Only a small percentage of people has the natural ability to jump high. That is why it is important to train properly to improve your hops if you're not among that group. Part of this battle is knowing just what muscles are most important to lift your body off the ground. This information can help you plan your workouts accordingly to strengthen these muscles. The stronger you make them, the more power you will have to jump high.
The quadriceps rest on the the front of the thighs and they have four components: the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, rectus femoris and vastus intermedius. During a jump, you perform hip flexion and knee extension, which both activate the quadriceps. Hip flexion takes place when you move your thigh toward your stomach; knee extension takes place when you straighten your leg. A squat is a specific exercise that can help you gain more strength in the quads.
The hamstrings are opposing muscles to the quadriceps and have an opposite function. You activate your hamstrings through hip extension and knee flexion. Hip extension takes place when you move your thigh backward and knee flexion takes place when you bend your knee and move your heel toward your butt. Hip extension also causes you to work the glutes. From an anatomical standpoint, the hamstrings have three parts: the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. All parts get activated during the lowering phase and the explosive phase of a jump. A squat works the hamstrings, but you can place more emphasis on them by doing a lunge.
The hip flexors run from the lower stomach to the top of the thighs. They consist of the psoas major and iliacus, and because of this, they are often referred to as the iliopsoas. As the name implies, these muscles get activated when you flex your hip, in similar fashion to the quads. Although these muscles are small, they are important for explosive motions like sprinting a jumping. A lying leg raise is a good exercise to strengthen the hip flexors.
The calves have two parts -- the gastrocnemius and soleus. The gastrocnemius has a lateral head and medial head and it is easily seen on the back of the leg right below the knee. The soleus sits anterior, or in front of, the gastrocnemius. Both parts function to plantar-flex the foot. This motion occurs when you jump off the ground and point your toes downward. Jumping rope is a good cardiovascular exercise to train these muscles because of the repetitive hopping you do on your toes. A tuck jump is a good exercise to work your calves because it is specific to jumping.
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