What's Popular


Lesley Chandler, Sports Performance Lead for New York Liberty, stands over a player on a basketball court and helps her stretch
Lesley Chandler, the Liberty's Sports Performance Lead, lines up some leaping drills for us
Brandon Todd/New York Liberty

5 Exercises That’ll Make You a Better Jumper

Courtesy of Lesley Chandler, Sports Performance Lead for the WNBA’s Liberty

Lesley Chandler is the Sports Performance Lead for the WNBA team, the New York Liberty.

February 29, 2024 11:30 am

The best basketball team in New York right now is the WNBA’s Liberty. (Take a breath, Knicks fans! Your team hasn’t looked this good since the 1990s, but the Liberty just lost in their league finals. Facts.) And because Wondercade is all about the best — and because we really love puns — this leap year, you’ll learn leaping skills courtesy of Lesley Chandler, the team’s Sports Performance Lead, who helps the Liberty’s world-class athletes achieve peak performance and avoid injury. Lesley will help you get more air, but she’ll also explain how being a better jumper improves balance and muscle strength in everyday situations…regardless of age, fitness level or league MVP status. -NPH

Being able to jump effectively is a very useful and important skill. For everyone. Think about whenever you walk down the street and trip but catch yourself — that’s basically a mini-jump. If you’re taking a step over a puddle on the curb…that’s also, basically, a jump. If you jog down the street…that’s jumping, too. Or if you’re walking down stairs, you need to have the strength to decelerate yourself. You don’t even think about it, but these everyday tasks involve the same skills in jumping. Do you have the strength to control that movement? Can you land — and land safely? What goes up must come down, after all!

These exercises will all improve how high you can jump, and also work muscles like quads, glutes, your core and more. They’ll also help you improve balance, strength and stability…vital building blocks for a healthy body that’ll improve your life, whether you’re a pro basketball player or not.

Woman laying on her back doing dead bug band pulls in a gym
Warm up before trying to jump up
Lesley Chandler

Band Pull Deadbug

Starting out, you have to have a good warm-up, and make sure your body is ready to do the activity you’re setting yourself up to do. In this case, with a jump, you want to mimic movement patterns you will be experiencing while jumping, such as the need for core strength, lower-body strength and the ability to decelerate.

For jumping, you need to have core strength so you can control your body — because when you start throwing yourself up in the air, you’re going to come down! One core exercise that I always do is this one, called the band pull deadbug, in which you maintain your core position while you go through lower-body movement.

  1. Lie down on your back. Lift your legs up at 90-degree angles. Be sure your low back remains in contact with the ground throughout the entirety of the exercise.
  2. Using a long band (or super band) anchored to a rack or something immovable, pull against the band to create resistance. Straighten your right leg, so that it’s parallel to the floor, without touching it. Return to the 90-degree angle before repeating with the left leg.
  3. Do two sets of 8 reps each.
Woman squatting in a gym with kettlebells on her shoulders
Keep your back straight!
Lesley Chandler

Double-Kettlebell Racked Squat

The second part of increasing verticality is lower-body strength, or making sure you’re strong enough to jump. You can go with a bilateral or unilateral squat (engaging one or two limbs, respectively). For a bilateral squat like this one, if kettlebells are too easy, try progressing to heavier dumbbells or a barbell.

  1. Stand straight with your feet at shoulder width, holding two kettlebells or weights.
  2. Do a deep squat, keeping your back straight, lowering down so that your knees bend at 45-degree angles and your upper thighs are parallel with the ground.
  3. Do three sets of 6 reps each.
Woman in a gym elevating her foot and lunging backward with weights in her hand
Focus on your form; add heavier weights as you build strength
Lesley Chandler

Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

For a unilateral strength-building squat that’ll help you jump higher, I definitely like an RFE split squat, where one foot is elevated. Again, this is something you can progress with to two dumbbells, and increase the intensity to fit your specific needs.

  1. Using a bench or box, bend your right leg back and rest the top of your foot on the bench or box.
  2. Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, drop to a squat, bending your left knee to a 90-degree angle, allowing your right knee to lower towards the ground.
  3. Repeat with your left hand and knee.
  4. Do three sets of 5 reps each.
Woman on elevated step taking a step forward and falling straight down
New exercise GIF just dropped. (Get it?)
Lesley Chandler

Depth Drop

Pair one of those strength movements with a depth drop. This will focus on developing stiffness in your lower legs, and improving your landing mechanics. How are you landing? Can you balance that landing? Can you absorb that landing, or do you just melt into the ground? Can you stop yourself — and control your body? This exercise will help you develop those skills.

  1. Stack yoga mats or prepare an exercise block that’s 6 to 8 inches off the ground.
  2. Standing on the platform, lead with your right or left foot out and lift your hands above your head.
  3. Step forward off the platform. Land on the ground with both feet, hip width apart, knees bent, chest at 45 degrees.
  4. Repeat with your left foot.
  5. Do three sets of three reps each.

*As the exercise becomes easy, progress the height of the box to 10 to 12 inches.

A woman squatting and then jumping into the air
Jump for joy! You’ve just gotten stronger.
Lesley Chandler

Squat Jump

Lastly, when doing a jump, you need to apply the strength you’ve now gained, by applying force into the ground upon takeoff and landing. A simple squat jump helps you do just that.

  1. Stand straight with your feet at shoulder width.
  2. Assume a squat position, with your knees bent at 45-degree angles and hips back, as though you were sitting on a chair.
  3. Jump straight into the air, and land back in the squat position before standing straight again.
  4. Do three sets of four reps each.

Ready to Read This Article?

Love this FREE article on our FREE website?
To keep reading all our content — for FREE — sign up for our FREE weekly email.
You're welcome.

Please enter a valid email address.

Already have an account ?