Core Exercises to Jump Higher, Part 1: Why

You know what you need to fly, to go to the boards, to spike over the net, to dominate — gonza glutes, quadzilla quads and all that right? Did you know that Kadour Ziani, world record holder in the vertical jump and one of the all-time dunkmeisters worked his abs like a fiend. Sadly, the best interviews with this amazing vertical athlete are all in French, so those who don’t speak French don’t have the straight dope his method and madness.

In one interview with Equipe he said: "I did 1000 crunches per day" ("je faisais 1000 abdos par jour"). In other words, of all the exercises for jumping higher, the core is at the core. Consider this from the Zianimal. In 2007, Kadour was the vertical jump trainer for a French basketball team. In another interview, Basket Session asked him what exercises he was focussing on for his pro basketball clients. His answer: core exercises ("gainage"). Specifically, they asked him "What are the different exercises that you make them do?" His answer: "The dominant of all the exercises: core training!"

How Does Core Training Help You Jump Higher?

You don’t jump with your abs do you? Well, actually, you do to some extent. And there are other reasons for wanting solid core strength (aside from having great abs when you take your skirt off). Some help you jump higher plain and simple, while others contribute indirectly by keeping you from getting injured.

  • Force transmission. If you have monster strong legs, that’s a good start. As we already know, squat strength and power clean strength have very high correlations with jump height. Those strong legs let you develop great force. But when you generate those big forces, a rigid core lets you transmit that force straight to the ground rather having it dissipated in a sloppy body.
  • Injury prevention. There are two aspects to this
    • When lifting. If you’re doing exercises like squats and power cleans, you are putting your body under a fair bit of stress. Good form is essential, but having super strong stabilizing core muscles are essential to maintaining the rigidity required to maintain good form. In other words, good form is essential to safety and a strong core is essential good form.
    • When living. When you work hard at jumping higher, you’ll be building those jump muscles to great strength. The problem is that you can get some muscle imbalances. In particular, the psoas muscle gets really strong. The psoas wraps around from the back of the pelvis to the front and lets you felx your hips. If your core muscles get weak relative to the psoas, this can really wrench your back and cause great back pain. So a strong core keeps you healthy.

When I competed in skiing, I had great leg strength and decent vertical. I would walk into the gym, go up to the 45-degree sled and literally outlift people with thighs bigger than my waist. Pro bodybuilder types, on steroids and all. It always blew them away, but eventually it blew my back away too because I had built such strong muscles for one specific motion, but they weren’t balanced and didn’t have a stable platform. One day, I was standing by the side of the slope and it felt like someone hit me with a sledgehammer out of the blue. After much pain and much research, I realized that my core was just too weak compared to the psoas and other big hip flexor muscles. After that I got serious about keeping the core in shape as well as the legs and that has paid huge benefits over the rest of my life.

So enough theory and yadda yadda about why. Now you know that a stronger core will help you jump higher, but will also keep you healthy for your jump workouts and balance out that monster power you’re building.

Go on to Part Two for some Core Workouts to Jump Higher for more specific exercises.


Sources:

  • "Interview avec Kadour Ziani, «Douter pour Avancer», L’Equipe, 2005.
  • "Préparation physique – l’oeil de Kadour Ziani," BasketSession.com, 16 July, 2007.

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