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Do Ankle Weights Make You Jump Higher?

Do you want to increase your vertical? Maybe you want to be able to dunk on a regulation basketball net. Or maybe you want to start doing box jumps like you see the youtubers doing. High flying hops is bad ass and jumping is fun so I get why you'd want to.

For some reason, the go to protocol for beginners or fitness enthusiasts is to go out and buy some ankle weights. Walking, jumping, or playing basketball with them in hopes of attacking the rim like Vince Carter (or for you young kids Blake Griffin).

I have some good news, and some bad news. I always like to end on a high note so the bad news is first:

Bad News

Unfortunately, ankle weights do not help your vertical. Not even a little. I'm sorry to break it to you. I'll get to why in a minute.

Good News

The good news is that there are other far more effective things you can do to increase your jumping height!

Before I tell you why, I just want to say that this topic was sparked by my days working at a retail sporting goods store. Probably the biggest in Canada, and also the most scum. 

Kids would come in WEEKLY asking me (or any employee) where the ankle weights were. I finally caught on and realized "oh these kids are trying to dunk a basketball, or do high box jumps" and someone suggested ankle weights. I would do my best to tell them that it wouldn't help, but they would ALWAYS buy them anyway. I hated seeing this because it meant whoever was feeding these kids this bro-science non-sense had more of an impact on them than anyone who actually knew the truth. I didn't want to see anyone waste their money. I wasn't that type of salesman. 

A Few Reasons Why They DO NOT Work

1. Ankle weights are meant for flexion and extension isolation exercises. This means that they're meant more for things like this:

As opposed to this:

 

2. This is probably the most important reason to highlight however it's also the most analytical so bear with me and read carefully.

 Having the weight on your ankles does nothing for increasing your explosive strength. In order to stress the right muscles and movement patterns, the weights need to be in a position that can put resistance on the muscles which assist in jumping. Having the load on the ankles doesn't resist ANY part of the jump. If you were running, it would work your hip flexors because they work to lift your leg up from the ground to prepare for another foot strike. By pulling the leg up with ankles weights you're increasing the load your leg must lift. You're NOT putting load on the spine, glutes, hamstrings, or quads. The muscles most responsible for jumping/sprinting/most other athletic movements are the muscle groups listed above in addition to the core. None of those are specifically trained with ankle weight while walking, sprinting or jumping with them.

 

3. Training with ankle weights can actually harm you. This is because of the added weight on your joints when landing or when your foot strikes the ground during running. Having the load on the spine and above the hip ensures that the right muscles are loaded. The stress in now on the core muscles, and important leg muscles including your glutes, hamstrings and quads.

4. At the end of the day, ankle weights are still added resistance which is what you need to stress your body with for it to adapt. However, 10lbs is not even close to the amount of resistance most people need. If you consider the fact that most studies show improvements in vertical height when using Olympic lifts to train. These movements are performed with 30-70% 1RM. That's usually a whole lot more than 10lbs.

- So What Should You Do Instead?

Power is the trait that needs to be worked on in order to improve your vertical jump. Power is comprised of 2 qualities:

1. Strength (force)

2. Speed (velocity)

Work on Relative Strength (Squats, Deadlifts), then Explosive Power exercises (Cleans, Snatches) and bodyweight plyometric exercises. These will increase the load and the demand on the muscular system involved with jumping. Your body will be able to produce more force, and at a faster rate. Both things necessary for a bigger vertical jump!

Some great bodyweight plyo exercises to use include:

- Depth Jumps (and different progressions leading up to depth jumps to box)

- Single Leg Bounds

- Plyo Box Step Ups

 

At the end of the day, if you're trying to increase your vertical jump, ankle weights are not the way to go. Instead, you should focus on building explosive power with heavier resistance and throw in some plyometric exercises too.