Turning Basketball Players into High Jumpers


High jump tends to confuse a lot of coaches. Because the slam dunk champions are not always the best high jumpers, there are some key components that could assist in developing genetic freaks into great high jumpers. Without going too much into the science, here are some fundamentals that can assist in developing better high jumpers.

The Run Up:

High jump differs from the other jumps in that the athlete runs a curvilinear approach, instead of a linear approach. The reason for the curve is multi-facetted, and the biomechanics can get relatively complex, so in short:

  • The curve helps the athlete rotate correctly to achieve an optimal position over the bar
  • Allows the athlete to lean away from the bar until takeoff, assisting in greater vertical velocity
  • Lowers the center of mass prior to the lowering associated with the last two to three steps, allowing the center of mass to raise more during takeoff
  • Results in greater vertical impulse

The approach is likely the most important aspect of high jump, as problems here are associated with problems at takeoff and bar clearance. For example, if there is large deviation from the ideal curve, athletes may achieve a greater vertical displacement, yet fail to clear the bar.

There are a variety of ways to figure out how to run an effective curve, but here are some recommendations:

  • Run a “J”, not a “C”
  • It is recommended that athletes use a 10 step approach
  • Utilize a consistent starting method. Most coaches recommend a rolling start
  • Exhibit acceleration mechanics during the first three or so steps
  • Achieve sufficient horizontal velocity prior to entering the curve
  • Be upright prior to entering the curve
  • Avoid re-accelerating while running the curve, as acceleration will cause curve deviation
  • Initiate the transition into the curve on the outside foot (step 5 in a 10 step approach)
  • Lean inward while exhibiting a tall posture. The lean occurs at the ankle
  • Try not to deviate from the curve, although this is inevitable
  • Develop appropriate rhythm
  • Exhibit further lowering during step 9 via a full foot contact (penultimate step)
  • Avoid allowing the hips to rise after mid support of step 9

Takeoff Mechanics:

The take off in high jump differs greatly from the jumps in that the athlete is required to lower much more. This lowering of the center of mass occurs at the initiation of the inward lean, and increases to a greater extent during the full foot contact of step 9, or the penultimate step. During this portion of the jump, the athlete will likely “stand up” or exhibit less lean; however, this is not necessarily something the athlete should try to do, rather it is the result of lowering at the penultimate step. If the athlete starts lowering too soon, they will raise their center of mass prior to takeoff or during the penultimate step, decreasing their chance of bar clearance. Generally, there are two schools of thought in regards to coaching high jump: the athlete can have a slower run, greater lowering, and a longer range of motion to apply force (commonly called a power jumper), or the athlete can have a faster run, less lowering, and shorter range of motion to apply force (commonly called a speed jumper). That being said, to take off well, you must run up well. This is true for all of the jumps.

Building the Beast:

To jump insanely high, the athlete needs to have the hardware to do so. In regards to building an animal on the high jump apron, there are more similarities than differences amongst the other jumps. Jumpers may benefit from developing the ability to apply propulsive and breaking forces. This means training speed, coordination, and strength. Endurance and mobility are important, but are not responsible for the bulk of a jumpers training.

This can be done through a variety of modalities, but here are a few modalities that I feel are effective in developing the qualities necessary to become a successful jumper:

  1. Accelerations
  2. Max Velocity Sprints
  3. Plyometrics
  4. Olympic Lifts
  5. Squats and Lunges
  6. Posterior Chain Work
  7. General Work


  1. Becker, J, Kerin, D, and Chou, L-SConsequences of deviation from the curve radius in the high jump approach. ISBS – Conf Proc Arch 1, 2013.Available from: https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/cpa/article/view/5620
  2. Cormie, P, McGuigan, MR, and Newton, RU. Developing maximal neuromuscular power: Part 2–training considerations for improving maximal power production. Sports Med 41: 125+, 2011.Available from: https://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA247441776&v=2.1&u=lom_nmichu&it=r&p=HRCA&sw=w&asid=8a757b8bdbc017659ce24882cc1b33d3
  3. Dapena, J. High jumping. J Biomech 25: 652, 1992.Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002192909290109E
  4. Ossi Aura, JTV. Biomechanical Characteristics of Jumping. Hum. Kinet. J. , 2010.Available from: https://journals.humankinetics.com/jab-back-issues/jabvolume5issue1february/biomechanicalcharacteristicsofjumping


John Evans

John Evans

John has a BS in Exercise Science from Slippery Rock University, and is currently pursuing his MS in Sport Science from Northern Michigan University. He is an assistant combined events/jumps coach for NMU women's track and field team, and USATF/USAW level 1 certified. Previously, John interned at Athletic Lab for two summers under owner/director, Mike Young.

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