Jacob Hiller’s Jump Manual Reviewed: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

[Full disclosure: because I have this website and get thousands of visitors per month, Jacob gave me a free review copy of the Jump Manual, but I did not get the email consultations, so I am not reviewing the full program. If you buy through my link, I will get a commission, thank you very much, and I simply promise that my reviews will be honest and straight up, the good, the bad and the ugle. If buy this program and do not like it, you can get your full money back within 60 days, but please also add a comment below or drop me an email and explain why the program failed to live up to your expectations so that I can add your perspective into my review.]

What it is.

Jacob Hiller’s Jump Manual is a comprehensive program for improving your vertical jump ability, offerin advice on nutrition, training methods and techniques, and jump technique.

What you get.

  1. The Jump Manual e-book.
  2. Access to the video library with all exercises and other training videos.
  3. Lifetime access to the Elite Jumpers Forum.
  4. 30 days of unlimited email consultation with Jacob (with the ability to buy more depending on availability).
  5. Bonus materials
    1. Interview with NBA shooting coach Dave Hopla.
    2. Interview with peak performance psychologist Dr. Patrick Cohn.
  6. 60-day Money-Back Guarantee

The Promise and the Reality

The promise is that "it’s going to give you everything you need to meet your vertical jump explosion goals and your quickness goals, but it’s going to require a whole lot of dedication and effort on your part" (as he says at the end of the intro audio on his sales page). Is it true? I would say a qualified "yes". It’s a decent basic program — plyometrics, strength and power training as you would hope — though as you’ll see I have a few quibbles about some of the training suggestions and, in general, think that Vertical Mastery is a better value (see my review). First let’s just look at the e-book and what you get there.

The Jump Manual E-book in Detail

On the plus side, Jacob speaks from experience. He has trained tons of people, has lots of testimonials, has learned how to massively improve his own jump and can teach it to others. In fact, most of the people who have worthwhile jump training products fit into that category. They are typically not natural jumpers, because natural jumpers just jump. They don’t necessarily know how to get from mediocrity to excellence, because excellence came naturally to them. They’re great jumpers, but not great teachers. Most of the good teachers aren’t NBA stars themselves. They’re people who struggled to get from okay to very good. As for the e-book itself, it is good, solid advice and covers all the bases: plyometric training, weight training, proper nutrition, and alternative workouts if you don’t have access to a weight room (but read to the end for a few observations on the strength-training advice). Looking at it chapter-by-chapter, the book looks like this:

  • Warnings and cautions. Jacob has had his manual reviewed by a chiropractor (although someday I’ll write about what I think of chiros), but still when training for explosion and high-intensity training in general, some basic care needs to be taken.
  • How It All Began. The story of how Jacob came to write the Jump Manual.
  • CHAPTER 1: The 9 Essential Variables of an Explosive Vertical (5 pages plus 7-min video). Basic rundown of what might be called the philosophy of training for maximum jump — what are all the elements needed to fly. I’m pleased to see, for example, item #5: Stability and Balance. I’ve harped on how core stability is crucial to recruiting the power from your muscles.
  • CHAPTER 2: Understanding the Science of Optimal Results (5 pages plus 13-mins ofvideo). This is the basic science of how you build strength and power. In short: you have to train for specific goals. Doing 1000 jumps per day is not going to make you jump high once, it’s going to prepare you to jump low 1000 times. Basic science.
  • CHAPTER 3 (one page): this is just a tabular summary of chapter 2.
  • CHAPTER 4: Diet, nutrition, recovery (11 pages, 10-minutes of video). Basic advice on rest, icing, protein intake, caloric balance, fluid intake, supplementation with creatine, multi-vitamin and glutamine. This also covers the basic physiology of catabolism (muscle breakdown) and anabolism (muscle building). One think
  • CHAPTER 5: Optional Equipment for Vertical Jump Drills. This is just a one-pager with a list of things you’ll be using in your training like a speed rope, medicine ball, bosu ball, basketball, weight room, and sturdy box or chair.
  • CHAPTER 6: The Jumpers Forum. Another one-pager that just has links and encourages you to visit the Jumpers Forum. The forum has, as I write this, over 3600 posts. A lot of threads are started by Jacob, but he doesn’t seem to participate much in threads started by others (some exceptions). There’s nothing wrong with this, but don’t expect that you’re going to post a question and have Jacob get right back to you. I suppose that’s the role of the email support. So it’s basically a community forum and FAQ from Jacob. The forum software he uses does not show how old posts are and it also does not allow you to search by user, so it’s hard to get a sense of how active it is from a quick look.
  • CHAPTER 7: Pre-Workout Stretching and Warmups (6 pages). Basic stretching advice. I’m a big fan of static stretching, but research has shown that doing a lot of static stretching immediately pre-workout decreases power. Jacob has people doing general warmups and relatively brief stretching. That’s a good pre-workout plan, but I would add in some rest-day or post-workout static stretching that holds the stretches for longer than just a few seconds.
  • CHAPTER 8: Max Explosion Workout (11 pages, with thumbnail video demos of each exercise). This is the meat of it — the workout plans, exercises and all that are in here. Essentially, it’s a set of exercises on a two-week cycle that you keep repeating. The philosophy is low-rep, high-intensity training, exactly as we would expect if we’re trying to train max power and explosion. Too many people think that they need to keep working out more. More reps, more sets, more days. That is wrong and this program will help you avoid that mindset.
  • CHAPTER 9: Post-workout (1.5 pages): advice on post-workout nutrition.
  • CHAPTER 10: Progress and Sustained Increase (.5 pages). Basically, keep up and contact Jacob in 12 weeks to see how it’s going.
  • Glossary of terms with some pictures to show various pieces of exercise equipment.
  • Appendix: Add Inches Through Better Jumping Form (1.5 pages, 6 mins of video). How to stretch and warm up so that you increase elasticity and prevent your muscles from actually holding you back, mental prep, and proper jumping technique.
  • FAQ (two pages) – basic Q&A.

Bottom Line

There are no secrets here. That’s not bad — remember, I don’t believe in jump training secrets. If there’s solid research behind it, it’s not a secret. Anyway, the advice in the Jump Manual is similar to the advice you would get from any good personal trainer who understands how to train for power and explosion (and many don’t). It’s also similar to the more general strength advice you’d get from guys like Pavel Tsatsouline (especially Power to the People!). If you already know what protein and creatine do for your body, you already have integrated a good plyometric program, you’re already deadlifting at 85% of your 1-rep max (and you actually know how to safely figure out whether or not that’s true), then I would say there is not a lot you’ll get from the e-book itself. You will get a set of specific exercise schedules aimed just at improving vertical, but I’m not sure that in itself is worth the price. Now, as I said at the outset, there is more to the program than just the e-book. The email consultation may make this worth it even if you’re well-educated on the general principals of exercise, but I don’t know because I haven’t tried that aspect of the program. You can always ask for your money back, so if you try it, it would be great to hear back with an honest opinion on how worthwhile those aspects are.

Overall, I think the set of exercises that Jacob recommends make sense — a lot of explosive and plyometric stuff. That said, there are some comments in Chapter 8 that I just have to disagree with. For example, with respect to squats, he says ""I recommend using a leg press, which is better for your back." I have to vehemently disagree with this. I can’t find the reference right now, but top trainers who I respect will tell you that the leg press machine actually puts more stress on the back than a properly performed squat because of spinal flex and pelvic tilt, which puts the discs into a herniated position. In the meantime, these articles from trainers I don’t actually know sum it up pretty well: see this video and this article for an explanation, which does approve a properly performed leg press, but it does present some problems and is not better for your back. Because your motion is limited at both ends (feet and hips), you increase the risk to your back in my opinion. Granted, the squat is often performed improperly, and that’s why top strength coaches like Mike Boyle only have athletes practice the back squat if they’re preparing for the NFL combine, but otherwise use safer lifts like the front squat or one-legged squat. Jacob also says "When your knees reach your chest, explode back up." Leg pressing to where your knees touch your chest is going to place the lower back under tremendous strain on the leg press machine. placing your discs in a herniated position unless you have hip flexibility like a ballet dancer. This advice is even worse if you’re performing a true squat, where you are almost certainly going to round the back significantly in order to achieve that position. Very dangerous in my opinion.

Similarly, Jacob says with respect to deadlifts "I prefer to use a Smith machine" (a rack with pegs and a bar that slides up and down a track) To me, the Smith machine is mostly a worthless piece of equipment. It constrains your motion to a linear path, which is not the path a barbell would normally follow in a deadlift. I can justify a Smith machine for bench press or squats if you don’t have a squat rack and you’re training alone (because you could get caught under the bar). There are ways around this (don’t put the collars on the bar, so you can dump weights if you have to — bad, but better than dyin`!). But for deadlift, where you can simply drop the bar at any time? I can’t see any reason why you would use a Smith rack for that. To me it makes the exercise less effective (not invoking stabilizers) and less safe (constraining the bar to a set path which might cause stresses as your body is forced into that path). He also suggests "arch your back well" but does not explain the difference between arching and rounding, which is key to deadlift safety (arching is the normal curve your back has when standing; rounding is when the back rounds out toward the back). Finally, with hang cleans (where the bar starts hanging at arms length below the hips and you lift it to your shoulders), he recommends "Let the weight drop back to your legs" (my emphasis). The problem with letting it "drop" is that you will shock load your elbow, hyperextending it, and that can cause elbow injury. I should know — I’m recovering from that exact injury right now myself. I was being very careful on the lift (as you must with cleans), but careless on the return. Now I’m paying for it with a painful elbow.

I will say those are the only quibbles that I have and that doesn’t mean you won’t jump higher by following his program. In fact, I’m sure you will. However, I do think it puts the Jump Manual in a strange position. On the one hand, the principles in the Jump Manual provide great training for someone who hasn’t done a lot of power and plyometric gym work, who hasn’t studied up on nutrition and all that. Really, it’s a nice, quick overview. But I feel like a book oriented at people who don’t do a lot of reading on training needs to be vetted better for best practices in strength training and needs more detailed descriptions of the exercises. If I were coaching an athlete who was going to use this program, I would want him or her to couple the Jump Manual with a good book like Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle, Men’s Health Power Training by Robert dos Remedios and Mike Boyle, or Maximum Strength by Eric Cressey. These guys are some of the best strength coaches in the business and you can be absolutely certain what they say is well-researched and tested on everyday and elite athletes. On the other hand, if you are one of those athletes who already has plyometrics, heavy lifts and adequate protein intake integrated into your routine, you’re probably safe with this book, but may not get a lot out of it (except perhaps with the email consultations which, as I say, are not included in this review).

Bottom Line: is it worth it? Well, I find $67 a bit pricey for a book that’s under 50 pages plus forum access. Now you do get the 30-days of email consultations with Jacob and that may well be worth $67 on its own, but I can’t speak to that since it’s the one part of the program I haven’t done. I’d put it like this: if you already are knowledgeable on the principles of training for explosion, you probably know a lot of what is in the Jump Manual. In that case, if you’ve plateaued and you’re not making progress, it might be worth $67 for the personal email consultation. You’ll be hard-pressed to get a single session with a good personal trainer for that price. If, on the other hand, you don’t already know about plyometric and explosive training, Jump Manual might be a good start, but I personally would match it with one of the books mentioned above, which I think will be better on core principles of safe strength training.

Before spending the money, however, I might recommend downloading and reading Jack Woodrup’s FREE e-book — Vertical Mastery Training Guide (click that link to download the PDF). The book is quite good and Jack gives it away as a way to attract customers for his Vertical Mastery training software, which is also quite good, but I want to use it a bit more before I do a full review.

About the guarantee: Jump Manual (and Vertical Mastery for that matter) is sold through Clickbank, which requires all merchants to offer a money-back guarantee. I have ordered several products through Clickbank, some good, some bad. I actually have once used my money-back guarantee because the product was just junk and the money was credited right away. No hassle. Now, if you are the scammer, they will catch up with you. If you try to return a high percentage of your products, you’ll be permanently cut off from buying from them. So if you buy the Jump Manual or Vertical Mastery and truly are unsatisfied, there’s not much risk. But don’t use the guarantee as a way to scam a hard-working and honest merchant. Jacob puts a lot of work into his stuff and offers heaps and heaps of free content, so don’t scam the guy.

Not sure if that helps, but if this review helps you decide and you buy the Jump Manual, I’d appreciate it if you did it through this link:

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