How to Increase Your Leaping Ability

Basketball Jump Shot

March Madness fever is about to hit, and it’s Leap Day, so we couldn’t resist the chance to highlight how you can work on your vertical! Whether higher hops for hoops or another sport are your main motivation or your legs could use a little love and strengthening before lounging by the pool this spring, this lower body-focused workout has what you need.

It focuses on the muscles responsible for helping you jump and land. Not to mention, these lower body exercises require more than one muscle group at a time, which means your heart rate also will be elevated. Higher heart rate means more calories are being torched, which can help if weight loss also is a goal.

Grab hand weights, barbells, kettlebells, a bench, and some space to complete this workout. If you don’t have access to barbells or kettlebells, hand weights will work just fine. After a brief warm-up to elevate your heart rate and prepare your joints, you will be performing  three sets of each exercise with 45-60 seconds of rest in between. Use the first set to rehearse the movement and try out a moderate to heavy weight. The rep count is low on purpose; pick up a heavier weight than you’re used to and go for it with sets two and three.

Of course, be mindful of your ankle-knee,-hip alignment in all exercises. Be especially careful with the jumping movements. Start with a small range of motion and work your way up to more explosive movements as your joints will allow! Always focus on a light landing, and be sure to stretch when you are done.

Increase Your Leap Workout

Directions: Complete 3 sets of each exercise. Rest 45-60 seconds between each set.

8 Barbell* Cleans

Barbell Clean

  1. Squat low holding a barbell on the floor, with your feet and hands hip-width apart, and your head up.
  2. In one motion, rapidly extend your hips and knees, pulling the barbell up off the floor, keeping your arms straight.
  3. Drop under the bar as it is traveling and absorb it in a low squat.
  4. Stand upright with the barbell across your shoulders.

*Substitute hand weights or kettlebells if a barbell is not available.

8 Depth Jumps

Depth Jump

  1. Stand upright on a step, with one foot ready to step off.
  2. Step off and land on the ground with both feet, dropping into a semi-squat.
  3. Immediately jump up as high as you can into the air, using your arms to propel you up.
  4. Land in semi-squats to absorb and repeat.

*Start with a low platform and focus on “coupling” (linking together) the landing and the subsequent jump.

8 Squats


  1. Stand upright, holding dumbbells by your sides with your feet flat, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower your body toward the floor, sending your hips back and down and bending your knees.
  3. Push through your heels to return to the start position. Keep your back flat and head up throughout the movement.

8 Shoulder Swings

Shoulder Swings

  1. Squat holding a kettlebell in both hands between your legs with your arms straight.
  2. Thrust your hips forward, swinging the kettlebell out and up to just over shoulder height, with your arms straight.

Allow the kettlebell to fall forward, guiding it back down along the same path and repeat. Focus on using your legs & hips to power the kettlebell.

*Substitute a hand weight if a kettlebell is not available. 

8 Alternating Step-Ups

Alternating Step-ups

  1. Stand upright with one foot on a step with your arms at your sides.
  2. Push off the top foot and drive up with your arms, coming up off the step and switching your feet in the air.
  3. Land with the other foot on the step.

*Perform 8 rep on the right and then on the left.

8 Push Presses

Push Presses

Stand upright holding dumbbells at shoulder height, with your elbows bent and palms forward.

  1. Bend your hips and knees slightly.
  2. Quickly thrust the dumbells overhead, extending your arms and legs. Keep your back flat throughout the movement.

*Choose a heavier weight than you would normally use for overhead shoulder press. Use your legs to power the weight overhead.

8 Unilateral Stiff Leg Deadlift

Unilateral Leg Lift

  1. Stand upright holding dumbbells by your sides with your arms straight.
  2. Raise one leg straight up behind as you lower your torso down and reach the dumbbells toward the floor.
  3. Return to the upright position.

*Perform 8 reps on the right, then 8 on the left. The height of the leg can be lowered or remain on floor.

8 Calf Raises

Calf Raises

Stand on your toes on the edge of a step with dumbbells at your sides.

  1. Drop your heels down as far as you can.
  2. Raise your heels coming up onto your toes again as high as you can.

*If balance is an issue, use a wall or other stable surface to assist.

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the VP of Fitness Programming for the FIT4MOM® franchise. For more than two decades, she has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, Silver Sneakers, and BOSU® as a fitness business and programming consultant. An experienced educator, freelance writer, and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable serves as Vice Chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the founder and co-owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool.