nervous system to effectively recruit and utilize that increased muscular strength for the volleyball specific movement of the vertical jump.
There’s plenty of ways to do this but we typically separate these movements into power movements and then plyometrics or pure bodyweight reactive movements.
These movements are somewhere in the middle ground between being strength exercises and speed exercises.
Think barbell jump squats, medicine ball tosses, and power cleans.
These exercises involve relatively light amounts of weight and the goal is to move said weight as quickly as possible.
Power exercises are some of the most effective ways to start training your CNS to better make use of that increased strength for powerful and explosive movements like jumping on court.
The second group of RFD exercises is plyometrics. These are the pure explosive movements that best replicate the vertical jump.
We’re typically not using any additional resistance when performing these exercises.
In this category you have depth jumps, depth drops, bounding, split squat jumps, etc.
The list of plyometrics is virtually endless.
The role of these exercises is to build upon that base of strength and power you’ve created by expressing it as quickly and explosively as possible.
These movements have a big focus on speed and reactivity.
Also worth noting, if you’re only ever jumping with a barbell or weight vest on your back (i.e. doing power movements), your body doesn’t get a chance to properly adjust to your ‘real world jump parameters’ as well as it should.
Since plyometrics are bodyweight only, they’re helping you coordinate your body under real world jumping conditions.
Don’t Neglect Unilateral Movements
With the exception of some middle blocker plays in women’s volleyball, almost all the jumping done in volleyball is bilateral (meaning off two feet).
But that doesn’t mean you should never do unilateral exercises such as the Bulgarian split squat or single leg bounding.
In fact some studies have shown that unilateral plyometrics were able to increase bilateral vertical jump more effectively than their bilateral equivalents!2https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51791886_Effects_of_Unilateral_and_Bilateral_Plyometric_Training_on_Power_and_Jumping_Ability_in_Women
These exercises are also important when it comes to preventing muscle imbalances and can also be a great way to give your legs a unique training stimulus as opposed to just doing squats all day.
4. Volleyballers Need To Be Lean To Jump High
If you look at the top outside and opposite hitters in the world, or at least the ones who can jump exceptionally high, they’re almost always extremely lean.
Fat don’t fly!
Body fat is non-functional mass. If you’re carrying around 10lbs of extra fat, that’s the equivalent of trying to spike a volleyball wearing a weight vest…
For men, you should shoot for 10% bodyfat. If you can get slightly under that, even better. Women should shoot for sub 20% bodyfat.
If you simply focus on perfecting your jump technique, getting stronger, doing smart plyometrics, and staying lean, you’ll be jumping higher in absolutely no time!
How To Jump Higher In Beach Volleyball
For those athletes who play more beach than indoor, the major difference when jumping on the sand is that you don’t get to use as much horizontal momentum as you do on the hard court.
To jump on the sand you need to focus more on jumping straight up and down.
Because the spike jump on the beach looks a lot more like a block jump on an indoor court, beach players need to focus more on strength and power development as opposed to reactive strength.
You need to ‘bounce’ into your approach, hit the sand with both feet at the same time, get a much deeper knee bend, and jump upwards with both feet leaving the ground at the same time.
Focus More On Strength & Quad Development
As such, beach players will benefit more from doing heavy squats and less from depth jumps.
When extra knee extension is involved, as it is on the beach, having strong quads becomes really important.
The ground contact time when jumping on the beach is much, much longer than on an indoor court, because this allows us to properly dig into the sand to transfer as much force into the ground as efficiently as possible.
Get Plenty Of Time On The Beach
Beach players also need to practice jumping on the beach as much as possible.
This helps condition your feet and ankles and allows your muscles and tendons to adjust to this very unique jumping environment.
Best Exercises To Jump Higher In Volleyball
I’m going to give a few examples of each of the best exercises volleyball players should be doing to increase their vertical jump.
Each of these exercises were regularly prescribed to athletes in the national elite volleyball development program from top level strength and conditioning coaches.
Why? Because they work.
Barbell Back Squat
The back squat is quite simply the most effective general purpose lower body strengthening exercise.
It’s also highly effective at increasing vertical jump due to the manner in which it mimics triple extension.
Back Squats Should Be Your Strength Backbone
You should definitely focus your strength workouts around this exercise if you’re able to perform them with decent enough form and little discomfort.
Generally speaking you want to keep the number of reps fairly low when training for strength, so something like 5×5 works really well for back squats.
Med Ball Toss
The medicine ball toss is so simple and effective and can be done with really any weight you’re happy to throw around.
The idea is to bend down and explode upwards using your entire body to help generate force.
You want to throw that thing as high as possible.
This exercise focuses on knee and hip extension and converts to vertical jump gains really nicely.
Barbell Jump Squats
Barbell jump squats are another favorite exercise of my volleyball strength coach.
Studies have been conducted on this exercise specifically which found an eight week jump squat training program lead to significant increases in vertical jump.4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4974862/
It’s important to keep the weight relatively low. Even just the bar will be enough to begin with.
Focus on exploding up as high as possible on each repetition.
Power cleans are an Olympic lift that have also been proven to help develop overall lower body power.
They differ from a typical clean in that the rack position is higher up, with only slightly bent legs, as opposed to being in a deep ATG squat.
This is one of the simpler Olympic lifts to become proficient at, so there’s less of a learning curve when it comes to technique when compared to something like the snatch.
This allows athletes to focus on moving more weight quicker.
Having said that, it’s still a complicated movement for beginners and likely requires some coaching to get right.
If you’re unable to nail the technique, just stick to jump squats which are much simpler to learn.
Depth jumps are widely viewed as the holy grail of plyometric exercises.
Think of the depth jump as a regular vertical jump overloaded by the force of gravity.
This exercise trains the speed component of the vertical jump formula.
The goal is to train your body to efficiently absorb and transfer force.
Simply drop off a ledge, bench, or chair, absorb the force once you hit the ground, and spring back up as high as possible in one smooth motion.
Focus On Replicating Your Spike/Block Jump
Volleyballers need to focus on landing in a manner that reflects their volleyball plant sequence accurately.
You might like to experiment with landing from the initial platform in a slight one-two, right-left manner before jumping as that closely replicates your spike jump.
The easiest way to get it right is to just pretend you’re going up for a spike when doing exercises like depth jumps.
Ground Contact Time? Same As In Volleyball…
One other thing to think about is ground contact time.
Depth jumps can be performed one of two ways: by minimizing ground contact time and exploding up off the ground as quickly as possible, or by letting yourself absorb the eccentric force fully over a slower ground contact time, and exploding up even higher.
Volleyballers should do the latter as this better replicates the stretch shortening cycle of the vertical jump.
Volleyball Workouts To Jump Higher
As a general rule, perform your plyometrics towards the beginning of your workout while you’re still fresh. You can do the strength exercises like squats after most of the jumping is done.
There’s many different ways to structure a workout geared towards jumping higher and quite honestly there’s no perfect recipe for an all-in-one vertical jump workout.
Advanced Athletes Periodize Their Training
High level volleyballers will often separate the vertical jump into its various components (strength, power, explosiveness) and train these individually.
Elite athletes will usually have a particular training focus over a period of weeks where they’re focusing on either strength, power, or explosiveness.
These athletes won’t necessarily train all three components in the same session as their coach may have a more nuanced periodization plan.
Beginners Can Train Strength, Power, & Explosiveness Together
For beginners, however, it’s perfectly fine to do all 5 of the above exercises in a single session.
The difference between having a single training focus and mixing all the elements together is very marginal anyway.
The above 5 exercises are those which I felt really helped move the needle as far as getting results and helping me jump higher in volleyball – so I’d recommend building your workouts around those.
You can do all sorts of alternatives to these, but the key things to remember when selecting vertical jump exercises for volleyball are,
- Specificity & carryover – Does the movement translate to the spike or block jump in volleyball particularly well?
- History of usage in high level athletic performance – By this I mean, is it an exercise that elite athletes actually use? Some of the advice you’ll see on the internet for ‘exercises to jump higher in volleyball’ are things like tuck jumps and calf raises which quite simply aren’t very effective.
Keep It Simple
Having said all that, it doesn’t need to be too complicated…
Even just going out and doing a bunch of hitting practice where your focus is on jumping as high as possible for every spike, you’re going to be doing a highly effective plyometric workout that will improve your vertical jump as well as your volleyball skills.
It is pretty important to be lifting heavy and getting stronger, so whatever you do, don’t neglect the weight room!
Sets & Reps?
For your strength exercises like squats, deadlifts, and GHRs, try to stick to relatively low rep ranges like 4-8 reps.
We’re going for strength here, not size. Which means low reps, heavy weights.
As for plyometrics and power movements, 3-6 reps per set is fine. Focus on good quality movements.
You don’t want to be too tired when doing these as you’re training for maximum explosiveness, which is why we typically do plyos at the start of a workout.
How many sets you do should will depend on a whole host of different factors such as how many different exercises you’re doing in total, how frequently you’re training, etc.
Generally speaking anywhere from 3-6 sets for any of these exercises is fine.
How To Jump Higher In Volleyball At Home?
Don’t have access to a gym but still want to work on your vertical? Luckily there’s plenty you can do at home with virtually no equipment to get a decent workout in.
Focus On Plyometrics & Prioritize Depth Jumps
The single best thing you can do at home to increase your vertical for volleyball is to jump.
- Practice your spike approach over and over.
- Grab a chair or bench and do some depth jumps.
- Have a big backyard or a nearby park? Do some bounding or sprints.
Use Makeshift Weights To Make Your Workout Harder
Find an old backpack you’re happy to destroy, fill it up with old textbooks, rocks, or use some plastic water or milk bottles.
Throw it on your back and do some squats or single leg box squats if that’s too easy.
I used to fill an old backpack with sand and pretend it was a medicine ball and practice launching it into the air as high as possible.
Single leg calf raises, although not super jump specific, will make your legs stronger, thus eventually increasing your vertical jump.
How I Was Able To Jump Higher As An Elite Volleyballer
When I was selected to train full time in an elite volleyball development program, I believe I was around 14 years old and had a spike height of 322cm.
Just a few years later at age 17 I managed to record a 344cm spike reach which is an increase of about 8 inches, when taking into account my improved standing reach.
I was able to jump higher in volleyball primarily as a result of,
- Consistent strength and power development – About 3-4 times a week we’d be in the weight room doing a variety of exercises. We’d focus a lot on back squats, jump squats, as well as some Olympic lifts like power cleans.
- Frequent plyometric training – I’d also do tons of depth drops, depth jumps, box jumps, and hurdle jumps.
- Stability and mobility work – Ankle and knee mobility and strengthening was a big part of what we did. Preserving joint integrity when doing a high training volume is super important and is actually something we probably should have done more of!
- Continued developing core and upper body – Of course we didn’t just train legs, although that was the primary focus. Developing strength and power in your upper body will definitely contribute to helping you jump higher in volleyball.
Parting Words Of Wisdom
Jumping higher in volleyball is really important, especially at the highest level of the game which is played well above the tape.
Improving your vertical jump for volleyball isn’t rocket science either.
It comes down to developing strength and explosiveness by putting in the hard work in the weight room with consistency over time.
Most younger volleyballers could jump higher immediately without doing any work at all if they’d simply optimize their vertical jump technique to be more efficient.
At the end of the day, jumping higher in any sporting domain is about self education.
Learn about the best practices, figure out what things will really move the needle, and where to focus your time and effort.